By Tiffany King
Marrying her expertise in beauty and love of science was once a dream for Jeri Guyette. It just became a reality with the launch of her new cosmetics line Vintage Vixen Cosmetics™, LLC. Vintage Vixen is especially made for women 35 and older to cater to their special skin care needs. Guyette's first releases in the collection are lipsticks inspired by old Hollywood glamour and fun.
Guyette (pronounced Guy-yet-tee) is the science laboratory coordinator for the College of Coastal Georgia's Camden Center and an alum of the College, having graduated in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in interdisciplinary studies with a concentration in biology. Learning and now working at the College has even inspired her to continue pursuing her passions, Guyette said.
Guyette has had a long career in the beauty business—32 years. She is originally from Savannah and, after graduating with honors from high school, went to the Big Apple and enrolled in Wilfred Beauty Academy.
"I noticed over the years that my first love of makeup transitioned into skincare. Clients were being sent to me to have their skin done so they could have a clean palette before getting makeup," Guyette said.
Guyette is a master cosmetologist, licensed paramedical aesthetician, and certified medical electrologist. Over the years, she has worked alongside dermatologists, plastic and cosmetic surgeons. Her specialty is microbiology and knowledge of skin on the cellular level.
She wanted to further her education and enrolled at the College of Coastal Georgia when the Camden Center opened in 2004. Guyette then spent the next 12 years earning multiple degrees from the College. She had to overcome a lot of hurdles on her way to her degrees. Despite switching majors, suffering a stroke, and surviving domestic violence, she earned an associate's degree in interdisciplinary studies, an associate's of science in clinical medical technology, and her bachelor's degree.
After graduation, Guyette continued to work on a plastic surgeon's staff but not in her field of microbiology—which she dearly missed. She was a student worker in the science lab on the Brunswick campus, so when a position opened at the Camden Center for a laboratory coordinator, she applied and was hired. The many science courses she took as a student made her more than qualified to coordinate labs for all the science courses.
"It was just full circle. I am working at the College where I went to school, was one of the first students to enroll in Camden, and was in the first class to graduate in a fall commencement ceremony held in Brunswick," she said. "I feel like this is my home."
Meeting A Need
Vintage Vixen Cosmetics is a culmination of Guyette's years of experience in the beauty business and medical field. Guyette modelled for many years and started modelling again in 2014 as a lifestyle model. Casting agents were pleasantly surprised at her age and youthful appearance. However, after learning her age, commercial directors dressed her in more matronly clothes with muted makeup tones, while the younger models wore brighter colors.
"I've never been conservative or conventional. I'm a Prince fan until the day I die. I've had purple hair, green hair, all sorts of colors," she said laughing.
As she grew older, it became harder and harder to find makeup that worked for her skin.
"I'm premenopausal and other older models were going through the same thing. My treatment patients would also say that there was no makeup for them that they could wear all day," Guyette said. "I knew what we [older women] needed and what would work for our skin."
Having her own cosmetics line was a goal Guyette wanted to achieve by the age of 25, and when it didn't happen she thought it was too late. Two years ago she joined Women At Werk, a women's networking and empowerment group, and was encouraged to pursue her purpose and gift. And now at the age of 49, Guyette has realized her dream.
The first collection launched under Vintage Vixen Cosmetics are lipsticks inspired by old Hollywood beauties and personalities including Josephine Baker, Marilyn Monroe, Mae West, and Audrey Hepburn. Guyette admired how women of that era projected themselves in strength and glamour, while using their platform to further women's rights.
"Starting with a lip line was where my concentration was—collagen and building of the lips. We don't have oil glands around our lips or eyes and that's where the lines come from," she said. "We need to have products that build collagen like hyaluronic acid and retinoid."
When women endure surgical or natural menopause, Guyette said, estrogen decreases leading to dermal collapse and wrinkles. Her company and products are progenerative in building cellular structure but are also pro-age, encouraging women to embrace who they are. Lip glosses will be the next product to launch and are projected to come out for the holiday season. They will contain golden seaweed and brown algae, which help with ultraviolet A and B protection and moisture retention.
It's All In The Name
The name Vintage Vixen was inspired by Guyette's love of old-world glamour, however she doesn't want it to represent being old but more retro.
"Someone said to me that we're getting old. I said no, we're like vintage wine. When you order a bottle of 1969 Bordeaux at a restaurant you're going to pay $1,200 to $1,500. When you go antiquing or to an estate sale older items are the most valuable," she said. "I wanted the name to represent a measure of beauty and value, and how that deserves to be protected because we're precious."
Keeping A Vision Close
Guyette has a lot of support from her family—her two daughters Gina-Marie and Nina, boyfriend Larry, and dad Bill. Her boyfriend has been helping her with the business and marketing aspects and was the event coordinator for her launch. Her dad served as the VIP assistant and her daughters and their friends worked as "Glamologists." Guyette kept the idea and development of her cosmetic line a close secret from all but a few work colleagues, friends, and family members.
"I've learned that you can't tell everyone your vision—they have to see it first, and some of them will be a bit discouraging. I don't want to hear why I can't, I want to hear how I can," she said. "I've been through 16 surgeries, survived a stroke, survived domestic violence, and raised two beautiful daughters. If I listened to all the doubters, I wouldn't be where I am now."
Her boyfriend, whom she describes as a positive person, has an acronym for "can't," which is "Cancelling All Negative Thoughts. Words she tries to live by every day.
Guyette never thought she would be starting a new business in this phase of her life, however she realized that with age comes maturity, stability, and realistic expectations. More women are undergoing what she calls "second and third chapter evolutions" where they are taking the leap to becoming empowered entrepreneurs.
"The 40-and-up age group has disposable income, buying power, insight, brand loyalty, and stability," she said. "Women are starting nonprofits and becoming philanthropists because they are more aware of their legacy."
Guyette is adamant about working on her dream and living—not just existing.
Watching a Dream Become Reality
The journey to starting her own cosmetics line has come with a lot of ups and downs. After developing her formula, Guyette researched factories that could develop her product. She talked with about 11 different ones who gave her all the reasons why her product couldn't work or cost more than what she was willing to invest. Guyette believed in her vision and had to assert herself as an educated scientist when other chemists doubted her idea. She refused to back down and finally found her match in a female business owner who owns a research and development factory.
After the ball started rolling there was still much work to be done. Guyette knew she was a perfectionist, tenacious, and very particular about how she likes things done, but she didn't know that she was technologically capable.
"I can titrate a laser and I know the pH level of chemical peels, but doing things like graphic design, building a website, and PR—I didn't know where to start. But I did it and learned that I could do it," she said. "Not having the financial means forced me to do it on my own when normally I would delegate and pay someone else. I've never put myself in a box, but this experience stretched my comfort zone in areas where I felt incompetent. I was so proud of myself. It taught me to learn all aspects of my business. I'm a pen and paper person, but I'm starting to build a better relationship with my computer."
She's also learning that although she's very autonomous there are times when depending on others is necessary, such as relying on her boyfriend to coordinate her launch and using her personal tax preparer to also handle the taxes for her business. She realized that she didn't have to do it all alone.
Guyette plans to keep the momentum going and will soon have the opportunity to share information about her product line with 300 women at an upcoming networking mixer for women in business.
Vintage Vixen Cosmetics isn't Guyette's foray into the business world. In 2011 she established Casa Zia Productions, which publishes and develops new poetic and literary material. Not only is she a scientist, model, master cosmetologist, holds various licenses in the medical field, and business owner, she performs spoken word poetry, dances, paints, is a published author, speaks several languages, and spent time in Italy teaching English. She is in essence a Renaissance woman.
As the incomparable Audrey Hepburn once said, "The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years."
Guyette embodies the spirit of Vintage Vixen Cosmetics and is expecting more great things to come.
To learn more about Vintage Vixen Cosmetics, visit www.vintagevixencosmetics.com.