Jackie Michele Johnson is a comedian, beauty passionista, actress and self-described former southern belle. She is also the enthusiastic creator and host of ‘Natch Beaut’ — a podcast that celebrates beauty while looking at the industry with a critical eye, one that winks to the camera from time to time. Jackie promotes small, female, and minority-owned businesses, cruelty-free brands and a vegan lifestyle to her passionate and engaged audience. So far guests on the pod have included GLOW Actress Jackie Tohn, comedian and host of Netflix breakout hit ‘Nailed it’ Nicole Byer, and Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness.
The pod lives in the ‘Fashion & Beauty’ section of Apple podcasts but could easily be at home under Business, Comedy, Self Help, Health and… at times… Sexuality. I’ve laughed alone in my car to Natch Beaut, I’ve cried alone in my car to Natch Beaut.
The concept of the show at first seemed completely illogical to me. Fashion and beauty content rule the internet, beauty videos on Youtube were viewed 88 billion times in 2017, up 60% from 2016 and the top 10 beauty influencers on Instagram last year had a combined following of over 135 million. YouTube and Instagram are visual-first platforms, with low barriers of entry (truly a smartphone is all you need to be a creator), while podcasting is a little more mysterious, less accessible and literally the only non-visual platform on the internet. So I caught up with Jackie to ask her how she made the pod happen, how she fuses style and humor, and the ever-important idea of self-care.
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I’ve been hanging out with Howard and his gang since I was around 12 years old. Mom took me to see Private Parts and the E! Show put me to bed most nights. All throughout my 20’s I walked dogs and did eyelash extensions while blasting Howard 100 out of my Mustang. And every time Howard renewed his contract I told myself “you have more time to get to him now.” Being a guest on the wrap up show meant a whole whole lot to me. Getting to tell Richard that I also cried when Cotton Hill died and telling JD he’s smart for not having wedding guests also ruled. It was very satisfying to finally be able to speak back at the people I constantly hang out with. BA. BA. BOOEY. ✊🏻
How did Natch Beaut happen? I heard you talking about it on another podcast I love, Plz Advise, and I hope you don’t take offense to this but I was like ‘Why on earth would you take the only non-visual medium and make a beauty and make up show?’
Not offended! I’ve been listening to Howard Stern my entire life and Howard does a ton of very physical bits on his radio show and the fun of driving around and imagining things has always been really exciting to me. They would do wrestling competitions and outfit roasts, all these things you can’t see and I would drive around laughing and loving it so I was like if he can do it, I probably can do it..not as well. There were some negative iTunes reviews that were like ‘I can’t even see what she’s talking about’, which I get but the episodes vary, it’s not a makeup tutorial show, it’s just two people gabbing about beauty.
As for how it got made, you’re probably aware by now that literally everyone in LA has a podcast, because everyone out here is an actor/comedian/unemployed artist and they crave creativity. I had been told ‘Oh YOU should have a podcast’, because I guested on them and always had a great time and got a good response, but I was like ‘ehh there’s so many’, and that was three years ago. I had three or four different ideas and I had just gotten really into makeup tutorials and I’ve always been that person in my friend group where they ask ‘Hey what deodorant are you using’ or ‘what face brush do you like?’ I also did eyelash extensions for 5 years as my side job so for two hours I’d be chatting with the woman and I’d be staring at her damn face and I’d be like ‘Oh my god, what do you use you literally have no pores on your face’ I had originally had the idea to record the eyelash extension conversations have that be the podcast, the show really evolved from Jackie O’Lashes, half of my clients have now been my guests and more to come.
Your career has spanned acting, comedy, music, dog walking, doing eyelashes, what can you share about the art of the side hustle? How do you think it prepared you to do what you do now?
Every move I make, every day of my life is a struggle and I’m used to that now. I mean I wake up in a state of panic and it goes away when I go to bed. It’s hard as hell out here, and that’s the brutal truth baby it’s hard as hell out here. And I’ve learned from speaking with my “successful friends” that they’re in the same state because it’s really difficult to be satisfied with your career in general for everyone in entertainment because of the fleetingness of it all. If you’re on the top you’re not going to be on the top for long, and that’s why you see these actors hit and then they’re in 15 movies at once and then they go away for 3 years because they’re riding their high, while they have it. Fame is fleeting honey, money is fleeting. It’s oxygen money breathes in and out; there’s no guarantees about anything.
What’s been the biggest surprise about your life since launching Natch Beaut?
I have a slightly bigger following, more opportunities have presented themselves in terms of my career. I get a lot of free shit sent to me, that’s different. I haven’t had to buy a makeup or skincare product in like a year, and that’s great and it’s indie brands which is even better. My makeup and skincare has quadrupled, it’s like a growing mass across the counter of my room so that’s a huge difference. More people know who I am. I think I take better care of myself because I’m inspired by my guests constantly. And I’m not doing lashes anymore! And that’s amazing.
This is the first year I haven’t had an actor side job in forever. I don’t know how people don’t in this town. I think there are people who like to struggle and then just pay rent and then they’re empty and I can’t live like that I always have to have some money cause my husband and I like to travel and I just never wanted to be BROKE broke so I always worked. Even if I booked a big commercial and had money in my account I was like I might not book another damn commercial I’m gonna keep doing lashes.
How did you pitch the show to your initial guests?
I would say it’s a conversation about beauty with a comedic twist and the level of comedy slash the level of beauty talk varies from guest to guest based on their comfort level and knowledge of the topic. I adapt it depending, like Gaby Dunn comes on she doesn’t wear makeup so we talked about deodorant, if a makeup artist comes on then obviously we’re good. Or the guest will email me and say ‘I’m obsessed with laser hair removal’ and I say great and I prepare a bit on that.
Your show has been such a resource for new products but it’s also so much more than that, some of your guests get very deep on topics like diversity, inclusion, identity and mental health, did you know that was going to happen going into this?
I definitely never thought that initially, my whole thing was I want this show to be entertaining. The ‘T’ word is banned from my show (it rhymes with rump) because it’s everywhere and it makes a lot of us anxious, sad, upset. I wanted Natch Beaut to be a chance to turn off your brain and have a good time, one place where you could turn and know that’s what you’re going to get. However, self-care and beauty, there’s so much more to it than just your eye-cream and your highlighter, it goes skin-deep. And there’s so many issues in our beauty community that I’d like to address. I try to keep it upbeat and I edit shit out sometimes if it gets too dark, because I want to make everyone happy, I know that’s impossible to do, but I try. So no, I didn’t really expect that at first, the show has evolved. If you listen to the first few episodes they’re nothing like the show now. And that’s because you know it takes 10,000 hours to achieve genius and I’m like 70 hours in. I’m really proud of the show now.
At what point did you realize the show had become ‘a thing’?
That’s a good question, I guess it was the Facebook group. I had gotten a few emails asking for a Facebook Group, and I was like okay I guess, so I started one and watching that grow was like oh WOW people are listening to this. Podcasting is so intangible in that way it’s not like you talk and see all the people laughing, see all the people listening or see all the people riding the subway with their earbuds in, you don’t see anything. All I know is the emails and my Instagram growing a little bit, and most podcast listeners don’t engage with the host of the show. The vast majority of people who listen to ‘Natch Beaut’ don’t follow me on anything or tweet at me or anything, and you know that’s fine I don’t tweet at the people whose podcasts I listen to so I don’t expect them to either. I don’t know who Karina Longworth (the host of popular podcast You Must Remember This) is if she walked past me I would have no idea. But I do love the people who do [reach out], it’s cool to see or here. People send me videos of them singing the theme song.
You have an Upright Citizens Brigade background, how much does that influence they way you produce your podcast?
A lot. I think walking into Upright Citizens Brigade and signing up for a class was one of, if not the, most important thing I’ve ever done for myself, and I’m talking career wise — because THE most important thing I’ve ever done is get my dog. But other than Chooch, walking into UCB was pivotal for my career, pivotal for my voice. I owe everything to them, especially the network of friends and fellow comedians that I grew up with here in LA. All of the people I went to class with are now showrunners, head writers and they hire me. I’m so appreciative of the community and the friendships I’ve made there, I met my husband there. It’s the best comedy theater in the world, for sure.
On the show, is it fair to say you exclusively champion cruelty free and vegan brands?
Definitely cruelty free, I only require brands have vegan options because that’s how I live my life, not all vegans agree.
What does self care mean to you?
Anything you do that takes care of you. It can be anything from an eye cream, a highlight, to finally standing up to the friend who treats you like shit, washing your car, taking Instagram off of your phone.
There’s a lot of podcasts out there that talk a lot more about depression and anxiety, again I try and keep Natch Beaut as upbeat as possible, those conversations do come up and I welcome them, but for the most part we try and keep it fun and entertaining. I’d like to take your brain off of those things for a few minutes. My self care, my biggest self care is my dog, Chooch is the best thing that ever happened to me.
Your podcast is the only one where I don’t skip the ads because they’re always hilarious and entertaining and oh my god you need to be a voice actor, what’s your relationship like with your advertisers? What’s the process there?
I’ll be honest and say it’s a little mysterious, my network is mysterious about it. Here’s pretty much how it works, my network works with ad agencies, they find companies that are interested in advertising on podcasts and in order to get advertisements on your podcasts you have to have a certain number of downloads or streams. Once you pass the 10,000 or more subscriber threshold is when you can usually start getting ads. If you’re a podcast listener you know you probably hear the same ads on 10 different podcasts, which I think is maybe a flaw because you’re like “Well I love Guys We Fucked and I love Why Won’t You Date Me, I love Raised By TV, I love Natch Beaut….they all have a Simple Contacts ad, whose code am I going to use!?”
Anyway, once the agency gets the interest they give it to my network and my producer comes to me with the opportunity, I look at the website I see what they have. I don’t do ads that I feel don’t fit into my brand or my lifestyle, I’ve gotten offers for Auto Parts ads and I’m like no. I’ve done dog product ads because I’m a huge dog freak, or I’ll do workout ads because I started getting more into fitness. I won’t do anything that I don’t think serves my general brand and identity. If it pertains to the product I also make sure they’re cruelty-free and have vegan options, and if they do I say send me the product. If I don’t like it, I say no thanks. If I do like it, I can sell it and I feel comfortable selling it to people, I never take an ad for something I don’t like and maybe that’s why my ads work.
What episode would you recommend for a first-time listener?
All my daughters are beautiful in their own way [laughs], I really think the stride of the show hit when Darcy Carden came on. Because I know her I really went in hard on her, I asked her if she would bring her makeup bag and I went through it and found a lot of really sad products and was like you’re on two shows you can afford better shit and really had at her. That one is more like a roast and it’s fun, so I’d say maybe start there and now that some of them are more calm and normal and that one gives a really good taste what to expect.
There was a period of time where the future of Natch Beaut was up in the air due to a #MeToo moment impacting Feral Audio, how did you navigate that?
I mean listen, it sucked. It sucked. It sucked real hard. A lot of people’s podcasts were destroyed. You know, you get a real dose of humble pie. Navigating the network space is really interesting and I’m learning everyday more and more about this industry and how flawed it is. No one has really figure it out yet. I saw Ira Glass speak at SXSW, it was so interesting to hear his thoughts. He said more people are listening to podcasts per week than are watching the Breaking Bad finale, more people are listening to podcasts weekly than saw Wonder Woman opening weekend, it’s a huge entity it’s a huge opportunity and yet advertisers are still not taking it seriously. You should be hearing Toyota, Apple, the biggest brands in the world advertising on podcasts and the monetization of podcasts is still being figured out. So the network vs. no network and where to host your show, I don’t know if anyone has figured it out yet we’re all just doing our best and learning on our feet, I’m still learning and I look forward to learning more everyday. In an ideal world, I’d love to have my own network.
Who is your dream list of guests for Natch Beaut, including dead/alive or fictional characters?
I want Busy Philipps, she’s too busy, literally. Dead or alive? Lucille Ball. All four Beatles just because they mean the world to me. I would love to have Chooch (Johnson’s dog) on somehow if she could magically speak, I have thought about doing an episode just as Chooch but my producers said that’s too weird. P!nk, Britney, Tracee Ellis Ross, Christina Aguilera, Katey Sagal, Robin Quivers, Jane Fonda, Alicia Silverstone, Adele, Rosie O’Donnell, Miley, Kristen Bell, Avril Lavigne, Drew Barrymore is a huge one, she doesn’t do pods a lot, she’s an icon from the 90’s and I want to know how those eyebrows grew back because she used to have the most fierce 90s eyebrows I’ve ever seen, plus she owns Flower Beauty, Drew I’m coming for you.
Okay, Mandy Moore, Chrissy Metz, Gal Gadot, Laverne Cox, Howard Stern, Weird Al, Rihanna.
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Y’all! I’m in love with today’s episode. The hilarious and beautiful @darcycarden and I swap makeup bags and it gets crazy. She also tells us how her makeup artist on The Good Place transforms her into Janet. We have lots of fun and I yell a bunch! Go to natchbeaut.com for the episode guide to see links to everything we discussed 💄
Advice for someone starting a podcast?
Don’t [laughs]. No, you know what the best advice is to do it because you can talk yourself out of it all day long for all the reasons, just do it. There’s probably YouTube videos on what [gear] to buy, for me the game is strong I don’t think you should just put a phone in the middle of your table and start talking so save up a couple hundy, get you some mics, get you a zoom recorder. You also need to really nail down a concept, for me since the market is so saturated I’m more into niche pods at this point, I’m not looking for just two funny people to have a conversation, I want a theme, I want some research, I want some games, some substance. So record a few episodes, learn how to edit, or hire somebody, just step your game up. Do it and step your game up.
What’s next for the Natch Beaut empire?
I’m doing a live show in the fall that I’m very excited about, I’m going to really bust my ass and put some money behind it, i’m going to do it here in LA I’m going to tape it hopefully use that as a sizzle, my goal is to get Natch Beaut on TV, maybe that means being on the internet because TV could be dead in five years, I do want it to have a visual medium that’s my goal for the show. Short term all I want is to get the word out and get people listening. Natch Beaut got started quick but it’s pretty much [does a flat hand]. So yeah, short-term: putting my head down and working to put out a good product. Long term: I want Natch Beaut on TV.
Anything else you want to say or promote?