Vogue sat down with Scarlett to go through various looks she’s worn from the beginning of her career.
Scarlett was in the studio yesterday with Ryan Seacrest to talk about The Outset!
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER – The star and her business partner Kate Foster Lengyel take The Hollywood Reporter inside the launch of The Outset, the actress’ new vegan, eco-friendly brand.
Scarlett Johansson does not share her life with the world on social media. In this way, the actress hews to a pre-Instagram model of stardom, when celebrities were seen and heard in limited and intentional ways (read: when promoting a project). Johansson’s place in modern Hollywood, though, is evidenced by the launch of her new skin-care brand The Outset, as she joins a chorus of other celebrity beauty brands that seems to grow larger for consumers each season.
The Outset is an eco-friendly, plant-based skincare line. Johansson’s co-founder and the brand’s CEO, Kate Foster Lengyel, was founder and CEO of SwearBy, a digital site focused on word-of-mouth product recommendations. Together, with funding from the Najafi Companies (also an investor in Tracee Ellis Ross’ Pattern hair care line and Shay Mitchell’s travel essentials company Béis), Johansson and Foster created a line of six fragrance-free products: a cleanser, prep serum, day cream, night cream, fine line cream and lip treatment ($28 to $54). The brand’s signature is Hyaluroset Complex, a trademarked, hydrating ingredient blend that’s a botanical alternative to hyaluronic acid. On March 1, the items will be available on the brand’s direct-to-consumer website, and at sole retail partner Sephora on April 26.
Johansson — who was working on the launch amid her now-settled lawsuit against Disney over Black Widow’s release — and Foster spoke with The Hollywood Reporter over Zoom in December and again in February for a rare look at two different stages of the brand building process as the founders inched closer to its debut in the marketplace.
Johansson admitted that before she dove in to creating her own brand, the idea seemed daunting. “I never understood the background of how brands come to be. I just didn’t feel like I had a place at the table, because it was this whole new venture,” the actress told THR. “I think over time I just felt more confident that it was something that I had a perspective on. And felt like it was worth pursuing this dream.”
She started envisioning the line five years ago. “[The Outset] just was born out of curiosity and a genuine love for beauty and for skin care,” says Johansson. Early in the process, the budding entrepreneur met with several beauty companies about pairing with them, but she “kept coming back to this really authentic desire” to forge her own path.
She met Foster (“my producing partner, essentially,” says the actress) through mutual friends in the beauty industry, and the two recall being immediately aligned on how the brand should take shape: “I needed somebody else that felt brave and confident enough to do it independently of some of the major houses and brands. So Kate, I think, was the person for the job because she is a risk-taker. And she and I had a similar kind of ethos around beauty.”
Says Foster of Johansson, who serves as chairman of the company: “From our first meeting two years ago to where we are now, her vision then and the way that she described the brand, it’s like 99.9% the same as what we’re introducing.”
Johansson knew she wanted every piece of The Outset’s launch to feel like a “hero product,” which meant scaling back the number of initial items. “We needed to focus our resources on this limited amount of SKUs and really understand what the most important thing to the consumer is. If our idea is noise reduction, and there’s obviously a million celebrity brands, this is the opportunity to create something that makes people’s lives easier,” she says.
From the brand’s minimalist blue-and-white packaging and clean ingredients (like vegan collagen) to the marketing language (“Return to the essential”), The Outset is positioned as a simple, everyday line, with bottles made from post-consumer glass recyclables. (The products are available either à la carte or as a starter set, with refills launching later this summer along with a smaller-sized travel set.)
“We always talk about this brand being like the white T-shirt of skin care,” says Johansson, noting that the products can be paired with other brand’s products successfully. “It’s not about resurfacing or reinventing your skin, it’s really about preserving the skin that you have for the future.”
(Neither Johansson nor Foster would discuss specific terms — including ownership percentages — of The Outset’s deal with its backer, Najafi, but industry sources say the initial investment falls within the range of $5 million to $10 million. Business deals for celebrity brands can take many shapes and forms, from licensing to outright ownership to hybrid models.)
The actress’ experience working in film, she says, also helped her in building and working with a team from the ground up. “The idea that the best idea rises to the top — it’s a collaborative process. And I love that collaborative process and being one voice in a group,” said Johansson, adding: “I’m used to, for my other job, having an idea that’s kind of half baked, and if something’s not working feeling comfortable scrapping everything and starting out from scratch. That to me is how you get a refined final product. This process has been very similar.”
When THR caught up again with Johansson and Foster in February, it was just two weeks ahead of the product debut. The pair had been dealing with supply-chain issues, which caused the launch to be delayed by several weeks. Foster notes the team had been hard at work on the technical side of things, like integrating and populating content on the website and creating tutorial videos, which Johansson, with her eye for film, insisted have a “beautiful cinematic quality,” as the actress puts it. Foster also says that the company is looking to shift from working with several freelancers and consultants to migrating more jobs in-house. The team was also working on final touches such as quality assurance testing. “We need to make sure that the products are all categorized properly in the warehouse, and that the website fires on all cylinders,” said Foster.
For a brand centrally focused on serving the consumer, trials and rounds of testing ahead of the launch have been pivotal in terms of refining the product formulas and packaging.
“Along the way, we’ve been doing customer testing to get feedback, and have just had phenomenal responses in terms of the positive reception to all of the products individually, but we also feel the daily essentials regimen is really the backbone of the line,” adds Foster. Early testers included many of Johansson’s friends, some of whom have described the line as “subtle.”
Of course, one challenge in promoting The Outset is Johansson’s lack of her own social media accounts, platforms that many other stars use to spotlight their brands. But The Outset did launch a company IG account (@theoutset) Feb. 20, quickly gaining 66,000 followers, including Johansson’s husband Colin Jost, who affectionately joked in the comments of the brand’s second post: “Is this the best way to contact you?”
Looking ahead to the fall, there are more product launches to come, such as a mask. “Things that are a little bit more specific … to boost your skincare regimen,” explains Johansson. In the future, she sees The Outset branching out into makeup products, fragrance, home goods, baby care and even apparel. “I’m interested in creating a legacy brand. This is the long play for me,” she says. “It’s very important to me that we grow the company.”
Asked to discuss the Disney suit, Johansson declined to comment, citing legal confidentiality, but did say: “I have a lot of stuff going on, and I definitely have a lot of balls in the air. But I think I’m at a place in my life finally where I’m OK delegating. I spent a long time where I just put a lot of pressure on myself to keep the balls in the air by myself. And it’s just impossible, especially since I have two children now [the youngest born over the summer], I have a film and television production company, and I’m still acting. So it’s just about, I think, nourishing my relationships with my team. This project right now needs a lot of attention, so this is where my focus is, and then when I go off to do a film, I know that [The Outset] is healthy.”
VOGUE – The last time I met Scarlett Johansson, seven years ago, she had just given birth to her daughter, Rose, and had brought the infant on the press junket for a new luxury beauty launch. Johansson was running late, according to her publicists, who kept the details vague. She arrived within a few minutes, looking noticeably bright-eyed and fresh, especially for someone who was only a few months postpartum. “I’m so sorry, I was nursing my daughter,” she explained with a warmth and familiarity that were disarming coming from the woman who would shortly become the world’s highest-paid actress.
When we meet again in late fall, this time hovered over our respective computers, I am hiding from my children in a corner of my basement turned home office, while Johansson sits in her closed-door bedroom, shielded, for the moment, from her daughter and her son, Cosmo, who has just turned three months. Her Zoom background reveals a cheery frond-print wallpaper that the 37-year-old actor installed during the pandemic to simulate more tropical climes—or, she jokes, a retirement home in South Beach. “I’m so sorry I was late, I had to pump my boob,” she says, flashing a megawatt smile. Some things, it seems, haven’t changed.
Others have. “I’ve been the face of several luxury brands throughout my career, and all of those experiences were really wonderful. But—how do I put this?” she pauses, a black baseball cap semi-obscuring a furrowed brow. “I guess I always felt like I was sort of playing a character in those campaigns, and as I evolved, I wanted to create and represent a brand that was true to me.” This month, Johansson makes good on that goal with The Outset, a six-piece line of skin-care essentials that offers simple, clean, effective, and accessible formulas.
Johansson isn’t the first celebrity to get into the beauty game. Last year alone saw the arrival of new brands from Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Aniston, Jada Pinkett Smith, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and the singer Halsey, among other A-listers hoping to add “founder” to their résumés. But there are very few beauty hopefuls with Marvel superhero franchises and indie cred—and even fewer who possess the layered intrigue that has always swirled around Johansson: the bombshell, the beauty queen, the badass assassin.
“I walked into our first meeting kind of taking a deep breath thinking, Holy crap, I’m about to meet Scarlett Johansson,” says Kate Foster Lengyel, The Outset’s cofounder, an industry veteran who was introduced to Johansson through mutual friends. She too was immediately charmed by Johansson’s intelligence and humor, which translate as a kind of normal-girl energy that you just don’t expect from Natasha Romanoff. “She’s Old Hollywood in that way,” confirms her longtime makeup artist Frankie Boyd.
But being an engaging conversationalist doesn’t necessarily make you a good business partner, acknowledges Foster Lengyel, who was wary of working on yet another celebrity beauty line—until Johansson gave her the hard sell: a skin-care brand built around her own beauty rituals and the success she has had managing the breakouts, the dryness, and the general maladies that come with many hours spent in the makeup chair and in front of the camera. (“She always says, ‘If I wasn’t an actor, I would be a dermatologist!’ ” reveals Boyd.) Johansson had taken her pitch for clean, elevated basics at the cross section of drugstore finds, apothecary traditions, and French pharmacy efficacy to “the big guys” (Shiseido, Estée Lauder, et al.) before deciding that to make a product that held up to her own expectations, she’d need to do it from scratch.
Johansson took a few introductory calls with Foster Lengyel before they finally sat down to lunch in person—just as New York went into lockdown. “In a way, it sort of accelerated our relationship, because we now had this other kind of intimacy,” Johansson says of how the two women built their brand over Zoom and via FedEx, while homeschooling their children and contending with the fear and uncertainty that has plagued so many of us over the past two years. That shared experience—and the guidance of a product developer with a chemistry background, who educated them on everything from polymers to parabens in accordance with Credo’s exacting clean-ingredient standards—helped finalize their product assortment: The Gentle Micellar Antioxidant Cleanser washes away impurities without stripping the skin, while the Firming Vegan Collagen Prep Serum boosts hydration, and the Nourishing Squalane Daily Moisturizer offers up a quenching drink for parched complexions. That three-step regimen, as well as the rest of the line, which includes a rich niacinamide-spiked night cream, a soothing vitamin C eye cream, and a lip treatment, all retail for under $55 and feature hyaluroset, a botanical alternative to moisturizing hyaluronic acid that plumps and smooths fine lines. The less-is-more approach also extends to a minimalist design aesthetic that was instilled in Johansson by her Scandinavian architect father. “I wanted it to feel like something that was always there,” Johansson says of what she insists is not a “millennial pink brand”; The Outset’s signature color is more of an electric Ceylon blue, rendered in sans serif letters on the front of recyclable glass bottles and bio resin sugarcane tubes.
The Outset’s six-piece line of skin-care essentials offers clean, elevated basics at the cross section of drugstore finds, apothecary traditions, and French pharmacy efficacy.
Johansson is the face of the brand, but not the only face. She is joined by a diverse cast, mostly comprised of part-time models who work in a range of professions, from prop styling to construction. It’s part of a strategy designed to ensure that the products can speak to everybody’s everyday needs—and that they can stand on their own, outside of the celebrity beauty maelstrom. That’s what stood out to Priya Venkatesh, senior vice president of merchandising for skin care and hair at Sephora, which will begin stocking The Outset in April. “When we were first asked to take the meeting with Scarlett, I was joking that I’ve talked to so many celebrities during COVID, it’s like I have my own Zoom Oscars,” Venkatesh says of the recent influx of calls to her office from Hollywood agents and managers. “The world doesn’t need more products,” she admits, “but I really like Scarlett’s skin-care philosophy, which is just: Skin care is something that should be done every day, and it should be simple.”
“She’s not messing around,” emphasizes Foster Lengyel, a sentiment that was made abundantly clear to anyone (everyone) who watched the mother of two take on Disney in a blockbuster breach-of-contract lawsuit last summer. Johansson filed a claim in July arguing that the studio sacrificed Black Widow’s box office potential in order to grow its fledgling Disney+ streaming service. Much of the public back-and-forth PR barbs focused on Disney’s response, which seemed to cast Johansson as greedy and insensitive to the toll COVID had taken on the industry and the world at large. Privately, Johansson was managing a pregnancy and her son’s birth—which she and her husband, SNL’s Colin Jost, had kept quiet—while actively launching a startup. “It was scary, very scary, to take a step like that and not know where you’re going to land,” she admits. “Self-doubt crept in a lot, and I felt overwhelming sadness many times during that period,” she continues. But support from costars, industry friends, and even strangers helped buoy her. Jamie Lee Curtis memorably wrote an essay in Johansson’s defense for Time, issuing a warning to would-be aggressors: “Don’t fuck with this mama bear.”
“It made me feel like I could push the boulder up the mountain and it wasn’t going to roll back on me,” Johansson says, adding that the slow but incremental success women have recently had in shifting the industry’s male-dominated power dynamics made it “a good time to push the boulder over the mountain.” Part of her impetus for the lawsuit, which was settled in September, was to speak for other people facing similar circumstances, she says. “Now, it will be different for everybody.”
As the “do not disturb” time window we have both negotiated begins to close on our conversation, Johansson tells me that she is actively waiting for her dining room table to be picked up from storage and delivered to The Outset’s new office in the Flatiron District, where she and Foster Lengyel have assembled an eight-person team. “It’s getting very real,” she says of the brand’s impending launch and what it means for her personal growth, harnessing what appears to be all the feels—excitement, gratitude, and anxiety. “I mean, I’m the same person I’ve always been. But I think I’m more comfortable now with the idea that with every gain there’s a loss.” That’s a philosophy she has applied to her product development as well: New formulas are being consistently tweaked, scrapped, and tweaked again. But Johansson has held firm in her specificities for the lip treatment. “That was my passion project. Because I have a lot of surface area, obviously,” she says with a laugh while elaborating on the salve’s surprising lotion-like texture. Its consistency might be polarizing, she admits, but that’s just another risk she’s willing to take. Don’t fuck with Scarlett Johansson—or her lip balm.
Scarlett and Henry Golding are David Yurman’s very first celebrity ambassadors for the company for the Come Closer Campaign. Watch the ad below and head to their website to check out the campaign!
The full Amazon commercial for the Super Bowl has finally arrived! Be sure to watch the snippet of Scarlett and Colin on Good Morning America as well!
The 15 second Alexa advertisement of Scarlett and Colin was released this morning!