This story first appeared in the Nov. 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
There are a lot of beauty websites featuring a lot of products -- but precious few as carefully curated as the one Cassandra Huysentruyt Grey, wife of Paramount chief Brad Grey, is rolling out called Violet Grey.
Her description makes it sound more like an art project than anything to do with commerce. "What I love about beauty," says the diminutive brunette, "is it's about the rituals that unite us. Beauty is tied to self-esteem and identity -- it gives you power. You can start a conversation with any woman about under-eye concealer. We know how quickly you can get joy from a lipstick! It's affordable luxury."
Grey, 35, an ex-marketing consultant who has worked for NYC's Norwood Club, moved to L.A. in 2011 after she and Brad married. "It was a reluctant move, and I had a quiet moment when I got here," she says. "I started creating this company in my head."
Her initial foray into style was a private studio on Melrose Place called Studio C.H.G., an appointment-only style lab, since closed, for actresses and stylists to get inspiration. That led to her website, which features articles and photo shoots and officially will debut with e-commerce around the Oscars. Hollywood makeup artists will select products and do tutorials. "I've always been interested in teams that make a movie star," she says.
The site — which is currently in a preview phase with a weekly e-mail newsletter and gorgeous Instagram feed — recently published a beautiful Old Hollywood shoot with Mad Men's Jessica Pare (which was creative directed by actress/model Rosie Huntington Whitely) -- the next subject is Eva Mendes -- and it will includes homages to Grey's inspirations: photographer Guy Bourdin, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, writers and artists. Why Taylor? "She was so famously ruled by her passion."
An advisory board includes beauty maven Brooke Wall, whose agency The Wall Group — also located on Melrose Place — reps many of Hollywood's biggest behind-the-scenes beauty players. The site will feature beauty and hair products from top lines including Dior to Nars. "We're more editorialized," says Grey, who will selectively choose different products to showcase on the site. "These brands are really interested in bringing to light how important they are to Hollywood. Plus, we'll drive traffic to their sites."
She also is set to open a permanent brick-and-mortar space -- designed by Studio Sofield (which has done stores for Tom Ford) -- during Oscar week in the same Melrose Place spot. "We can be the Colette of prestige beauty. People can get their makeup done, buy cocktail rings and find the best edit of products. And I want to sell perfume -- we're trying to get JAR perfume from Paris. It's so hard to get!
"I'm trying to build a great company. But don't forget fun. Fun is written into our business plan."