Smart Voices. Empowering Conversations.
Featuring Jenna Lyons & Céline Talabaza
Presenting episode 5 of the Think Beautifully series, Women in Business: Success Lies in Who You Truly Are with Jenna Lyons.
In the episode, hosted by our CEO Céline Talabaza, Jenna discusses how confidence and self-expression allow her to leverage her uniqueness and turn it into success, all while still being authentic to her true self.
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Céline Talabaza (00:01): Welcome to the Think Beautifully
series by Nobel Panacea. Today I am very excited. We have an exceptional guest in so many ways.
Before being her most authentic self on national television, she was defined as the woman who
dresses America, president and executive creative director of J.Crew for many years. She now
runs her own brand and she creates magic everywhere she goes. Empowering others to Think
Beautifully is also thinking boldly. And we wanted to kick off this year with a key of
self-expression and empowerment, and no one else is better suited than the exceptional Jenna
Jenna Lyon (00:38): Thanks for coming to my house. Welcome to New York.
Céline Talabaza (00:40): I am extremely pleased to be here on this iconic couch and this beautiful apartment.
Jenna Lyon (00:47): Thank you so much for coming. It's nice to have you.
Céline Talabaza (00:49): So Jenna, there are so many things I want to ask you, but I really want to go back to your roots and I would like you to tell me what do you think little Jenna would say about what you've achieved and where you are today?
Jenna Lyon (01:03): I think little Jenna would be incredibly surprised. When I was young, I didn't really know what the possibilities were. I went to school and there were boxes of, you can check what you want to be, a lawyer, a nurse, a doctor, a teacher. It was things that we all knew. And I remember there was a little line that said other, and I would write art director not knowing what that even meant, but I knew I wanted to do something creative and never in a million years did I think that I would be successful, not just financially, but also just having an impact on people, never in a million years. So, I think little Jenna, I would say to her, nice for work kid.
Céline Talabaza (01:39): I do believe for women in business success lies in who you sincerely, truly are. Can you please speak about how you've leveraged your uniqueness and turned it into the key for success?
Jenna Lyon (01:52): The thing that I experienced the most when I was young is feeling out of place and feeling not like I belonged or not pretty. And what I've realized is how powerful that can be. And honestly, I think people are intimidated by the industry. I was when I was young, so I spent a lot of time trying to meet make people feel welcome and feel like they could have it too. And that was really my mission at J.Crew. It's been my mission at LoveSeen and everything I do. I want people to feel welcome and it's for them as well. It's not elitist or something that is for the very fancy.
Céline Talabaza (02:21): Did you always feel like you were working in your area of strength or you discovered that with your different roles?
Jenna Lyon (02:28): Not at all. I think that what I realized is that I wanted something so badly. I came to New York because I knew the competition would be much more steep here and I wanted to test myself. I was terrified and didn't believe in myself at all. And it wasn't until I started getting positive feedback for the work I had done, then I was like, oh, maybe I can do this. But I had zero concept that it was actually going to pan out. No idea.
Céline Talabaza (02:52): How do you approach expressing yourself professionally in a way that is authentic to you, even if it defies conventional norms?
Jenna Lyon (03:00): It's an interesting question. I think a lot of people assume that being a boss or having a powerful title implies that you act a certain way, that you have a certain personality, that you are hard driving and mean. And the fact of matter is that that doesn't always work. I think if anything, I have found that when you can be gentle or at least remind someone of what good they're doing and try to redirect the things that aren't working, that's a better approach than telling someone they did it wrong. I think that can actually really stop the creativity and then they get scared. I know what happens to me if someone tells me I didn't do something right, that's all I hear. And so I think this idea that you can encourage in a way that isn't necessarily what people might expect, being Being a boss is something I've tried my best to lean into.
Céline Talabaza (03:40): Have you found a way to give constrictive feedback in a very nice way?
Jenna Lyon (03:44): Way? My effort is always to start with a sandwich. So it's give a compliment, tell somebody what they did, right, then in the middle say, here's what I'd love to see you change or shift. So it's not that it's wrong, let's just redirect and then follow up with, thank you for putting in the hard work, I really appreciate you trying.
Céline Talabaza (04:00): So how in your opinion, can fashion be a powerful tool for self-expression and bold individuality?
Jenna Lyon (04:07): I remember the very first time that someone told me they liked the way I was dressed and it was something that I had actually made myself. And the confidence that that gave me was remarkable. It changed my way of thinking. It changed the way I felt about myself. It gave me inspiration to want to make clothing myself and also have other people feel that feeling because it was was exciting for me, really game changing.
Céline Talabaza (04:32): Can you please describe a time in your career when being straightforward benefited your professional journey?
Jenna Lyon (04:38): I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to be straightforward. I didn't grow up being encouraged to speak my mind. I grew up trying to fit in and trying to do what was right or polite. And so when I got into the corporate world, I really needed to understand how to find my voice and there was were a lot of missteps in that and trying to figure out how to be direct and do it with kindness. I also watched a lot of people who worked for me make this transition and everyone did the same thing. They all went too far and were overly direct and maybe a little bit sharp, and it's probably one of the most challenging things I had to learn.
Céline Talabaza (05:14): Is there a specific moment where maybe it was tough to be straightforward, but at the end that was definitely the right business decision?
Jenna Lyon (05:22): Early on, I remember sitting in a fitting and my boss said to me, what do you think? And I whispered to him what I thought, and he was like, why are you whispering to me? And I couldn't even tell you why. I just felt like it wasn't appropriate for me to talk louder because I wasn't the most senior person in the room. And he was like, no, no, tell the group, tell everyone. And I was frozen and I finally just spoke up and said what I thought. And people listened and actually agreed with me. And I needed to do that a few times. And as I saw that happening more repeatedly, I was like, it's okay. But it was hard.
Céline Talabaza (05:58): So we always refer to Noble Panacea community as self-optimizers. They are the type of person that are high performers aiming to optimize every single bit of their life. They are curious and engaged. They have very high standard as well. So what is one thing you have not managed to master yet, that you have not managed to optimize just yet?
Jenna Lyon (06:22): I mean the list is long. I think the biggest challenge for me is I have so many things going on. I am not that organized. I have to put people around me to help me organize and get things done because I have a tendency to take on a lot with many moving parts. And then I realize that I don't know what's going on. And that's probably the biggest challenge. And it's been that way as long as I can remember. So
Céline Talabaza (06:47): How do you inspire people to take risk and embrace the unknown in their creative activities or personal development?
Jenna Lyon (06:56): The only way I know how to inspire anyone to do anything is to do it yourself. I think modeling is probably the most helpful way to give someone license to feel like they can take risks. It's scary and you're going to fail. And if you don't fail, you're not really trying that hard and you're not learning anything. And so I think I have really enjoyed being able to try a bunch of things I've never done before and I have made mistakes. And having your team watch you try things you're not comfortable with, do things that are outside of your comfort zone, I think gives them a sense that it's okay for them too and to not be so afraid of what the box is that you've been put in by your job title.
Céline Talabaza (07:30): So I heard your son wants to become an engineer. He does. Did you have any influence into his choice?
Jenna Lyon (07:36): None at all. I mean, I don't know. The the first thing about engineering. , he He was introduced to STEM research in school, which I know is actually something you are very passionate about as well. And I was and encouraging young girls to get involved in STEM and research. I'm wondering if you could tell me a little bit about the background? . So
Céline Talabaza (07:52): Science is very important for Noble Panacea. We were founded by Sir Fraser Stoddart Surfers Stoat, and he's a noble ate Nobel Laureate in chemistry. We are the only skincare brand using his patented technology. And that's the reason why science is very much at the core of everything we do. There is a big discrepancy between male and female studying STEM. stem. So that's our mission.
Jenna Lyon (08:14): How do you actually incorporate the STEM research and getting girls involved? What's the process?
Céline Talabaza (08:19): So we are partnering with GIRL Up and Inspiring Girls depending on the region, and we are their with their beautiful network we have the opportunity to create events and reach out to those girls when they are still 15, 16. That moment where you wonder what will your career be and maybe studying science or technology for a young lady is not as exciting because you don't imagine the type of job that you could have in the future. But really the impact of a woman in a laboratory is absolutely essential and that's what surfers Sir Fraser believes in. And I also come from a family of teachers. So for me, education is everything. So we met on that point and we decided since day one we will raise awareness about STEM.
Jenna Lyon (09:06): I love the idea too, the typical jobs you think of engineers aren't necessarily as female focused. And again, I don't think it should be segregated male versus female, but it is. But the idea that a young girl could be connected to the beauty industry and follow technology and STEM and engineering, that's I think really interesting. A great combination.
Céline Talabaza (09:25): Absolutely. So Noble Panacea’s signature Think Beautifully is really the brain merging with the beauty. And I'd love for you to tell me what it means for you.
Jenna Lyon (09:36): What I've realized is so much of the way you feel, beautiful, happy, it's an inside job. And I spent years being told that it was on the outside and I didn't understand that. So much of it comes from within. And I think what's interesting to me in getting older in is the way I think even about how I care for myself and skincare, is being kind to myself and not being so critical and thinking that I have to change everything, but really caring for what I have. And that's much more honorable, I think, than how I grew up and how I thought about it for a long time.
Céline Talabaza (10:06): Well, Jenna, I thank you so much. It was such a pleasure to be here in your iconic New York house.
What I realize is so much of the way you feel: beautiful, happy, is almost an inside job. I spent years being told it is on the outside and I did not understand that so much of it comes from within.
Businesswoman and Fashion Designer
I was always fascinated by Jenna, she radiates self-confidence in a kind, yet powerful way, she nurtures and inspires at the same time. The way she led her career and displayed authentically who she was, and finally made it her own brand is quite remarkable. Despite being called the ‘woman who dresses America,’ she somehow remained humble through it all, plus she has an impeccable taste, what’s not to love! Noble Panacea is proud to partner with Jenna to celebrate our Exceptional collection, shedding light on an Exceptional individual. This is a conversation women in business and the Noble Panacea community will enjoy, I am sure.
Host & CEO
“Noble Panacea, helmed by Nobel Laureate in Chemistry Sir Fraser Stoddart, is founded upon hard work, lifetime research, and intellectual exchange. As highlighted at the 2019 brand launch at Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, Noble Panacea is a platform for women to empower other women. Through the brand’s foundation—the relentless research of the highest education institution, leadership of the top chemist in the world, and the energy of the many talented female business leaders on my team—the idea for the Think Beautifully Series was born.I am very proud to launch the Think Beautifully Series on International Women’s Day and I look forward to revealing inspiring, empowering conversations with exceptional Noble Panacea women that share the same core values and fundamental pillars: science, sustainability, education, and authenticity. These women are brilliant talents, entrepreneurs, leaders, and smart voices recognized for their knowledge, intellect, integrity, and the impact they’re making on their communities.” - Host & CEO Céline Talabaza
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