When Tara Simon was a freshman at University of Texas at Austin, she walked into a lecture hall for one of her classes and found 700 students in the room. “I called my mom and told her about it,” remembers Simon. “She said, ‘Honey, just sit up front. So, I did.’”
Sitting up front is instinctual for the senior vice-president of prestige merchandising at Ulta. The store might have been around since 1991, but in the past five years, thanks to CEO Mary Dillon and Simon, it has expanded beyond its formerly mass-market image to carry sub-brands like Tarte Cosmetics’ Double Duty Beauty collection and luxury products. “We’re always looking for white space,” says Simon. “It happens pretty organically because I always want the brands’ DNA to shine through.” Since joining the brand in 2012, the store has brought on NARS, M.A.C, and Chanel.
“Having Chanel in our store falls under the column of things I never would have imagined out loud,” laughs Simon. “There will always be a wish list [of who we want to carry at Ulta], of course, but we’re so fortunate that we can have a conversation with anyone. There’s no one who won’t take my call.”
Simon spoke with the Cut about her devotion to lash extensions, how one can never have enough bottles of Champagne and why reds and metallics are neutrals.
Bather or showerer? Definitely a bather, unless I am in a hurry or have to wash my hair. I use Philosophy Purity shower gel, AHAVA bath salts, Ulta Beauty Collection bath bombs, to name a few. You should see my tub side table!
Body lotion of choice: Almond oil. I also apply various lovely facial moisturizers to my body that I haven’t yet had the chance to try on my face. I know, an embarrassment of riches.
Scent of choice: Tuberose and other white flowers. I’ve worn for many years Le Labo Tuberose 40. What can I say? I am a Texan; we like to smell like flowers, and sparkle like diamonds.
What, if anything, is usually on your lips? I always wear something on my lips, even when I sleep. During the day, it is M.A.C Prep and Prime, M.A.C or Urban Decay lip liner, and almost any luxury crème lipstick. I still am not interested in a nude lip. My new favorite lip balm is Beauty by PopSugar, at night.
What shade, if any, is usually on your toes and/or hands? Red is a neutral for me, and Deborah Lippmann ‘Lady is a Tramp’ is my favorite red. I also frequently wear silver metallic — also a neutral for me.
Mascara of choice: I have worn lash extensions for three years, at least. I resisted for a long time but so many of my Texas-based friends had them and I was green with lash envy. I still wear Tarte Lights, Camera, Lashes mascara on my bottom lashes, and use Latisse to keep my lashes strong and healthy.
What beauty look do you struggle with achieving? I am not great with my hair. Thank goodness I work for Ulta Beauty, and get blowouts constantly.
What are you working on mastering? My Gyrotonic practice. Gyro is unlike anything I have ever done. Pilates-ish, with more spiraling and elongation. It engages the full person, wringing out the stress. For me, it’s like an hour of meditation.
What preoccupies you? Chicago weather — both escaping it and optimizing it.
What phrase or word are you known for saying? Find a way to yes.
What word do you over-use? Fabulous
What drives you crazy? Inefficient, circular dialogue.
What is your Achilles heel? Either that I do too much myself, or am loyal to a fault.
Name a trait or talent you possess that few know about you: My mom was an amazing seamstress, and would make dresses that I designed, through my college years. I love fine fabrics, embellishments, and could still design all of my eveningwear today, if I allowed myself the time. I also can do any kind of trim work on a garment. Mom made everything, but didn’t have the patience for all of the hand-trim finishings. I am so thankful to have shared those experiences with her from my early childhood.
What item stresses you out if you’re running low on it? Hairspray and Champagne.
Purse (or daily carry-all) of choice: YSL clutch (many shades) and Alaïa micro stud.
Work shoe of choice: Jimmy Choo
Casual shoe of choice: I’m not very casual, but usually sparkly flips of some kind or a Jimmy Choo wedge.
Top item currently at the top of your fashion wish list: Tom Ford Jaguar print, bugle beaded, velvet jacket.
Fashion item you would never wear: Anything not cinched at the waist.
Sweet or salty eater? I am more interested in tart.
What is always in your fridge? Champagne, water, and hand-tended, organic eggs.
Favorite meal and where: Roasted seafood tower at Maple and Ash, in Chicago
Comfort food: Tex-mex and a skinny margarita on the rocks. No salt.
Favorite spot in the entire world: Lately, anywhere in my home state of Texas. I especially love the Lake Austin Spa.
Work icon: Pamela Baxter.
What do you foresee as the top beauty trends in 2018? Thank goodness for fewer matte looks! I think it will be clean everything and shiny lips. Perfect skin is the new status symbol. Also, metallic eyes, fuller brows and anything for bath and body. There are tons of newness in all of these areas.
If you won the Power Ball tomorrow, what are the first five things you would do? (after, of course, donating the majority of it to your top charities…)
1. Establish a foundation to help young women entrepreneurs in America. I would solicit the help of my powerful, brilliant, talented friends to mentor. They are my heroes, and together, we could make a difference.
2. Travel extensively all over the world, with my family and friends along for the ride.
3. Buy a stunning piece of waterfront property, with a gorgeous view; and build a roomy, warm home.
4. Buy a vineyard — and learn to make gorgeous wines.
5. Make life easier for my family members.