How often do you use this type of product?
This will help us personalize your experience.

Jennifer Yen Shares Her Top 5 Tips to Becoming a Beauty Trailblazer

0323-BeautyTrailblazers-JenniferYenThumbnail0323-BeautyTrailblazers-JenniferYenHeader

Happy Women’s History Month! To celebrate, we’re spotlighting beauty trailblazers and IPSY brand partners who are putting their stamp on the industry. These women are pushing for inclusivity, breaking business barriers, creating new beauty categories, and innovating from a whole new perspective—and we’re all the better for it.

Jennifer Yen’s path to entrepreneurship wasn’t exactly conventional. She didn’t have a resume full of corporate gigs. In fact, she actually started her career as an actress where she played the evil villainous role of Vypra in the hit series Power Rangers: Light Force. What Yen did have, however, was a passion to share her Asian-American heritage, a hunger to learn and succeed, and a gap in the industry that she alone could fill. Today, she is the CEO of not one, but two award-winning beauty companies. The YENSA and PURLISSE BEAUTY founder has learned a lot on her journey to becoming a total beauty trailblazer, and she’s sharing all her insights with you.

1. Experience Can Come From Unexpected Places

Yen took a big leap in her early 20s, and moved to Los Angeles without knowing a soul in the hopes of becoming an actress. After five months of auditioning, she finally landed the coveted Vypra role. “This experience made me grow up fast,” she says of her time in Hollywood. “I had to wake up at 5 a.m., sometimes 3 a.m., to be on set and work 12 to 15 hour days. When the day was over, sometimes I would be stuck in traffic forever.”

Those long days spent in heavy makeup and elaborate costumes took a big toll on Yen’s skin. “Six months into being on Power Rangers, my skin was absolutely wrecked, and this crashed my confidence,” she says. In her search to find a clear-skin solution, she remembered her grandmother used white tea and other herbal remedies as antiseptic treatments on her cuts and rashes as a kid. “I really wanted to find a solution to my problematic skin, and I had nothing to lose, so I went for it.” PURLISSE BEAUTY was born.

“I didn’t appreciate [my time as Vypra] then, but now I’m thankful because it led me to do what I am truly passionate about and meant to be: a beauty entrepreneur, and the acting experience prepared me to sell YENSA live on QVC today” says Yen. “Good storytelling makes for great actors, and stories sell products. Both actors and entrepreneurs must know how to sell themselves, their skills, services, products, and vision.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Jennifer Yen (@jenyen1)

2. Authenticity Wins

Yen’s early inclination toward beauty is something that she was happy to circle back to later in life after starting PURLISSE: “Starting at 8 years old, I was perming my grandmother’s hair, dying my grandfather’s hair, and French braiding my aunt’s hair, so naturally at 10, I wanted to be a cosmetologist.” From there, her goals evolved. At one point she wanted to run a Fortune 500 company, then she wanted to become a lawyer. “By the time I graduated college, I didn’t pursue any of these careers, but I did go back to my childhood love of beauty and became a skincare and cosmetics entrepreneur.”

In 2014, Yen once again leaned into her Chinese heritage to create her second beauty company. “After giving birth to my daughter, my mother took care of me and followed this 2000-year-old tradition rooted in Chinese medicine called Zuo Yue Zi, where the new mother sits out for one month and integrates superfoods into her daily routine. This brought radiance and vitality to my skin and inspired me to create YENSA, and each product is infused with eight skin-longevity superfoods.”

“I lean into my culture and share the beauty and wisdom of my heritage in every YENSA and PURLISSE product I create,” she adds. “Being authentic and always staying true to my roots despite all the trends and fads is how we differentiate ourselves.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by YENSA (@yensabeauty)

3. Every Rejection Has a Silver Lining

For a while, Yen was acting and working on her new brand PURLISSE simultaneously. “I would be in LA for weeks and would never hear from my agent for auditions,” she says. “I was working with consultants from New York, and every time I landed in NY, I would get a call from my agent that I had an audition.” For years she would come super close to getting a big TV role, but nothing was panning out. “The moment I decided to quit acting for good is when I was once again up for a leading role in a soap opera. I promised myself that if I didn’t get the part, I would 100 percent focus on PURLISSE. It came down to three other women and me, and I didn’t get the part. I even had to kiss the male lead in the audition! That’s when I said I’m done—and it was one of the most liberating moments of my life. I have zero regrets and I don’t miss acting for a second!”

In both acting and entrepreneurship, you’ll hear no more than you’ll hear yes. “All those acting rejections prepared me for being resilient, which you need in business,” says Yen. “Not only was I a newcomer, but I also didn’t have any beauty or corporate experience. I was also an actress, so one can only imagine the reactions I got from people when I told them I wanted to start a beauty brand. There were also several people who believed in me, gave me great advice, and made quality introductions. Now, I find the beauty industry to be dynamic, always evolving, and overall supportive.”

4. Create Your Own Opportunities

Yen never let her lack of professional beauty experience get in the way. “The first thing I did when ideating for PURLISSE was meet people, ask a ton of questions and attend a ton of trade shows to educate myself.” It was that propensity for being a life-long learner that was key to the brand’s success, especially after the 2008 recession. The brand launched in January 2008, and Yen’s biggest focus was expanding distribution. They were in big-name retailers like Henri Bendel in New York, Fred Segal in LA, and the iconic C.O. Bigelow (the only retailer still around today). “During the first 10 months, I didn’t have any time to be fearful. We simply couldn’t afford it. But everything came crashing down during the recession in October 2008, and we lost almost everything. This is when I became fearful. How are we going to survive, operate, and produce more products?”

Like great actors, successful entrepreneurs are able to take rejection day in and day out (sometimes spanning over years) and still seek new opportunities. Yen wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. Instead, she pivoted. “This shift to direct-to-consumer was the best thing I did for PURLISSE,” she says. “We are now able to communicate and connect with our customers directly and get to know them. IPSY played a huge part in our shift to DTC. Being able to ship out hundreds of thousands of samples in one month to a beauty enthusiast and having them experience it has been life- and business-changing.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Jennifer Yen (@jenyen1)

5. Always Lead by Example

Yen lives by the Jay-Z lyric, “I never asked for nothin’ I don’t demand of myself,” meaning she strives to lead by example and always do what she says she is going to do. “When you are starting out, you have to do anything and everything—you are never too good for any job,” she says. “I still believe this today, and I think when your team sees you in the trenches with them, they are motivated and inspired.”

The most rewarding part of it all? “I get to set an example for my daughter that she can fulfill her dreams by working hard,” says Yen. “I get to employ women, I choose to work with women as much as possible, and I’m overjoyed that women are loving the products that are inspired by my Asian-American heritage.”

Do you want to try out products from YENSA, PURLISSE, and other amazing, women-founded beauty brands? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started with your own IPSY subscription. Already a member? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and TikTok @IPSY.

Like this article? Share it with your friends by clicking the icons below!

About the author
maddie-aberman-headshot-3 (1)
Maddie Aberman
Maddie is the senior manager of editorial at IPSY. She’s been covering beauty and wellness for more than nine years. Her work has appeared in Allure, Cosmopolitan, Popsugar, Women's Health, Good Housekeeping, and Seventeen, among other publications.
Share Article
Article Last Updated March 1, 2023 12:00 AM