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Who I am and who I’ll be
After years of working in fashion at Diane Von Frustenberg, April Uchitel found her love for startups and the business of beauty at Spring. Following her role as CEO at Violet Grey for three years, April is now CEO at Onda Beauty. She shares her vetted beauty routine, and hopeful insight into the post-covid world.

My red lip I wear all the time; going hiking, doing yoga, it is akin to being my superman cape - no matter how I feel, if I put on that bold red lip it just transforms my mood.

19/99      Tell us a bit about yourself. 

April Uchitel       I grew up in Boulder Colorado, ended up in LA in the 90’s and went the fashion route, which I did for about 25 years, 9 in LA and the rest in New York. I spent 9 years at Diana Von Furstenberg, running global sales teams, pre-recession and post-recession. I saw the demise of the fashion system and left to move into digital and eventually joined a company called Spring, where we built a mobile first marketplace from scratch. The founder of Spring was 20 years my junior, and I was amazed by the technology aspect of what they were building and it’s potential to disrupt the industry. As a new direct to consumer platform, Spring gave the consumer the ability to shop directly from brands sites and gave the brands the control and data they didn’t get in wholesale relationships. To me, this was an incredibly compelling alternative solution that leveled the playing field. I’d been mentoring in the CFDA incubator program and I saw the challenges emerging brands faced trying to break into the industry, especially with the margin agreements and the pay to play business model that favored bigger brands who could throw money at stores for placement and advertising, as well as the one sided expectations on performance. I built Spring’s curation around the discovery of emerging and unknown brands while grounding it in recognizable and trusted brands for credibility. I spent the first year drinking through a firehose learning a new industry (tech/start up), and  got quite an education as someone who had run major teams, to just myself running around the streets of Manhattan with up to 6 brand meetings a day! It was really challenging but that effort truly set me apart from my peers. Having hustled really hard for a few years in that startup world is how I was introduced to the beauty community. I was working with everyone from Estée Lauder to Chanel and realized that the evergreen, size agnostic and emotional aspect of beauty, (which you don’t get in the same way in fashion), was really compelling. I ended up moving back to LA in July 2017, as honestly my husband was just done with New York, and exiting Spring. I reconnected with Cassandra Grey, who I knew from her New York days, and initially I joined her at Violet Grey as Interim CEO and came on full time 6 months later. We were able to do a lot in a short period of time with the business, volume wise. I exited after nearly 3 years and am now looking forward to the future, which is taking into consideration all of the innovation in technology and the challenges in the industry, but I believe ultimately that these unprecedented and incredibly challenging times will birth many new opportunities. It is a bit of a great equalizer what is happening in the business world right now, which is turning things upside down. The next six months to two years are going to be an incredible time to pivot or start a new business, opening up opportunities for forward thinking entrepreneurs to be a lot more innovative; as there are so many ways to reimagine and to rebuild. 

19/99      Has working in fashion and beauty impacted your personal relationship with them?

AU       I was super done with fashion. I was so happy when I started working with startups that I could retire my fashion wardrobe. All of a sudden, it was one less worry that I didn’t need to focus on – that was the part of fashion that I was over. When I started in beauty, I used anything anyone gave me for free if it smelled good! I had my signature red lip and that was it. I remember talking to Cassandra and she asked me about my beauty routine, and I said I didn’t have one. She told me everyone did, and got me to tell her each step before I went to bed. I did, and she let me know that I had an 11-step routine! Violet Grey was really my education into best in class beauty products, what they are, why you need them, what they do, how they were developed. Violet Grey is the ultimate editorial platform for beauty and a lot of work and research is put into launching the right products. Everything is tested before it is stocked, and is built on trust, and was a great education. Now that I am working with Onda, I am getting more exposed to the clean beauty side. When you start to really unpack certain things, living in a time of a global pandemic, natural and clean start to feel a lot more important, so it has been interesting in the few short weeks I’ve been with Onda, how my perspective is yet again evolving. That’s the education piece we all look for; and how to share that information in a way that is fun, digestible and relevant, that isn’t preach-y or punishing has been really interesting to think through as well. 

19/99       Can you take us through your daily beauty routine, morning and night?

AU       I was one of those girls who was washing my face morning and night until someone told me that is too drying; that you just rinse in the morning - that was a game changer. So, morning is just a quick rinse. I am kind of a product whore right now, because of my Violet Grey days and all of the insane products brands sent me. I have this crazy crazy tray of serums and oils and moisturizer on my vanity, so after my face rinse I  choose a product according to the way my skin feels; if I want to do a serum or an oil, if I want to do a toner or if I want to go straight to moisturizer it is fun to customize for that day. I am not particularly brand loyal. I am not a big into make up other than my lip and my mascara. My red lip I wear all the time; going hiking, doing yoga, it is akin to being my superman cape - no matter how I feel, if I put on that bold red lip it just transforms my mood. My go to is MAC Feels So Grand, which applies liquid and dries matte, it stays on forever. At night I wash and sometimes use a mask, which I love. I do DermaFlash every couple of weeks, which takes all the peach fuzz off your face and exfoliates. It is super weird the first time you go outside, you feel like your face is naked but then you get obsessed with it. I have found it’s made a big difference in the texture of my skin. After, I will use a serum. I have the GlowPro, which allows your serum & moisturizer to sink in faster, so if I feel like I want to do the full routine I will add that in there, and then a moisturizer and eye cream for sure. And I am obsessed with Lucas Papaw. I’ve used that for the last ten years every night for my lips, and if I have a cut or a blemish that is drying, I use it. So that is my secret weapon, and it’s $10 a pot. I also use Augustinus Bader almost every night. There is a lot of science behind what they have developed and I’ve seen significant changes in my skin since I started using it. I rarely wash my hair; I’ve admittedly gone up to 16 days without washing it, which is kind of crazy to admit. On average it is about 10 days, if I don’t get really sweaty, my hair just gets better as it gets dirtier. I always sleep with a large slip silk scrunchy, and I don’t have an oily scalp for the most part. I use a little dry shampoo if needed. Crown Affair has a really great hair oil, brush, and towel set, which has been my new fav. So far, I haven’t had to dye my hair so that is one part of the routine I have been able to skip. 

19/99       How has your beauty routine changed over the years?

AU      It has been simplified, using better products, and basing my choices off the education I’ve received. I used to use anything, but I have realized that there is a difference in quality on some products. There is a lot of bullshit out there I call product pollution, but there are many amazing products. Products are so personal – smells, skin type, reactions, it is about finding whatever works for you.

Photo via @apriluchitel

There is a point when it is what it is, and I don’t see myself as so dissimilar to a lot of the 30-year olds I am working with.

19/99       Do you feel pressure to look a certain way?

AU      I think I really started to come into my own in my 40’s in terms of looking a certain way, and not giving a shit about what I didn’t look like or what I wished I looked like. Finding my look, my glasses and my red lips, didn’t start to happen until my 40’s. My aging role model is Linda Rodin, she is just doing it right, she is not worried about what is age appropriate, and what anybody thinks. She’s said to me that her lips just get redder and her glasses just get bigger, and she doesn’t give a fuck. That was the best way to think about it; being less about all the potential work I could do to halt the aging process, especially when you get into Botox land, and everyone is struggling with how to deal with gravity and reality. It can be a bit depressing when you start to realize things are changing. If you have a signature look it can make you ageless for a lot longer than if you are trendy and changing your look all the time. For me, I’ve always been the red head, so I stood out from that perspective, and I am nearly 5’10. I think having someone you can look up to regarding aging is a key part of how you think about beauty during this time. The night before I turned 50 I saw Norma Kamali at a dinner in NYC. I told her that I was turning 50 the next day and she told me how jealous she was. That the ages of 50 – 55 were her most creative, and most powerful, and she loved them as she knew who she was and what she wants and shed herself of bad partners, toxic relationships, and she wasn’t yet aware of her mortality. She looks amazing right now, and is such a crazy role model, but she really just felt like 50 was a time in her life where she knew herself so well. She was totally right. The last couple of years have been so powerful, the way I think about myself, and the way I think of myself in the world. You just have to get there though– you can’t really fast track it in any way. My wish would be that people would look forward to these times, and I LOVE that this is a narrative you guys are impacting, as well as my friends at This is the Swell, where I am a proud member and advisor. There is significant desire in my demographic to do better, for the world, for our children and for ourselves. You can’t avoid aging, and how you handle it is such a piece of your own personal brand in a way. There are times that people tell me not to say how old I am, but I have no qualms what so ever with how old I am. There is a point when it is what it is, and I don’t see myself as so dissimilar to a lot of the 30-year olds I am working with. My dad is 86 and does 400 push-ups every few days, has a pony tail, and looks like Robert Duvall, and so maybe that I where I get it. It’ a long road, and you’ve got to play the long game. 

19/99      Does the term age appropriate mean anything to you?

AU      I just did a whole brainstorm on what the words around aging are and how we can change the narrative. Age appropriate feels so negative. It conjures something you shouldn’t do because you're no longer relevant in that way. It is not an empowering word at all – like that skirt is too short and it is not appropriate for you - or you can’t learn do that/ go there/date that/ learn that based your age. On the flip side, there are people doing things that they are considered too young for and are dismissed, but people can accomplish really amazing things when they are young. Look at Greta Thunberg, it’s not age appropriate for her to be flying all over the world speaking about climate change, but there she is. I think taking age out of the equation would be the goal, especially in the world we live in right now, appropriate is just not the thing. There is a liberation when expectations like that are removed, but there are definitely things I can’t do at my age that I used to; I can’t do a cartwheel like I use to, (but I can do a mean headstand!) so maybe cartwheels aren’t appropriate at age 53 but it is more about what you want to be doing and can do versus what you can’t. 

19/99      If you could share advice with your younger self, what would it be?

AU      I tell my daughter this all the time; I used to get up an hour early, and put all this effort into getting dressed, and doing my hair/makeup, and then before I’d leave the house for school I would put on this massive red sweatshirt and zip it up all the way; it was so indicative of how I felt – I wanted to make all that effort, and at the same time I really just wanted to disappear. Thinking that everyone was judging me or cared about everything I did – when nobody is really watching you like you think they are. And if they are, then it is out of their own insecurities and they ultimately aren’t really anyone who you need in your world anyways. That’s hard to navigate when you’re young, because we all are insecure no matter what. My younger self was really stuck in that place. I think because I didn’t look like what was cool where I grew up– which was short, blonde and voluptuous, - I felt like an outsider. At that age you base your self-worth on your surroundings, and now with social media people see examples of, celebrate,  and can be inspired by many different types of beauty. That wasn’t the same when I was a kid. It was kind of like what the most popular girl looked like and that was who your role model was in your own school/ neighborhood or small town. So being a lot more forgiving and letting all that small stuff go is the advice I would share – because in the end it matters zero. 

19/99      What makes you feel beautiful? 

AU      Being recognized (not in a celeb way but an “I see you“ way) makes me feel beautiful, being seen as somebody who is doing good things in the world, and being a role model for others - including my daughter. Feeling good about how I present in the world is empowering. I get emotional feedback from people I’ve known or worked with over the years, when I run into them, they have memories that they share with me that I don’t remember at all, but for them they were game changing conversations or pivotal moments. That is when I feel most proud for having taken that extra minute to have that conversation, to make that introduction, to listen and given that advice or share my experience. It is harder these days with everything going on when people reach out to me for a call just to take those five minutes. I have just recently started having to say that I can’t do it – can you call me in a month and a half when I come up for air? But paying it forward, and sharing an experience that can cut down so much time and agony for someone else is really important. It is easy to give a lot away, and it’s not even about keeping it for yourself but about only so much time int a day. My husband is always pointing out how I water everyone else’s garden before our own, and that I need to water our garden first before I water everyone else’s. It is really true and hard to do because I feel confident that my home team is good and I can be of help elsewhere - but I forget that they (we) also need gardening. 

19/99      Do you think there is a point that we stop growing and learning? 

AU       I hope not! I think it is about how curious of a mind you have. It’s about being able to balance how you currently spend your time and when you push yourself. It is easy to go down the social media black hole. I catch myself late at night stuck in the news cycle on my phone and getting super anxious and I chastise myself as to why didn’t I just go read a book! The way our attention span is shortening is super scary and is so apparent in my kids. It’s important to make time to sit and just be with yourself and your thoughts. This is something that I have yet to master (by far) but I continue to find things I’m passionate about outside of career and family – whether that is my work as a founding member of IAMAVOTER, listening to inspiring podcasts, journaling, or growing roses - it is imperative as we age that we keep doing, giving and pushing ourselves and others forward. 


Follow April @apriluchitel

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Who I am and who I’ll be