Amanda (Fite) Huff, St. Clair, had been working at the Ulta store in Washington for a year and a half as a part-time beauty adviser when she decided she wanted to apply to be the store’s Clinique skin care and makeup consultant.
During her interview for the job, she remembers saying, “I want to be Clinique,” because she had been so impressed by the brand and its products.
After getting the job, Huff found out just how in tune she already was with the company. The first training session that new consultants attend is called “I Am Clinique.”
“The fact that I had no previous knowledge of that, I feel like it was meant to be,” said Huff, who has been a Clinique consultant at Ulta for 2 1/2 years now.
That’s a short amount of time, but enough for Huff to stand out among her peers.
Earlier this year she was selected to be one of 51 Clinique consultants — out of 18,000 working in 17 countries around the world — to attend the company’s prestigious Stars to New York program Aug. 20-24.
Around for decades, Clinique Stars to New York brings consultants to New York City for five days of workshops, training, facility and lab tours and special events, like a party at the home of Jane Lauder, granddaughter of Esteé Lauder, and a boat tour of New York landmarks, like the Statue of Liberty.
Huff, a 2001 graduate of St. Clair High School, described the entire experience as “fantastic!”
“Going to the R&D labs was outstanding! Talking to the chemists who work on each individual product was fantastic,” she said, noting she had a chance to help make some of Clinique’s Moisture Surge moisturizer, “which was a lot of fun.
“Seeing how the plant operates, the warehouse, where things are packaged and held, and how things work automatically was really interesting. We got to shop at the company store. The dinner cruise was phenomenal. It was all just fantastic!”
Nancy Gannon, vice president, education field development, Clinique North America, said the purpose of the Stars to New York program is twofold — to celebrate the consultants for all they have achieved, “for being among the best of the best,” and to provide them with enrichment that they can build in their careers, whether they continue in their role as a Clinique consultant or they aspire to a higher position in the company.
The consultants who are invited to attend the program are “the elite of the elite,” said Gannon.
“Across the board, you can tell these are our future business leaders,” she remarked.
Huff was one of only three consultants from across the United States who work in Clinique boutiques inside Ulta stores. The other two were from Kissimmee, Fla., and Louisville, Ky.
Consultants are nominated for Stars to New York by their sales and education leaders based in part on sales metrics, but also on their connection with customers and their ability to be a role model for their peers, said Gannon. One of the goals of the Stars to New York program is for the consultants to return to their stores as mentors for their team.
“It’s really to inspire them with additional knowledge so they can further spread the love of Clinique among their peers, what they learned,” said Gannon.
Being selected as a Star is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“Once you are selected, you won’t get invited again,” said Gannon. “You have to be on the brand for a minimum of two years to be eligible, and then you can never do it again.”
The Five Days
The consultants were paired up with roommates for their stay at the J.W. Marriott Essex House on Central Park South.
“Each day we started with education or something about the brand, and in the eveing they treated us to either like a dinner at The Boathouse, which was beautiful, or a boat cruise around the Statue of Liberty; absolutely stunning!” said Huff. “We had dinner in the home of Jane Lauder, who is our global brand president. Amazing experiences.”
One of the activities that really stood out to Huff was the product development class and seeing the work that goes into creating each new product.
“We got to spend time in consumer engagement classes, looking at who exactly we’re marketing to and who that woman is. What does she look like in her daily life? Not just who she is when she comes in the store, but what’s going on in the background and how we can connect with her,” said Huff.
That was especially meaningful for Huff, who prides herself on establishing relationships with her customers and making deeper connections with them.
The Stars had one day where they worked with some of Clinique’s key makeup artists of the brand.
“They would teach us how to use our artistic eye, how to look at a client’s face and see how we can elevate or improve or teach her a new skill based on what she already has,” said Huff.
The Stars also had the opportunity to meet with senior management and ask questions. They visited the factories to see products being made and the R&D labs to see the testing that’s done on each product to support its efficacy claims.
For the first time ever, this year’s Stars were invited to a party at Jane Lauder’s house and were each invited to have a personal photo taken with her.
“That was really a moment of celebration for them,” said Gannon.
Looking back over the entire five-day experience, Huff described it as a very emotional trip.
“Every evening I came back to the hotel room and I just kind of decompressed from the day,” she said. “My roommate and I sat and giggled because we were like, ‘We’re really here! This is real. This is happening to us. We were selected for this.’
“It’s mindblowing and it’s incredibly humbling just to be nominated, but to know that you were selected from so many is just an extreme, extreme honor,” said Huff.
Sharing What She Learned With Customers
Huff will be sharing the tips and techniques that she learned from the Clinique makeup artists in New York at an event this Saturday, Oct. 7, at the Ulta store in Washington. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The theme is “Elevate Your Look in Five Minutes or Less.”
“A lot of consumers tell me they are stuck in a rut with their makeup routine,” said Huff. “We tend to get in the habit of doing the same colors from our 20s into our 40s and 50s.
“So this is to show guests that you can change it up and keep it very simple, both simple routines and great results.”
Huff is excited about her future with Clinique and said currently her goal is to become a field brand manager for Ulta stores, which is essentially like a district manager for the Clinique boutiques within Ulta.
“I love to be in education. I love to teach and inspire my peers and fellow consultants, so that’s kind of my next step, and growing within the brand,” she said. “I feel like this was my life-fit.”