Fueled By Death Cast Ep. 156 - Amanda Rodriguez

Amanda Rodriguez


"In order to grow, you have to be uncomfortable in some capacity, in order to see change." Amanda Rodriguez, brand manager at WLDKAT






On the 156th episode, and the last of season 3, meet Amanda Rodriguez. Amanda shares her personal journey into the world of makeup, and how that industry has changed for the better over the years. Now, as she is about to leave that world behind and start on a new journey into the world of cannabis, Amanda reflects on how she got to where she is and the importance of trying something new. Her story is inspiring for those of us who are afraid to begin again and welcome change, and we can all learn to embrace the adventure a little more thanks to Amanda's wisdom.


Jeff: First of all, thank you so much for welcoming me into your home.

Amanda: Of course.

Jeff: We're here in Long Beach, which I've only ever driven through before, and it's a lot more beautiful than I ever expected it to be.

Amanda: Yeah. I think Long Beach is cool. It has a diverse type of vibe to it.

Jeff: Definitely.

Amanda: I think moving from New York, it just felt right. It's super walkable. Everyone's just do their own thing, which I like.

Jeff: And you were living in Brooklyn, right?

Amanda: Yeah.

Jeff: And then you moved out here, you said, four years ago?

Amanda: Yeah.

Jeff: I always love asking, sub plants from one coast to the other. Was it crazy, or did you just take to it like a fish to water?

Amanda: It was fucking rough. Am I allowed to say that?

Jeff: You are totally fucking allowed to swear. We are Death Wish Coffee.

Amanda: It was hard, I think finding your... Like a Northeastern kid, people just know. You come in and they feel your energy, because you just say you miss people just being completely real with you all the time. And we might come off as aggressive, but it's very passive here. So-

Jeff: It is. I love coming out to California, because as someone who grew up on the East Coast as well, we... And people always say this too, the dichotomy is that it's a lot more passive, and it's a lot more laid back in Cali and in New York, we are so worried that every second is going to be wasted. So, we're constantly going for that brass ring all the time. And it's very funny when you live on one coast, then you go over to the other coast. What brought you out here initially?

Amanda: When I was living in New York, I never thought I was going to leave. I just felt that energy, and I feel like I grew so much there, because I was there through my entire 20s. It was funny, because I was working as a makeup artist in New York. I was working for Urban Decay out there, and working as a sales executive.

Amanda: So, I was overseeing the New York city market for all of the accounts for Sephora-

Jeff: Wow.

Amanda: ... [Inaudible 00:02:02] baby girl run in the streets, working really hard. It was fun, but besides doing that, I was also freelancing. So, I was doing the sales part of it, but I also wanted to be a professional makeup artist. So, I was also assisting bigger makeup artists outside of my full time job. So, I was making no money, but also hustling but loving, as long as I could pay my rent and I could go to a shitty bar with my friends at the end of the night, it didn't matter.

Amanda: But with living in New York, I had the opportunity to work closely with Urban Decay's co-founder, and it was Wende Zomnir. And I remember reading about her whenever... I've been using Urban [inaudible 00:02:40] since I was 16. But we really came together and had a relationship because of me being in the city, and her coming out for interviews or events or things like that, and she just knew that it was more of a lifestyle. Urban Decay wasn't just a brand to me or just a makeup company. That's what's special about it.

Jeff: And I want to talk about that. Urban Decay, I mean, I personally know next to nothing about makeup. Sorry.

Amanda: It's totally fine.

Jeff: But I mean, I don't really use a lot of it, but I do know about Urban Decay, because they are that subversive makeup company, and I think it's much in line with a lot of what we do at Death Wish. It's that in your face, this is our product but we're also a lifestyle. We're also a brand.

Amanda: The beauty of Urban Decay, is it started in 1996. So, at that point in time, makeup was like a sea of beige and pink, and red, and nothing was super exciting. But at the same time, this culture of Courtney Love, and Shirley Manson, and all of these really dope alternative girls had blue hair, and they were using Urban Decay products.

Amanda: So, it was about beauty with an edge. It was like doing things that are a little bit weird or different. The names were weird, like acid rain or Maui Wowie or things like that. So, I don't know, I just felt like it was cool because it was for not the girl next door. It was for the girl that wanted to wear blue eyeshadow and purple lipstick.

Jeff: Totally. And I never even put that two and two together, but of course, I started hearing about it because of Courtney Love and that kind of thing. Do you think that, that's what jump-started the company was that put... Because that was the whole music scene in the mid to late 90s, was these women reshaping rock and punk and-

Amanda: And femininity.

Jeff: And femininity. And MTV completely went all in on that. And do you think that, that's what really spring-boarded the company to where it is?

Amanda: It happened at the same time, because Urban Decay, they were selling urban Outfitters. It was that type of vibe. It was the same timing. It was music and culture, and makeup all coming together at the same time. And you're right. With social media, everyone is looking through their feed to find their inspiration. We watched music videos-

Jeff: Totally.

Amanda: ... In the 90s to find what was... Oh my god, she has a bindi and blue topknots when she's using Urban Decay, that's so cool. It was us pulling inspiration from each other. And when we used to do, I think yoga with Gwen, whenever they were really young because they were 28, or 27 at that time. So-

Jeff: Of course. That's a magical thing [inaudible 00:05:31] about. So, cut to now, you currently work with Urban Decay, and in Brooklyn you were doing more of the sales kind of thing, but you're doing something completely different-

Amanda: Completely different.

Jeff: ... At this point, right?

Amanda: Completely different.

Jeff: Can you explain what you do now.

Amanda: Whenever this whole thing was happening with me moving out here, Wende wanted me to come out to California, because things were really starting to change with social media. And we were always guerrilla style. We were always out there talking to people who love the product. We were one of the first makeup brands to have a Facebook page. In the early 2000s, thinking like 2005, or 2006, we started just talking to consumers. And then we started to see, besides Instagram just being something that you take photos of your dog, and-

Jeff: Your food.

Amanda: ... Your food, that it was something more than that. And Wende was like " We want to do something, we want to create videos, we want to do all this content, and we're not sure what it's going to be at." But I don't know, you report to product development, and we could talk about product, and then you could do makeup, and we'll just see where it goes. And I was like, "Okay." I think I did it without thinking. I was like, "Oh, this is sick. I should totally take this opportunity." And then I moved out here, and I was like, "Oh, fuck. I left Brooklyn." I didn't realize what I was doing, but I just took a huge leap and just totally changed my career. And it's a kismet, a weird kismet story.

Jeff: Well, sometimes the best points in your life, and I know this from personal experience, are, when you just take that jump. It's like, "I'm just going to say yes to the world. I'm going to put it out in the universe." And a lot of times you don't smiles right back at you. And that's really interesting. So, technically, then your job is to create content-

Amanda: Yeah.

Jeff: ... For Urban Decay.

Amanda: I do content creation, I do copywriting, I shade name, I build relationships with photographers and other makeup artists, and hairstylists. And I work in PR now. Technically, I am not working in product development any longer, but building relationships, not only with other makeup artists, which, obviously, we have relationships with influencers, makeup artists, and things like that.

Amanda: But also, it's cool because it started to trickle into just people that we think lifestyle wise are awesome. It's musicians. It's like, oh, I love Rico Nasty, who's this amazing young rapper, and her makeup artist is dope. I connected with him and now Rico is wearing our makeup. So, it's just identifying people that feel right for the brand, and then bringing that connection together.

Jeff: Wow. That's really cool. Do correct me if I'm wrong, you also do almost how to videos stuff, right?

Amanda: I do.

Jeff: Because you do have a background in-

Amanda: Makeup.

Jeff: ... Makeup. So, is that out of your comfort zone, or do you love doing that, or?

Amanda: It's interesting because... If you meet a makeup artists now, people who are in the industry. They're like, "I want to be on YouTube, I want to be an influencer, I want to do this." It's like I got into makeup because I was into drawing and painting, and then, I loved MTV and music, and just wanted to recreate makeup looks that people that I loved.

Amanda: And I remember, just being like, "Yeah, I'm just going to be a makeup artist. I'll figure it out." But I didn't want to buy my mom out. So, I went and got my license to be an esthetician, so I could work at a spa, and be a professional lady. But it just didn't feel right. As much as I loved skincare it wasn't my thing. But no, it's weird because I never was like, "I'm going to be on YouTube," doing makeup tutorials, or doing things on social media. I just wanted to do makeup in magazines. But obviously, we had talked about just in the past five years, Nylon magazine, gone.

Jeff: Gone.

Amanda: Just these things that print ads, you don't think about them anymore, because we don't see them. We're not physically turning pages anymore, because things happen too quickly. So-

Jeff: Wow. So, go all the way back. Because you mentioned it. As a girl, you're an artist, you are drawn to makeup in that respect. Do you remember a time, where maybe you saw a girl on MTV, or if something sparked your interest, was there that watershed moment where it was like, "Oh, I really want to get into that industry?"

Amanda: Honestly, it started from just like the girls working at the Mac counters. Legitimately, I just would go there, and there was a girl named Sarah, that used to do my makeup when I was in high school, and every single time I saw her, she looked like a completely different person. And she would have a long blonde, crazy hair, and black lipstick. And the next time I'd see her she'd have a shaved head, and no eyebrows, and purple eyeshadow.

Amanda: She was the most incredible human I'd ever seen. And I just remember being like, "She's just gets paid to be this fucking cool. I can just do this." And have this means of self-expression, but then also hang out with people that also love makeup. So, for me, I wasn't like, "I'm going to be a makeup artist in the magazine." I was like, "I just want to touch faces, and I want to be able to put my emotions out there just by what I'm wearing." And I think that not everyone thinks that way with their makeup, but I think a lot of women do, and I don't think people realize that.

Jeff: I love that. I honestly love that. And that brings full circle back to what you're doing. Because now with social media, you can touch so many more people. You can bring so much more knowledge out into the world with YouTube, with Instagram, with all of this kind of stuff. What do you feel that is the most important message about makeup to be able to give to people?

Amanda: I think the most important message, is that it's hard because I think we're all saturated. You're constantly being saturated, especially in the beauty industry. The most watched YouTube videos-

Jeff: Our beauty tutorials.

Amanda: ... Our makeup tutorials.

Jeff: Yeah. For sure.

Amanda: People are really feel connected to whoever it is they're watching, that are doing makeup. So, I think it's important to just not take yourself so seriously, but also if you want to make a difference, if you want to really stand out in this world, you have to do something different, or be true to whoever it is that you want.

Amanda: I think that a lot of people are like, "Be yourself." But then, they're like, "But here's the recipe, how to look like this." And I think that the most important thing at Urban, and especially for me, when I'm doing this is just like "You can fucking wear whatever you want."

Amanda: These trends aren't as aggressive anymore. And I think that people are really starting to feel more emotionally connected to the makeup that they're wearing. And people want to be more into self-expression. And it's becoming less formatical. You got to put this in the crease and this here and that, and then this is the perfect look. You can wear blue lipstick, or you can just wear a little bit of glitter. We see older women that are rocking glitter eyeliner now. It's cool.

Amanda: So, I think it's more about, I don't know, just not letting it consume you, or feeling like it has to be. But it can be whatever you want. If you want to wear a full face of makeup, and be beat down like drag queen, that's amazing. Some days I like doing that, and some days I just wear chapstick and mascara, and it feels good. And I'm always real like that. So-

Jeff: That's good. That's good. Do you think, being in the industry for the time that you've been in it, and seeing it change, especially in the social media landscape, do you have an eye towards the future? Do you know, maybe where we're going with the makeup industry? Do you have an idea of where it could be headed.

Amanda: Oh my gosh, I don't know. It's cool, because I think there are so many different types of people out there now. And I think the beauty of it, is like the diversity. I think for such a long time just like traditional European beauty standards were like it, and those were the only types of girls that you were seeing in magazines and campaigns featured.

Amanda: And it's like, do you just see so many different types of incredible women and men that... I think that being able to see yourself in someone, I think that the best thing that's happening in beauty right now, is that you can go on social and just find someone who like looks like you, or feels like you, or has your same vibe. She doesn't have to be tall blonde, thin, this, that.

Amanda: That to me is like the most special thing, because I feel when I was younger, when I was in high school, I never saw girls that looked like me, that I was like, "Oh, I can do that and feel beautiful and feel awesome." But it's like the representation and the diversity is there in beauty, and I think it's only starting to grow.

Jeff: I totally agree with that. And I can tell you, as a kid growing up in the 80s and 90s, my only gateway into knowing what makeup was, was in the magazines I was reading. They'd have the different makeup, try this in there or whatever. But it was always paired with a very stylized woman, who was definitely a runway model, or the European type. Make up aspect to it, and being able to speak, especially a lot of what you do with Urban Decay, and all that kind of stuff. But being able to see it blossom now into... And you said it yourself, not only women, but men too. And being able to see all these different people use makeup in a myriad of different ways, and now it's all inclusive. And that's exciting.

Amanda: It's just cool for people to realize that everyone buys makeup, or statistically, Latinos and black women buy more makeup than anybody.

Jeff: Really?

Amanda: Yeah.

Jeff: I guess that makes sense, but I never thought about it in that respect.

Amanda: Culturally, it's a huge part of all. I literally fell in love with makeup because of my [Thea 00:16:01], because my aunt is so into... Her leg, her nails or makeup, everything, it's a total cultural thing. So, it's cool that the people are recognizing like, "Oh, wait, we could literally sell makeup to all of these women"

Jeff: That's really, really cool. Well, it brings me to the question I get ought to on this show all the time, and you've had this incredible journey, where not only you got to do what you set out to do, you wanted to work in this industry. You wanted to be empowered with makeup from lack of a better term. But you've come full circle and seen the industry completely blossom and grow, and all that. And you're still doing it. And you're even moving forward on that, which we will get to in a minute. But I want to ask you, what fuels you to do what you do? What is it that's inside of you, that keeps your passion strong?

Amanda: I think for me, I love beauty, and it's always inspiring. And I think also it's cool to show yourself to people. I think it's cool because, I think for a long time, people just... You would do this whole makeup thing but there was like no emotion behind it, but also to just be a person, and to connect with other women, and to have real talks with them, or to show vulnerability. Once again the representation thing, I think is really big.

Amanda: I have like cousins, younger cousins that I met recently that are like, "I think it's amazing seeing someone like you that looks like me, doing something like this." I would be so psyched if I saw it that, whenever I was 16, or 17. So I think for me, I always have to remind myself, I'm like "There're faces out there." It's not just like double taps and things like that. It's like you're actually connecting with humans, and that feels really, really cool.

Jeff: That's awesome. With your time at Urban Decay, has there anything been super surprising to you? Was there ever a moment or an experience that you had that you weren't expecting from being in this industry?

Amanda: I think that having just like the opportunities I have to be able to travel, I have been able to go to so many different countries, and see different types of women in different makeup styles. And that to me, has just been like, if my teenage version of myself could see this, she'd be like "Holy shit. How did you..." It's one of those "How did I get here?" Moments.

Amanda: But I think being able to travel, and go to different countries, and go to the middle East, and see makeup styles there, and go to Hong Kong, and see how women wear makeup there, or going to France or going to Italy. It's just been cool to connect with all these different people. And we all have the same interests, and are all connected in that way. It's been really special.

Jeff: Oh, that's awesome. And that brings me to... Because we talked about this off camera, but as this episode airs, you will already have changed the game again, and your journey is continuing. And can we talk about a little bit about that? You're getting out of the makeup game, right?

Amanda: Yeah, I am. So, it's interesting because, I've been in the beauty industry for a really long time, but living in Southern California, I think with my own, mental health, happiness and things I've slowed down. Leaving New York, you take care of yourself a little bit better. I feel like I was really running myself ragged, but I was also in my 20s and drinking and partying 24/7.

Jeff: That's what the 20s are for.

Amanda: That is what it should be. And also living in New York. I think since living out in California, and being able to experience the Cannabis industry, I think it's been something that's been massively a huge passion for me, for my own mental health. And just in general, being able to connect with Cannabis industry.

Jeff: That's exciting. I know you're just starting out on that journey, but can you talk a little bit about who you're going to be working for or-

Amanda: I don't know if I can say homework.

Jeff: Okay that's fine.

Amanda: I will say that it's exciting, because it's a group of females that I'm going to be working with.

Jeff: Excellent.

Amanda: And going into Cannabis and getting into this, it's amazing because it's such a boys club. What we've noticed is it's like a lot of white guys.

Jeff: Unfortunately, yeah.

Amanda: So many white guys. It's going to be cool to be able to just work with women that I love and respect, and to be able to shake up the industry, doing something different with a bunch of amazing women. So, I think that it's going to be cool to be able to do that with women, but also to clear up the stigma of what Cannabis is, and the health benefits. And also just like making it feel less serious. I feel like it's either a bro Fest, or it's like I have PMS, and I need a balm for my stomach. It can be so much more than that. So, I'm just excited to do something creative, that's also good for people and do some type of advocacy with it. So-

Jeff: That's exciting, and it's also inspiring because again, you're putting it out of the universe and just doing it. Just like when you moved from Brooklyn to Long beach. You're doing it again. I'm going to use that word again. It's very inspiring because in this day and age, a lot of people get stuck in a rut, or stuck in the day to day of what you know what you're comfortable with, and don't want to go out of that comfort zone. And I think that's really cool that even though you still, obviously totally love makeup-

Amanda: I do. Still, I want to be in the industry.

Jeff: You are rolling those dice and throwing it cars to the wind and going for it. I think that's exciting.

Amanda: I'm super excited about it. But yeah, I think that the second you start to feel stale, you have to start looking. You have to start looking, or you're just going to lay down and die. My biggest thing is, in order to grow, you have to be uncomfortable in some capacity, in order to see change. So, I think that's been my biggest thing that I've realized with this. With the move, with all the changes, I'm like, if I'm a little bit uncomfortable, I know that new things are growing and churning inside of me. So-

Jeff: That is awesome. That is awesome. Well, I can't thank you enough for sitting and talking with me. This was really eyeopening-

Amanda: It was also.

Jeff: ... And inspiring. And I wish you all the best in this new endeavor.

Amanda: Thank you so much. Thank you for coming.

Jeff: Excellent.