Beauty runs deep in the family of Vanessa Lee, founder of The Things We Do beauty bar and skincare. Her late grandmother—who Vanessa describes as regal— was a beautician in the small province of Abulug, located in the Cagayan region of the Philippines.
“She was legendary to me,” Vanessa tells thirteen lune. “She had her own business making women feel good.” Her grandmother wanted her daughter and grandchildren to become beauticians as well, though none of them had taken an interest like Vanessa, who started a beauty brand of her own.
“I like to think that I picked up where my grandmother, Leonora, left off in that sense,” Vanessa says.
After her parents immigrated to the United States, Vanessa was born and raised in what she calls the “wonderfully diverse suburb” of Chino Hills, California. Vanessa returned to Chino Hills with her husband after having her first child. “We wanted to set roots there,” she says.
The town is a suburb of Los Angeles, which is now home to Vanessa’s The Things We Do beauty bar. As a cosmetic nurse with over a decade of experience in the field of injectables and aesthetics, the in-person studio experience is where clients—such as celebrities like Jessica Alba, Gabrielle Union, and Khloe Kardashian—come to be treated by Vanessa herself and by a team of practiced beauty providers.
If Los Angeles is out of your geographical reach, however, there’s The Things We Do skincare, an at-home extension of Vanessa’s aesthetic care and beauty philosophy that aims to reach the rest of the world.
“Seeing how much people love the products and watching before and afters pour in from people achieving real results from a line I dreamt up one day. That's the biggest win by far.”
The products aim to take a medical-grade approach to restoring and improving facial balance and harmony. Vanessa wants people to feel good in their own skin, too, which is why these formulas were specifically created to cater to any skin tone and type.
GET TO KNOW – VANESSA LEE
Do you have a beauty philosophy?
Your beauty is unique to you and your ancestors, embrace this part of your legacy.
What were some of your first memories of beauty growing up?
My mom always worked long hours growing up and the few moments in the day I had with her was watching her get ready in the early morning before she left for her long commute. I would sit on the lip of the bathtub and watch her carefully do her eyebrows, mascara, and blush. I loved watching her. It was like watching an artist.
My grandmother passed away when I was young, but I remember that she was always dressed up, had her hair curled, her nails were long and mauve, and she wore pearls. She was a beautician in our small province, Abulug in the Cagayan region of the Philippines.
What are some of your early beauty influences?
In elementary school and junior high, I remember digging through my mom's Glamour and Cosmopolitan magazines to read about DIY beauty treatments and makeup tricks. I was fascinated with the information and excitedly would invite friends to sleep over so I could try my homemade masks on them and do their makeup. Beauty tricks were my art and my 7th grade friends were my muses. I always enjoyed making them feel good about themselves.
What does self-care look like in your life?
Self-care means saying no to people and things that do not empower my higher purpose and saying yes to everything that does reinforce my higher purpose. I navigate this through listening to my intuition and paying attention to my visceral responses to major issues.
What inspires you most about the beauty landscape and industry today?
I am inspired most by the willingness of the consumer to see change in the industry more than the industry itself. People are ready for something completely different, unconventional beauty is widely celebrated, and diversity in the creation of products and ideas are bringing about a renaissance.
What has been the biggest challenge in starting your business?
Starting from scratch, with almost no capital and no connections. But it also became my biggest asset in creating my business in the end. It made me scrappy, resourceful, and resilient.
What would you like to see more of in the beauty industry when it comes to diversity and inclusivity?
I want to hear the stories of the founders that didn't exactly have a seat at the table so they had to build one from scratch. I see brand after brand being placed on store shelves of founders who had money and connections from their previous tech or fashion job who decide, "Well, skincare is big, we should do this too." I want to hear the stories of people who live and breathe beauty and have to make a way for themselves through true innovation and grit.