Shortly after Alexis Wolfer launched The Beauty Bean, an online women’s magazine, she had a contest inviting readers to share what they love about the site. Eighty-five percent of them said it made them feel better about themselves.
So it’s no wonder that when I ask Wolfer in a recent interview what she lives riveted to, she says this: “So many things. My primary goal in all I do is to stay authentic, but also stay focused on the beauty in things.”
Allow me to interpret a bit. There are no headlines on The Beauty Bean designed to make you feel bad about your thighs or abs or to feel diminished in any way. The sensibility is upbeat, fun, smart, healthy. She doesn’t understand why for so many “You look skinny” is the ultimate compliment. And her take on red carpet commentary?
“It’s interesting how we have these absurd expectations of celebrities while we’re in our pajamas eating pretzels,” Wolfer says. “And so many people are mean about it. I watch red carpet shows on mute.”
Wolfer knows a little about mean, especially via the power of social media. She travels a lot to do beauty spots on local television stations.
“They’ll say, ‘Why should we listen to Alexis about beauty tips? She doesn’t have beautiful hair,’” Wolfer says. “And I think, ‘Why are you writing this [on social media] and why are you tagging me? I’m a nobody in the realm of public personalities. I don’t believe that we need that.’”
She notes it for a moment and then we go back to authenticity and the beauty in things.
Wolfer, a New York native who currently lives in Los Angeles, has all kinds of cred to go with those passions. She graduated summa cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis with a degree in women's studies and psychology with a minor in business, and earned a Master’s Degree from Columbia. In fact, she created a women’s studies program from the existing human rights curriculum there and it included taking some classes at Barnard. Amidst all that, she was dealing with an eating disorder.
“Weight isn’t worth,” Wolfer once told me.
Through action she began countering the societal message. Less than two years after founding The Beauty Bean, it was named one of the Top 10 Women’s Lifestyle Websites by Forbes. According to her site, Wolfer has made appearances on the Today Show, E!, The Doctors, and in outlets like Women’s Wear Daily, CNN.com, Oprah.com, Teen Vogue and the United Kingdom’s leading newspaper, The Independent. Her book, The Recipe For Radiance: Discover Beauty’s Best Kept Secrets In Your Kitchen, was released last year.
“I don’t feel like anybody else is doing what I’m doing,” Wolfer says. “Talking about beauty inside and out is a fad thing right now. So there are people in the wellness space tacking on key words to be a part of that.”
Which is not the same as living it and being it.
“Part of me wishes that more people jumped on the bandwagon,” Wolfer says. “I want the perception of beauty to change [to a healthier and happier one]. But I’m also grateful I get to be the person who is doing this.”
Her goal has been to reach the girl who was picking up Marie Claire, Vogue and Glamour, the one who didn’t necessarily know she needed a more positive message.
“Most of the pushback I get is that I say my mission is making women feel better about themselves, but I’m still hawking products,” Wolfer says. “I’m always coming from a position of women being empowered. I don’t think tweeting that a celebrity wore a fabulous shade of lipstick is counter to what I’m doing.”
The Beauty Bean has become bolder in its stance. Where before the positive message was subtle, Wolfer says now “they’d be hard-pressed not to know we’re different.” Her confidence translates into a relaxed vibe, whether she’s advocating for Makeup Free Mondays or suggesting that adding some sugar to your regular face cleanser makes for a terrific exfoliator. Occasionally things get serious.
“We don’t talk a ton about relationships on The Beauty Bean,” she says. “Conversations about women having choices comes up a lot. There’s never an article that says you need something, because you don’t.”
Having become an expert on beauty, it should come as no surprise that she has a dream to travel the United States in an Airstream for a year and that her mission would be tied to beauty.
“I like to see how different beauty standards exist in different places,” Wolfer says.
While she has been to a lot of countries -- she did her undergrad thesis on the intergenerational effect of domestic violence and eventually went to Tanzania with a women’s empowerment group after graduation -- and travels the U.S. frequently, it’s usually for a quick media appearance so she’s in and out of a city in 12 hours.
“I’m the youngest of four,” she says. “My brothers were heading off to college when I was in elementary school, so I tagged along with my parents on trips. I’ve traveled a lot. It’s informed everything I do ... That being said, I haven’t seen a whole lot of the United States.”
Wolfer’s curiosity may have already taken her on quite a journey, but she knows there’s a whole lot more beauty to see.
By: Nancy Colasurdo
Photo credit: Evan Sung