A multi-tasking maven in the truest sense of the word, Karen Robinovitz is a journalist, book author, television correspondent, spokesperson, trend forecaster, and most recently, founder of the burgeoning beauty brand, Purple Lab.
The Fashion Spot: Was there ever a point in your life when you were struggling in your career where you had the opportunity to do another job that was more stable and safe, but you decided to stick with your passion? And what made you stay with it?
Karen Robinovitz: There wasn’t one time – there were TONS of times. The first is when I graduated college and decided to come to New York with no contacts, no money, no job – instead of playing it safe and going to grad school, which is what the plan originally was, or get a job in advertising in Atlanta (I went to Emory so I was living there at the time), as I was offered one before graduation.
I sofa surfed in New York (with my then-boyfriend’s family and friends) and took a non-paid internship at Rolling Stone to get my foot in the door. I bartended to make money, but I was really bad – I couldn’t make anything aside from a Cosmopolitan, so I got fired. Soon after, I got a job at WWD, where I stayed for three years. But I did have to moonlight as a hostess for a time to pay the bills!
The second time was when I quit my job at WWD to go freelance. I had nothing lined up, no money saved, but I felt like I had to take the risk to grow into a more well-rounded writer, and cover new things for different publications. I took any job I could get – at one time it meant writing fashion-inspired horoscopes for a now-defunct magazine that, believe me, no one has heard of! I don’t think I left my apartment much during that year because I spent every waking minute pitching stories and contacting editors. I eventually began writing for everyone I had dreamed of – Elle, Bazaar, Marie Claire, the New York Times Styles section, InStyle, Glamour, Details…
And then, of course, starting Purple Lab was the biggest risk of all. It has taken my husband’s and my entire life savings, and we’re too old to have nothing left in the bank! But I truly felt like I would die if I did not try to make it happen.
tFS: Was there a defining moment when you knew this career is what you had to do with your life?
KR: As a journalist, I often did television segments for VH-1, E!, MTV, morning shows, etc. But my career took a turn when my first book came out. I wound up doing all of the marketing, and realized that building brands, and creating strategies that are out of the box was my real passion.
I turned myself into a marketing consultant, which is what I was doing for the last seven years until the idea for Purple Lab came about.That was the defining moment for me. I was at a cocktail party, eating way more than my stomach could handle, when I jokingly said to my husband that I wished my gloss could plump my lips and not my hips. That’s when it hit – HUGE LIPS SKINNY HIPS! A lip plumper with Hoodia. My dream product.
I don’t think I would have been able to do it had I not had every experience along the way that I’ve been blessed to have – knowing the media as a journalist, and what makes a story. Going on TV helped with HSN, and marketing. It all came together. It only took 16 years!
tFS: Was there a time in your life where you felt like you accomplished what you have sought out to succeed? When was it, and how has this changed your perspective on your future career goals?
KR: It dawned on me that it was all really happening when I stepped on the Purple Lab set at HSN for the first time. I started to cry – it was the brand’s imaging come to life in a studio. The purple lights. The chain mail curtains. The logo all over the place. The room full of cameras. I was about to go on HSN, which was my dream the moment I started researching and developing the brand.
I think that achieving the ultimate goal really just reinforced what I have always believed in – take a risk; don’t listen when people say "no" or "you can’t." Believe me, I heard more "NOs" and "Why would you do that" and "it’ll be impossible to make it," than I care to count. And I’m so glad I ignored all of them!