With a flick of her wrist and a swoosh of a soft makeup brush, Donna Cristino can apply softly shaded blushes and concealers to make any woman lovelier.
Cristino, a Haddonfield resident for about five years, is a cosmetician on steroids. She not only knows how to apply the cosmetics, she’s created her own line of them. Initially available just in selected salons, Cristino is now touting her makeup line on QVC, the company that has intensified the appearance of package delivery trucks across the country.
Named Jing Ai (pronounced Jing-i), which means “pure love” in Mandarin Chinese, the combo pack of two colors each is named after different roses from around the world. Her cosmetics are certified organic and natural and packaging for the products is made with biodegradable craft paper.
She named her creations as tribute to the love she received from her grandmother, Rose Gathright, who died from complications from breast cancer at 68 when Cristino was a teenager 34 years ago.
“She was my dad’s mother and we were so very close. She had two sons. I was the first grandchild and the only girl in the family. It was unconditional love between us always,” she said.
Not only does the blend of organic wild rose oil, grapes from the Napa Valley and sunflower oil make women feel and look pretty, it comes with a sweet story that Cristino loves to tell.
Trained as a cosmetologist and hair stylist at Gordon Phillips school in Philadelphia and later at Vidal Sassoon’s salon in London, Cristino was working for Estee Lauder at the Wanamaker’s store in Philadelphia when she met her husband, John, whose office was in the department store.
Launching a dream
She had a dream to create her own cosmetic line and got strong support from her husband, a project manager for a construction firm.
With his help, they launched their cosmetic brand three years and two months ago. It didn’t get off to a booming start but Cristino persevered and tweaked the product a bit. New packaging helped and in October 2011, she re-launched the makeup, and quickly caught the attention of management at Henri Bendel in Manhattan, a shop known for more than a century for outstanding fashion accessories, especially handbags and jewelry.
Given an opportunity there for a trunk show, Cristino later entered her product into the competition for the CEW (Cosmetic Executive Women) competition and was one of the finalists.
“Neutrogena won, but that was OK. It’s like the Oscar of the cosmetic industry,” Cristino said.
She next caught the attention of QVC officials who asked how long she had been marketing the makeup. “I told them we just debuted last week,” she told them. QVC offered her a chance to present her products to the shows millions of viewers. “I think they get about 10,000 submissions each year (from manufacturers) and choose about 500 to present” on the round-the-clock television show.
“All I could think was, ‘This is it. It’s happening,’” said Cristino, still with excitement in her voice.
Her first presentations were on Aug. 20 and 21, and she garnered 23 five-star ratings on the cosmetics. “Maybe four of them came from my friends,” but the rest were strangers who were satisfied customers.
Cristino is back on the shopping channel on Oct. 19, at 3 a.m. “It’s only midnight in California then,” she said, proud of three appearances on the West Chester, PA-based program within eight weeks.
“I’m asking everyone to set their clocks to get up and watch, or record it,” she said. Cristino said she's disappointed that the pre-dawn trip to the television studio means she won't be able to help make up models for an annual fashion show at the Central School, where her sons are students.
Cristino has pledged 5 percent of her profits from the cosmetics to Feel Your Boobies, a program since 2004 has encouraged young women to do monthly breast self-examination to check for lumps or other findings in their breasts. (Annual mammograms generally are not recommended until women are 40 or over. Oct. 12-19 is Feel Your Boobies week.)
Cristino also volunteers with the American Cancer Society talking with cancer patients about changes to expect in their bodies from the disease and the treatment.
She said she considers her product “a sleeping giant.”
“I did a lot of research, had to find the right laboratories, and had to work on packaging. I’m street smart and I have a lot of common sense. I think this product will take off and I’m proud of it.”
Products in the line range from eye shadows and lip gloss to blushes and concealers. A compact-like container of two colors retails from $28. The make-up brush costs $22. On QVC, the two are marketed together for $35.