Jamie Kern Lima: All things are possible if you “believe it”

From her early days as a waitress at Denny’s, to time spent as an on-air reporter, Jamie Kern Lima knew from the time she was 11 years old that, like Oprah—a woman she has always looked up to—she was destined for greatness. What she didn’t know was the wild ride she’d embark on to get there.

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As the co-founder of IT Cosmetics (alongside her husband Paulo), one of the largest beauty brands in the world, and now a New York Times best-selling author, the self-made entrepreneur’s road to success was filled with struggle and lack of belief from the many people she met along the way. But Jamie placed faith over fear, trusted her own intuition, and believed deep down in taking on her biggest life challenge as she let go of one dream to pursue another.

IT Cosmetics was born out of a strong desire to not only help find a solution for her own skin condition (Jamie had developed rosacea), but to also flip the industry’s perception of beauty and showcase “real” women, not the flawless, airbrushed ads that dominated the space.

In Jamie’s search for makeup that would withstand the hot HD lights of television, she continuously came up empty-handed. This led her to take the biggest leap of faith, not only starting from nothing in her living room, but also challenging the beauty industry in daring to be different.

“As I was sitting there in my dream job, I kept having this gut feeling if I could figure out how to make a product that worked for me, it would help a ton of people,” Jamie explains. “I realized there was a big need to shift culture around beauty in general.”

From the inspiring words in her new book, “Believe It,” to the powerful quotes and affirmations that have helped her during some of the toughest of times, BELLA spoke with Jamie about her journey and the ways in which she has left her imprint on the beauty industry. She is as sweet as she is successful, and you can’t help but feel empowered and inspired by her. Listen in…

Before launching IT Cosmetics you were a news reporter, a job you loved. How difficult was it to step away from one dream to chase another?

I think we’re in this culture where everyone is like, “don’t quit,” like as if that is the victory, or the only way to have success is to never quit. I think that’s only true as long as you’re able to get still and hear your own knowing, and if it tells you you’re doing what you’re supposed to then even when it’s hard, I think that’s the victory—to not give up.

I always knew I wanted to have a talk show where I would interview people and share their stories with the world. I thought it was my dream job, but then I went through this moment where I got rosacea and learned there was no cure for it. After trying all of the makeup lines out there, from the most inexpensive to expensive, nothing worked and I got the idea for IT. I thought I was in this season of setback in my life, but it ended up being a set-up of what I was to do next.

You talk candidly about these setbacks in your new book. While your belief in what you were creating was strong, were there times you questioned whether to keep going?

Yes, a lot of times!. Our self-doubt can get so loud, and in my case, the lack of proof that this was a good idea—we had no sales or experts saying, ‘We think you’ll make money…come into our stores.’ When the experts you trust and put on a pedestal don’t see the potential in your ideas, that can get really loud in your own head in terms of self-doubt. It can make you want to quit.

To the people who say, ‘What do I do? My dream isn’t working…do I keep going?’ know why you’re doing what you’re doing, and make sure it’s bigger than yourself. If people want to keep going when times get tough, they need to learn how to hear their own intuition. If it tells them they’re supposed to be doing what they’re doing, then they need to listen to and trust themselves over other people’s opinions and over the lack of proof of success around them. Had I not done those two things, I would have given up a million times.

How did you handle not having people believe in you when you were trying to figure out how to believe in yourself ?

It’s hard to believe in yourself when you feel like no one else does. A lot of people don’t know how to hear their own gut anymore, which is the most important thing for anyone to do.

Here’s an example…a couple years into IT Cosmetics I thought a potential investor was going to be life-changing; they loved our product. We had meeting after meeting, and when my husband and I flew in for the final one, I thought they were going to invest. I remember the moment when the head guy said, “Congratulations, your product is amazing. We wish you all the best, but it’s a no—we’re going to pass on investing.”

At that point I was so used to hearing no, so I asked why. He looked at me and said, “I just don’t think women will buy makeup from someone who looks like you with your body and your weight.” I remember feeling like my fear was staring back at me—a lifetime of body doubt. I never got mad at him, but what I do remember was this feeling in my gut that he’s wrong.

I remember many times within that six-year window when his words would come back in my head, and I had to intentionally remember the feeling in my gut that he was wrong or I would be tempted to think, ‘If he doesn’t believe in me, maybe I am wrong.’ It was a situation of learning how to turn down the volume of other people’s lack of belief in me and turn up the volume of my own.

In your book you talk about having a toolbox to pull from when you get knocked down. What tools have served as invaluable resources?

For me it’s words of wisdom or quotes that I go back to the most. I will save stories of underdogs turned triumph. The Apple commercial Steve Jobs voiced-over, “The Crazy Ones,” ends by saying, “The people who are crazy enough to believe they can change the world are the ones who do.” I watch it any time I am taking a risk I know is the right thing.

One of my favorite quotes of all time is, “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.” So many of us, especially women, have ‘Imposter Syndrome’—we feel we’re unqualified. These famous words, which I talk about in the book, I always call on them.

Another big one in my toolbox is a famous quote, “Rejection is God’s protection.” An example of that is when I heard from the investor six years later. He was kind and said he was wrong. And I learned it would have been the most successful investment in his firm’s history had we done it. If that dude believed in me back then, I was so desperate I would have given him the majority of thecompany for almost nothing. Because he didn’t believe in me, by the time we sold to L’Oréal, we were still the largest shareholders. Thank God the first investor didn’t believe in me—rejection is protection!

First with IT Cosmetics and now with “Believe IT,” you’ve created another outlet to help and inspire others. Was that part of why you wrote the book?

The biggest reason I wrote “Believe It” is to share all of the “stuff ” in hopes that with this idea—with all of us together—we really do all rise higher. I talk about how my victory is her victory, and her victory is your victory…I believe it in every fiber of my being. If we don’t share the stories behind the stories, people will feel alone and embarrassed about the rejections they’re going through. My hope is that people go on that journey with me.


The day you wiped off your makeup on QVC to illustrate how your product worked was a game-changer for the industry. As you begin a new chapter in your journey, what imprint have you left on the beauty industry?

When we finally got that 10-minute chance, I had this idea of showing real people as models. At the time, it wasn’t being done anywhere. I had people tell me women will only buy products from images of beauty they could never look like; it has to be ‘unattainable aspiration’ was the word they always used. I understood it had always been done that way but because I went through that setback in my life, I realized every person out there probably feels like they’ve never seen someone who looks like them showing a product that works.

I look around the beauty industry and see how common it is to use real people of every age, shape, size, skin tone, gender identity, and skin challenge now, and I’m so proud of that. I think there is still a long way to go, especially globally, but I hope I played some small part in that.


BELLA Magazine is a national subscription- and newsstand-based lifestyle publication offering a curated guide to fashion, beauty, health, philanthropy, arts and culture, cuisine, celebrities, and entertainment.

At BELLA, we spotlight the ideal that Life Is BEAUTIFUL!

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