How Former Power Ranger Star, Jennifer Yen, Built a Beauty Empire


Way back in the mid-1990s, long before people were taking online quizzes to determine which Friends or Sex and the City character they related to most, an entire generation was eager to declare themselves one of the five Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. In case anyone's unfamiliar, the iconic TV series — which is now in its 25th season — features five badass teenagers who transform into alien-fighting superheroes that must work together in order to walk out of the ring victorious.

It goes without saying that no superhero-based TV show would be complete without its despised villains. Enter Vypra, a demon who donned slick serpentine armor and wasn't afraid to employ evil magic against her colorful enemies. In the early 2000s, Vypra was played by Chinese-American actress Jennifer Yen, who has swiftly gone from powerful villainess in the fictional world to a kick-butt female entrepreneur.

Interestingly, it was Yen's time spent on set that inspired her to start a skincare brand you're likely familiar with, Purlisse, which has since blossomed into a major player in the beauty space. We spoke to Yen about her Power Ranger years, what triggered the founding of her company, and how she's grown it over the years into a flourishing business.

“Being a Power Ranger villainess was an amazing experience. I loved channeling myself through acting, and it quickly became an outlet for emotions"

That Power Ranger Life

Yen was a spokesperson and model for many years before she took up acting. When she heard about auditions for the Power Rangers Vypra role, she seized the opportunity and headed to the casting call where, among other things, she was asked to give her best “side kick." It was that killer kick that landed her the role, which was also her first major acting gig.

"Many of these ingredients have back stories involving Yen's grandmother. For example, she would use leftover homemade soy milk to cleanse her face"

Being a Power Ranger villainess was an amazing experience. I loved channeling myself through acting, and it quickly became an outlet for emotions. Also, it was a lot of fun working with so many creative and passionate individuals. There will always be a little bit of Vypra in me — in a good way." -Yen

The thing with acting, especially if you're playing a role that requires a dramatic physical transformation, is that all that makeup application and removal can start to wreak havoc on your skin.“Being on set meant being in full uniform, and that included makeup," she says. “Wearing heavy makeup for hours and days on end really took a toll on my skin. I started noticing more and more irritation, itchiness, and redness on my skin. This irritation was being sparked by the daily makeup use, as well as my lack of an efficient skincare routine to address my sensitivity."

The Birth of a French-Asian Skincare Line

After an ongoing battle with her skin, Yen made the decision to start her own skincare line in 2008 with a focus on products that were nourishing, gentle, and effective. And that is precisely how Purlisse, which means “pure and smooth" in French, came into existence. In addition to being born out of personal need and a recognized gap in the market, the line was also inspired by Yen's grandmother's Asian beauty recipes.

Today, products are formulated with the help of French, Korean, and American chemists with Yen's oversight. The line utilizes carefully curated ingredients including calming and antioxidant-rich blue lotus flower extract, skin-bolstering seaweed and white tea, nourishing lupine peptides that strengthen the barrier and impart a healthy glow, and soy beans, which are packed with micronutrients and lock in moisture.

Many of these ingredients have back stories involving Yen's grandmother. For example, she would use leftover homemade soy milk to cleanse her face and home-brewed white tea was used as a soothing antiseptic on childhood cuts and scrapes. Blue lotus, which is a hero ingredient throughout the line and one not commonly found in other skincare products, was a DIY beauty recipe favorite of her grandmother's as well.

Growing a Brand in a Saturated Market

Over the last decade, Purlisse has remained a niche brand that's dedicated to its original tenets of providing gentle, effective, high-quality products to discerning consumers. It's relatively small in size with roughly 30 SKUS, which includes both travel and full-size products. Products are sold primarily online through the brand's website, as well as at Dermstore.com, Nordstrom, and Amazon. Another way Purlisse has reached new customers is via subscription boxes, such as IPSY, Birchbox, and Fabfitfun.

The brand also has a robust celebrity following with Jamie Chung, Michelle Phan, Desi Perkins, and Whitney Port expressing their love for Purlisse products. Makeup artists also swear by the line. For example, Cardi B's makeup artist uses the Green Tea + Ginger Sheet Mask, Blue Lotus Seed Mud Mask + Exfoliant, and BB Tinted Moist Cream on the singer, and Denise Hooper, lead makeup artist for Scandal, often reaches for the Blue Lotus 4-in-1 Eye Adore Serum on set.

"Many of these ingredients have back stories involving Yen's grandmother. For example, she would use leftover homemade soy milk to cleanse her face"

Yen says that she's truly enjoyed watching Purlisse grow over the years and spends a large portion of her time overseeing the brand. Taking the leap certainly required some faith and a relentless drive for success, but all that hard work has been worth it.

“While starting new businesses can be risky, the risk is much more bearable when you're supporting a product that you truly love and believe in," says Yen. “Women are so unbelievable, capable, and inspiring when it comes to starting businesses. I advise other women to delve into ideas and concepts that they're truly passionate about, and to give it their best shot. If it's something you're passionate about, then it's worth the risks."

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Do 2020 Presidential Candidates Still Have Rules to Play By?

Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.

When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.

2016: What rules?

Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.

Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.

And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.

And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?

Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.

Digital policies for 2020 and beyond

While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.

Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy

Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:

  • If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
  • While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
  • If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
  • Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
  • Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?

Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.

Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply

The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:

  1. Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
  2. Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
  3. Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
  4. Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
  5. Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
  6. Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
  7. Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
  8. Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.

Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles

Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.