Beauty brand Benefit finally lands in NZ

By Janetta Mackay

The women behind a fun new-to-New Zealand beauty brand are a close-knit family foursome

Maggie and Annie Ford Danielson of global cosmetic brand, Benefit. Photo / Supplied
Maggie and Annie Ford Danielson of global cosmetic brand, Benefit. Photo / Supplied

Childhood trips to the mall with their mother were more than a shopping experience for American sisters Maggie and Annie Ford Danielson. They planted the seeds of a shared career in the beauty business.

Now in their 30s, the sisters grew up watching their mother, Jean, and her twin sister Jane, build the Benefit cosmetics company from humble beginnings in San Francisco.

Right from its start in the 1970s, the beauty boutique was different. The former models specialised in quick-fix products delivered in fun, retro style.

There's a saucy story that one of the brand's top sellers, the much-imitated Benetint lip and cheek stain, had its origins in a request from an exotic dancer for something to, ahem, make her nipples look perkily pink.

Overnight, the twins concocted a rosy wash of colour with enough staying power to survive the dancer's routines. A favour turned into a cult classic, helping put their Face Place store on their local map.

More Benefit boutiques and department-store counters opened across the US. By 1999, luxury goods giant Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy snapped up the company.

The twins have only recently retired from day-to-day dealings to leave the next generation of sisters to carry the torch as Benefit's "global beauty authorities".

Maggie and Annie Ford Danielson told Viva there was a certain inevitability about their ascent. Maggie's first makeup memory is from age 4 or 5.

"My mum brought me into their first store because she had to work and for some reason the babysitter wasn't available.

"She sat me in the corner on a chair and I watched for hours as she put makeup on women. I was totally mesmerised."

Annie says: "I was about 6 or 7 when my mum and I would walk through the mall and she would pretend not to be Jean Ford. She would go up to the Benefit counter and see if people were selling her on the latest and greatest product. I remember it used to be so embarrassing. But now I do the same ... the apple doesn't fall far from the tree."

Being in business together is working out just fine. "What has been really helpful to both of us is having Jean and Jane as great 'sister' role models," says Maggie. "Working together as sisters is actually a lot more efficient because there is less red tape. We say how we feel, what we like and what we don't."

Annie: "We may not always agree ... but we are respectful and listen to one another. That's the joy of working so closely with family. No one will be more honest with you than a sister - and no one will ever be as supportive."

They remember their childhood as artistic and creative, saying they were encouraged to play with colour - but not necessarily on their faces.

"We watched as our mum and aunt mixed colours on the kitchen table to create products such as Benetint, Dr Feelgood and Ooh La Lift," says Annie. "It's no wonder we caught the beauty bug early."

They hope Aucklanders will catch the Benefit bug, too, with their fun approach and signature brow service.

Australia, where the brand has been ensconced for a decade, now boasts Benefit's busiest brow bars globally, in the Myer CBD stores in Sydney and Melbourne. There are more than 1000 Benefit brow bars and 3000 cosmetic counters internationally, and New Zealand is the 41st country to host Benefit.

Since its launch in 1977, more than 10 million bottles of the nipple tint-turned-lip and cheek stain have been sold, and it remains among their top five sellers.

Annie is proud that a product she has personally been involved in developing is also on their top-five list: a mascara called They're Real.

Asked why they think the company has struck such a chord with women, the sisters keep the credit in the family. "It was our mom and aunt's goal to create quality beauty solutions that deliver results, but that also make you smile and feel confident, and that's something that really sets us apart."

THE TWO OF US

Maggie: I'm the older sister by six years ... ouch! I think I'm a little bit taller, definitely the bossy one, and I can safely say neither one of us has ever been called quiet.

Annie: I thought we were the same height (must be an older sister thing). We are both pretty bossy. I think we both have a business side, but creativity runs through our blood.

Maggie: Being six years apart we never really borrowed each other's clothes growing up. Now, even though we would borrow if we could, I live in New York City and Annie is in San Francisco. When I stay with her, I do like to look through her closet to see what new stuff she's bought. She has great purses and shoes.

Also great beachwear.

Annie: I live with my husband of six months. We live in a two-bedroom with our newest member of the family, our french bulldog puppy, Oscar. In our little-to-no spare time I love to cook and travel. Mexican food is my fave.

My style for our apartment is pretty classic with neutrals, but not girly. In terms of clothing I am pretty low-key - like jeans, boots and a sweater. I do, however, love bags and good jewellery. Maggie is known for her fab jewellery. I love to spice up my outfits with some bling when we are together.

Maggie: I live in a one-bedroom apartment downtown in New York City and have been married for almost two years. I'd say my style, in both clothing and decorating, is neutrals with pops of colour. I love big earrings, but otherwise I wear the same jewellery pretty much day-in and day-out and never take it off. I also love flats. I have way too many pairs, mostly pointy-toed because I feel like those are a bit dressier. I love to cook, but not desserts. I'm definitely not a baker.

I'm totally addicted to salty foods and would eat a plate of french fries over a cookie any day of the week. Staying fit and active is very important to me and while I don't do too many outdoor activities, since I'm not close to Central Park, I am addicted to spinning and yoga.

BEAUTY TIPS

Maggie: Less is more. I used to wear eye shadow and liner every day but now I just save it for the special occasions. My everyday look consists of the essentials: prime first (With The Porefessional). Concealer is next, before applying a liquid or powder foundation. That way you won't need as much. Next, it's time to enhance those lashes (with They're Real). For a natural flush to the cheeks and lips, I use Benetint. It's foolproof and always gives off a pretty flush without the heavy look of a blush. Lastly, I keep my brows looking perfectly groomed.

Annie: Experiment and have fun. There are no rules, especially at Benefit. It really depends on our mood. Express yourself in a new way.

Maggie: Appearance is important in the fact that it's a reflection of who you are to the outside world. Sometimes if I'm having a great day, I want my outsides to match my insides, so I might dress in something fun and flirty. Other times, if I'm having a bad day or I'm feeling down, I use my appearance to give myself a boost.

A bright lip can really pick up my mood and act as my armour in a way. Sometimes you have to fake it a little. No matter what, though, you have to reflect you. No one person is the same and there is no "ideal" appearance.

Annie: I agree with Maggie. It's all about how you feel and portray yourself. Sometimes I think women underestimate the power of a lipstick or a good concealer. One little application can change the way you feel about yourself and that will instantly change your attitude.


STAND TO BENEFIT

To celebrate the opening of Benefit Cosmetics' first New Zealand store at Auckland International Airport, one lucky Viva reader will win a prize valued at more than $750. You'll be good to go with some of Benefit's most popular goodies and a $500 voucher to spend at JR/Duty Free. (To redeem the JR/Duty Free voucher you will have to travel overseas before the end of May next year. Please note, travel is not provided as part of the prize.) The Benefit beauty pack is valued at more than $250, and includes the Benetint lip and cheek stain, They're Real mascara, the Porefessional primer and more. To enter go to nzherald.co.nz/vivagiveaways and enter the keyword Benefit on the VIP Viva page along with details. Entries close 11.59pm, Sunday, May 19, 2013.


Benefit opened its first New Zealand store in Auckland International Airport's departures terminal last week. (Travellers with delayed flights now have no excuse for not arriving well-groomed - the outlet offers a full range of brow and facial waxing services and mini makeovers, along with traveller-exclusive deals.) From late next week, a Benefit counter will open in Smith & Caughey's, Queen St.


- VIVA

- NZ Herald

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