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Scarlett Johansson strikes out on her own with skincare brand the Outset

April 25, 2022, 1:17 PM UTC
Scarlett Johansson and her new skincare brand the Outset.
Photos courtesy of The Outset

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Marine Le Pen loses her bid for the French presidency, a bipartisan consensus calls for Texas to put a stop to a scheduled execution, and Scarlett Johansson is striking out on her own with her new skincare brand. Have a meaningful Monday.

– Leading lady. Scarlett Johansson has been many things: the highest-paid actress in Hollywood, a longtime luxury brand spokeswoman, and an original Marvel superhero, one of the most successful franchises in movie history. But those successes within corporate structures have sometimes come with caveats. See: her recent lawsuit against Disney over the corporation’s streaming distribution of Black Widow, settled in September.

So for her next endeavor, Johansson had plenty of reasons to want to go it alone. Last month, the actor launched the Outset, a skincare brand she founded with CEO Kate Foster Lengyel. Though Johansson took meetings with several beauty giants, from Shiseido to Estée Lauder, she ultimately accepted financial backing from investment firm Najafi Companies. “It felt like I would be able to have ownership in a different way if I did it from scratch,” Johansson said in an interview. “I developed the understanding that this was something I wanted to do independently of a larger corporation.”

Photos courtesy of The Outset

The brand is debuting five skincare products at Sephora this week, priced between $32 and $54.

Johansson settled on skincare despite a crowded celebrity beauty brand space because it felt more authentic to her own experience—she had problem skin well into her 20s. And the idea of ownership is not just about the business, but having autonomy over her own her image. “I didn’t want to represent someone else’s beauty ideal,” she says.

The actor may not be the face of the Outset forever, either. The hope is that the brand will grow beyond her own celebrity. (Johansson is featured sparingly on the brand’s minimalist website.) Cofounder Foster Leyngel acknowledges that “there is a ton of saturation” in the celebrity beauty brand space (Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty, Ariana Grande’s r.e.m. beauty, Selena Gomez’s Rare Beauty, Lady Gaga’s Haus Labs, to name a few), as does the Najafi Companies, which has backed celebrity-founded companies like actor Shay Mitchell’s travel brand Beis. “It’s not about bringing more brands to market with a celebrity face,” CEO Jahm Najafi tells Fortune. “We’re looking for special brands that can stand on their own.”

While the Outset is playing up “simplicity” as its branding differentiator (the”white t-shirt” of skincare, so to speak), running a startup is anything but simple. Foster Lengyel comes from a fashion retail background and most recently founded a product recommendations platform before joining what would become the Outset two years ago. And Johansson is getting used to her new role as not just the face of a brand, but its very foundation. “I’ve worked in one industry for 30 years,” she says, “[with] a lot of experience working for other people. … Now I’m comfortable sitting in the driver’s seat, and not necessarily knowing where the car is going to go—but I’m comfortable driving it.”

Emma Hinchliffe

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