Jennifer Yen: Purpose, Perseverance and Purlisse
From Power Rangers to PURLISSE:
A Q&A Sesh with #BossMom Jennifer Yen
Photos by Nancy Ceron
Not long after graduating from college, Jennifer Yen moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in Hollywood, where she quickly landed an acting role as Vypra, the villainous vixen on Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue.
Yen was excited about the acting opportunity but a few weeks into filming, she became aware of a problem—the heavy makeup she wore up to 15 hours a day on set was damaging her skin. Still, she continued filming for Power Rangers for two years and consulted with many dermatologists, trying numerous products, with no results.
That’s when she decided to do something about it. In 2008, she used a combination of modern skincare technology and her grandmother’s Asian beauty secrets and created Pur-Lisse, which is French for “pure and smooth”.
Mommy In Los Angeles® (MILA) Magazine spent an afternoon with Yen at the Purlisse headquarters in Beverly Hills and learned how this successful mom of a toddler girl has maintained her business for a decade, despite several obstacles along the way.
MILA: Tell us more about your grandmother and the inspiration behind your line.
Yen: My grandmother never assimilated to American culture. She never knew what hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol was. When we'd get cuts, we'd always have white tea, or black tea or green tea either brewing or at room temperature, and my grandmother would use that on our cuts and rashes because they’re anti-bacterial. Soy milk was also staple. She would make soy milk and we would drink it, she'd also wash her face with it because it left her with a beautiful, porcelain-like appearance. And then there was blue lotus, which is a very spiritual water lily that has amazing beautifying benefits and a strong spiritual meaning. It means resurrection and evolution. The entire flower can be consumed. We would brew tea with the lotus leaves and sauté the seeds to put on our vegetables. The lotus root was steamed and we would put sesame oil over it and eat it that way.
MILA: So with these memories you had from childhood, at what point did it click that you needed to incorporate your grandmother’s teachings and apply them to a skincare brand?
Yen: That was always part of my mission. When I spoke with my chemist, at the time he explained there were many labs where you can go and put your name on a product, but I knew that wasn't going to be our angle. The only thing I had going for me was my heritage, my grandmother's beauty secrets, so that's what differentiated us and I knew this. But not only that, it works and it's five thousand years of this tradition of Asian beauty secrets that have been used by generations of women!
MILA: You launched in January 2008. How did that go?
Yen: It was great. It was steadily growing for ten months but then the economy crashed. People all of a sudden weren't really investing in themselves. They were basically trying to make sure there was enough food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. Our price point at the time was higher. We were in a lot of iconic, specialty retail stores but some of them stopped carrying beauty products, a lot of them shut down and some of them couldn't take on the risk because we didn't have the big advertising budgets to bring awareness.
MILA: So what did you do at that point?
Yen: Like the lotus flower, we had to resurrect ourselves, evolve and re-invent.
I was like, ‘Okay, what do I do?’ So I pulled back from the market, and had to rethink. I restructured the business to reflect the tone of the country and what was going on with the economy. The first step was to lower our pricing. We had fancier packaging so we eliminated that but we never compromised the quality. I felt it was important to have high quality products at a great price.
MILA: Wow. Love the Lotus Flower reference! You didn’t give up and figured out a way to keep going. When did your daughter come into the picture?
Yen: Gemma was born in 2014. I'm a single parent now, a co-parenting mom. At the time, her dad and I were together and Pur-lisse was starting to have legs again. I realized I had to put the pedal to the metal because I had a growing baby but there was uncertainty in my relationship. Gemma’s dad is great, but we weren’t on the same track. I feel so grateful that as my belly was growing, Pur-lisse started growing, slowly, but surely.
MILA: How was the delivery? Did you experience baby blues or anything that kept you distracted from the business?
Yen: I gave birth on a Friday. By Monday I was back. There could be no disruption to work. And I know that sounds crazy but everybody's situation is different. I was active and my mind was on, ‘We have a lot of things we have to do!’ so I didn't really give myself a moment to (have baby blues). My mom was there to help me and Gemma’s dad was there too. I was just enjoying the baby, taking care of the baby and working
MILA: Now that Gemma is three-years-old, does she ask questions? Do you explain what mommy does?
Yen: I tell her, "Mommy creates." She knows I'm an entrepreneur, she knows mommy makes beauty products.
MILA: What is your advice for keeping true to yourself while following your goals?
Yen: I always say, ‘You just have to keep moving’. You have to keep moving because when I think about my own trajectory, I thought I was going to be an actress, and yes, I was for a moment. But then my skin got bad, and I really listened to myself. At Pur-Lisse we are inclusive, we value diversity, we are multicultural and it shows with our entire team. We like to empower women. What you see now is the result of a decision made ten years ago to never give up. This is a dream from ten years ago. That and also knowing that you don't know what's next unless you stay in the trenches, meaning if you don't keep moving, you're never going to know what's next.
Connect with Jennifer Yen!
Pur-Lisse Cosmetics Website
Mommy In Los Angeles® Magazine had the pleasure of spending time with Jennifer Yen at Beverly Purlisse’s Beverly Hills Headquarters where her diverse, all-female staff was also very welcoming. We commend Jennifer for her tenacity in working hard to make her brand flourish, even through numerous obstacles and challenges along the way. Every Mom Has a Story.