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Color Guardian

She’s an influencer in the cosmetics industry

Ancient egyptians were the first to create cosmetics, applying crushed minerals to accentuate beauty, guard against the elements, and—while they were at it—pay tribute to gods and goddesses as insurance for protection in the afterlife.

Today, makeup is a multibillion-dollar business shifting directions in fashion with one fiery contoured cheek or glittered brow.

A key player in this industry of self-expression is Jenny Pérez ’05, executive director of MAC Cosmetics international e-commerce.

As a leader in the global corporation, Pérez works a relentless schedule. But she keeps her creative side radiant by writing slam poetry and, most importantly, by building “agility and efficiency” with the startup mentality she honed as a Swarthmore economics major and Philip Evans Scholar.

Real-time platforms that offer product testing and learning are trending in e-commerce and digital marketing at MAC.

But that can mean getting “so bogged down by analyzing data that we forget to go with our gut instinct,” says Pérez. She’s found that some of the most important business decisions involve letting her team take risks.

“It’s human nature to pat ourselves on the back for successes and only talk about the huge wins,” she says. “We neglect to talk about the things that don’t work and why. We forget that with every failure comes a lesson learned.”

Before joining MAC, Pérez oversaw the Latin America online business within its parent company, Estée Lauder Cos.

“It’s an emerging region, so the skills necessary included resourcefulness and creativity,” she says. And those extolled relationship-building skills are vital, too: “With small budgets and a limited amount of people, it’s critical to have strong collaborations.”

These traits have translated well to her new role overseeing MAC’s international online business, where she is committed to the culture of inclusion.

As a queer woman of color, Pérez feels honored to work for a company that vigorously reinforces diversity.

Named one of the “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality” in 2017 by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, Estée Lauder Cos. scored 100 percent on the 2017 Corporate Equality Index.

Estée Lauder is also helping to close the gender gap in technology by partnering with the nonprofit Girls Who Code. After all, investing in the tech and science skills of the next generation isn’t just the right thing to do—it contributes to a stronger brand.

“With advancements such as AI, smart diagnostic tools, live streaming, and social media,” Pérez says, “the sky is the limit in terms of improving the shopping experience in ways we never thought possible.”

One nifty tool MAC launched in select stores in 2017 was a “Virtual Try-On Mirror” simulating makeup shades to dab, pat, or blend on the customer’s face using live video and without ever touching a product. Technologies like this make strides in intensifying the digital consumer experience, but when it comes to cosmetics, there remains something special about the human touch.

“Maybe five years from now, I’ll be able to just say out loud that I need to replenish my favorite foundation and it appears at my doorstep in 60 seconds,” Pérez says. “But I think cosmetics are such fun, intimate, experiential products that the in-store experience is still key.”