Cindy Joseph photographed in 2017

The Birth of Boom! and the Pro-Age Revolution

When BOOM founder Cindy Joseph was a teenager growing up just outside San Francisco in the 60’s she used to spend hours making herself up every morning. “I wore not one but two pairs of fake eyelashes to high school every day,” she remembers, laughing. “I spent an hour and a half doing my hair and makeup.”

At the time, it was just what you did. You studied all the fashion and beauty magazines, you filled out all the what’s-your-color quizzes, and then you took a hard look in the mirror. It was your job as a woman to be honest and unmerciful as you examined the face that looked back at you. It was your job to make an unflinching assessment of your physical strengths and weaknesses. Then, once that was done, you took a deep breath, opened your toolbox – aka your makeup bag – and got to work fixing what was wrong.

“If you’re a woman and you grew up in America, it impacted you in some way – it comes from all sides and it seeps in, it seeps in and it settles in in our tender little psyches and starts impacting how we feel about ourselves” Cindy says. “When I came to the ripe age of fourteen and I started looking in the mirror and I didn’t see what I saw in those magazines, but I wanted to. I wanted to be pretty and attractive. I wanted to be the things we all want to be in order to be accepted and adored and noticed and flirted with and… just to be valued.”

Joseph started her career as a makeup artist.

Perhaps you know Cindy Joseph as the founder of BOOM!, the first pro-age cosmetic line. Or maybe you know her as the face of the global pro-age revolution. Maybe you’ve heard her speak about her career as one of the first silver-haired supermodels. Maybe you know that before Cindy started modeling, she worked for 27 years as a renowned makeup artist, collaborating with everyone from Cindy Crawford to Christy Turlington to Naomi Campbell. But before Cindy became any of the things you might know her for, before she became a fashion icon or a business impresario, she was a normal girl growing up in America in the 60s, wanting to be right in the world and trying, desperately, to fit in to someone else’s version of what that should look like. The way that made her feel – the way it made us all feel – is where her story and the BOOM! story begin. After all, to truly rebel against something, you first have to truly buy into it.

Born in Seattle and raised just outside of San Francisco, as a kid Cindy was drawn to the sense of play and community that came with so-called “girl stuff” like putting on makeup and playing dress up. She was always great at the makeup part. Cindy was naturally interested in the organic creativity that comes with self-expression. After she’d perform her hour-and-a-half long transformation into her high school self, she’d do the same for her friends. “We wanted to look like Twiggy, or any of the top models of that time,” Cindy recalls. “It was fun.” Fun is the keyword. Part of the reason it’s so easy to sell us women on the idea that makeup can fix what’s wrong with us is that the world of beauty is one we naturally trust. It initially feels so innocently, purely, pleasurable.

Think about the way it felt the first time you got to explore your mother or older sister’s makeup bag. Or the first time you walked down the aisle at the local drug store, basking in the gleaming shelves stocked with mysterious, magical bottles and tubes and jars. All those bright colors! All those sparkly, shimmery magical potions! All those mysterious pots of paints and gels and creams! It’s all so deliciously seductive. Makeup is something you put on before a big date, before a big night on the town with your girlfriends, or just for fun as you’re playing records and trying on clothes and giggling in your pajamas. It’s about community. It’s about self-expression. It’s about pleasure. Or at least it is in the beginning. “I was attracted to the fashion magazines and the beauty magazines because it was all about women and all about us doing the stuff that’s fun and exciting,” Cindy recalls. “It’s fun to play dress up and it’s fun to get together with my girlfriends and go shopping and go, ‘that looks so cute on you!’ It’s fun to express our sexuality and sensuality and all that. The cultural motivation is about celebration and ritual, it’s not about insecurity and fear.”

A Boom! model applying their newest Boomstick color, Rose Nude.

It was that pure spirit of joy and community that inspired Cindy’s initial journey into the world of cosmetics. Yes, she was modeling her looks after women she saw in magazines. Yes, they were admired by society. And yes, she compared herself to them and found herself lacking, but there was a lot of joy and pleasure, too, in those initial experiences with beauty. But by the time Cindy was nineteen, something had shifted. Part of it was the times – the early 60’s had ticked over into the late 60’s and there was tumult in the air. “There was a lot going on and we were rebelling,” Cindy recalls. “I joined that rebellion.” And part of it was Cindy – something was changing inside her. “It was painful because I really thought, how am I going to go on with life?” she remembers. “I’ve got to wear this mask every day? I’ve got to wear this uniform?” Somewhere along the way, makeup and beauty stopped being about self-expression and instead became about oppression and conformity. It became something you did “in hopes of correcting the flaws,” Cindy explains. “Whatever it took to fit into this narrow window of the American beauty ethic.”

One day Cindy and a girlfriend found themselves standing in a gas station bathroom on a hot summer day, all set to dutifully reapply their makeup and adjust their false lashes, which were sliding off their eyelids thanks to the oppressive heat. Cindy was panicking. “I said, gimme the glue, quick! I started trying to fix what was going wrong.” Suddenly it all seemed so absurd. “We started laughing,” she remembers. “It was a hot day, and we were laughing so hard the tears started taking the makeup off our faces, but I just kept grabbing more and more glue and trying to correct it, correct it, correct it. All of the sudden I looked at my friend and I said, ‘this is crazy!’ I washed all the makeup off and I ripped off the eyelashes. We looked in the mirror and saw ourselves for the way we really looked.” Cindy never went back. “It was a pretty significant moment in my life.”

This was the first of three major epiphanies that would lead, many decades later, to the foundation of BOOM!:

“Our value is innate. Our
 beauty is innate.”

It’s also the ethos behind what would become Cindy’s signature cosmetic line: the Boomstick trio, which consolidates an entire makeup bag worth of products into three pocket-sized sticks. “I never want to call attention to the makeup,” Cindy says. “I want to call attention to the woman.” But all of that came later. Before Cindy became a model, or a businesswoman, before she created the natural beauty look that she would become known for as a makeup artist, Cindy first needed to go through a personal, private beauty revolution of her own.

The Boomstick Trio

You could call it a beauty cleanse. Or a fast. Or a purge. “I rebelled completely!” she remembers. “I let the hair grow on my legs and under my arms and I stopped wearing makeup and I wore the same thing to school every day. As the pendulum goes one way it went the other and I became the California flower child hippie.”

Sometimes it’s necessary to toss out everything so you know what you really want to claim as your own. “You know what? I like my smooth legs,” Cindy found herself thinking, a while after the great post-gas station-bathroom makeup purge. “I like adorning myself – it’s fun! But you have to do it with the right spirit.” Of course, then came the inner monologue. You know the one. It sounds something like this: Ok if I want to shave my legs and … wear a little lipstick because it makes me feel pretty and turned on, does that mean I’m conforming to a patriarchal society’s view of what I should be as a woman? Cindy considered this, then came up with a resoundingly clear answer: NO! “You have to please yourself, first,” she says.

Modern society trains women to stop listening to our own inner voices. It tells us to take our own sense of self, our own opinion and hand it over to a faceless, nameless authority figure. That authority will be the arbiter of how we should look, how we should think, how we should feel, of what we need to do, as Cindy puts it, to “be right.” But once you’ve decided to toss all of that nonsense aside, and find yourself right as you are, then you make the rules.

Joseph during her modeling phase.

Cindy’s rule, for herself and for those she inspires, is to be truly honest about what’s motivating your choices. Even now, in an era where we are inundated with people altering their appearances in increasingly extreme ways, Cindy’s take is, go for it! As long as you can truly say it’s making you happy. “I dyed my hair for six years, I have friends that dye their hair, I love them with their dyed hair!” Cindy says. “I’m not against that. And I’m not against Botox. I’m not against cosmetic surgery. I do ask women to consider what’s motivating them. Are you going under the knife out of fear or out of fun? I say, follow what feels good and experiment.”

That’s where Cindy landed after epiphany number one. She had gotten rid of all her false eyelashes and thick foundations and concealers. But she soon started to miss some of those products. Not the ones that covered her up, not the ones meant to obscure, but the ones meant to enhance, the ones that she truly enjoyed playing with. Cindy decided that throwing away everything beauty related was just as extreme as gluing weird stuff to her eyelids to look like some lady in a magazine. Both reflected philosophies at odds with her truest self. So, Cindy decided to reclaim beauty on her own terms. “Instead of trying to fix something wrong, there was a whole other way to approach makeup and fashion and that was doing it with joy and choice,” she recalls. “Joy and choice motivated by fun rather than fear.”  

Cindy’s signature philosophy as a makeup artist was simple: “I want to make a woman look like she does when she’s happy.”

Through contacts in the photography world, Cindy started booking gigs as a makeup artist. It wasn’t long before word spread about her innate gift for bringing out models’ natural radiance. There are a lot of beautiful women in the world, but what makes for an arresting, showstopping photo is more than a beautiful face, it’s about creating an image that stops you in your tracks with its vitality and vibrance. Cindy became a master at helping the world’s most beautiful women project their inner spirit through the language of outer beauty. She helped people convey a sense of radiance at being alive.

Understandably, this made Cindy very popular! The work started flowing in. All that joy she’d found putting makeup on herself and her friends growing up became the energy she tapped into as she traveled around the world collaborating with top models and photographers. Over time, she started to notice something. “I could be working with four super models in a day, and they all came across in a different way,” she recalls. “As makeup artists we are really watching how the skin responds to emotion. When a girl was really excited about life and walking in feeling great - maybe she just did a trip around the world or was excited to get this job or she’s got a new boyfriend - it would be like, what is going on?! She is so radiant and beautiful! And we haven’t done the beauty lighting on her, we haven’t done a stitch of makeup!”

A selection of Boom’s products including Boom Brow, Boom Bright Mascara, and Boomsticks.

Cindy began to focus her technique on mimicking and highlighting the areas of a woman’s face that light up when she’s most excited about life. The most “turned on.” Cindy’s signature philosophy as a makeup artist was simple: “I want to make a woman look like she does when she’s happy.” And her technical approach to achieving that goal was just as simple: apply product to the areas where a woman blushes, “where the capillaries are closest to the skin.” Which is exactly what the Boomstick trio is designed to do: Boomstick Color for your cheeks, lips, eyebrows, clavicle, “anywhere you naturally get color.” Boomstick Glimmer, also known as “the bling of the trio” for that extra bit of radiance. And Boomstick Glo for moisture anywhere and everywhere. An entire makeup back in three little sticks.

Finding her voice in the fashion and beauty world was incredibly fulfilling, but over time the rigors of travel and the nature of the industry started to weigh on Cindy. After all, the beauty business is a business. It takes its toll on your humanity over time, especially as a woman. The relentlessness, the pressure, the crushing expectations and sense of constant judgment and comparison, it all started to get to Cindy. “I didn’t love myself for many, many years,” she recalls. “I put on these critical glasses, and I looked at myself in the mirror and I wasn’t right. I thought: I have to fix this, I have to change that. I got into the very industry that convinced me I wasn’t right.”

By the time Cindy was entering her late 40’s she felt “done” with the fashion industry. She’d had this fulfilling career as a makeup artist – it was a dream, in many ways - yet she sensed it was time to move on. Part of that feeling was coming from within. At 48, Cindy had been behind the scenes making other people look naturally beautiful for almost three decades, but here she was, in her own life, dying her hair and engaging in other beauty practices that may have once felt right but no longer did. It was time for a reckoning.

“Until my late 40s I always thought: I should be successful, I should be productive,” Cindy remembers. “I started to consider those masculine points of view.” Inspired by conversations with a new group of powerhouse female friends, things began to shift. “I started tuning into my feminine side – and I don’t mean feminine as woman, I mean the feminine and masculine that’s in both of us – I mean the Jungian concept of anima and animas,” Cindy explains. “I realized I’d been tracking on my masculine side, because I’ve grown up in a male oriented society: success, production, goals. And that can be a blast! But I hadn’t paid attention to my essence, which is pleasure oriented. As a woman I am pleasure oriented. So, I took out the ‘I should be disciplined, I should be linear, I should be success oriented,’ thinking, and I shifted to being pleasure oriented, and that changed my entire life.”

That change led to Epiphany Number Two:

“Pleasure is beauty. 
And beauty is pleasure.”

Cindy was in New York City with a girlfriend when, out of the clear blue, a scout approached her on the street and asked her if she’d like to model for a Dolce & Gabbana campaign. That very morning, as a show of good faith towards the new commitment Cindy was making to live in service of her own pleasure, she had chopped off the very last remnants of her formerly dyed hair. All that was left was the real, pure, unadorned Cindy. All 5’7” of her 48-year-old self, eyes bright blue and twinkling, silver hair long and proudly flowing. “Now, let me tell you, I had been in rooms all over the world with the most influential and powerful people in this business,” Cindy recalls. “And no one ever saw me as model material until that day. Not a single soul.” There’s something that happens when you take possession of yourself, when you drop fully into your own being: you become radiant. “It boils down to self-love and enjoying my unique self,” Cindy explains. “I started feeling so righteous about who I was that I really was projecting something. And I think that makes a pretty big statement about all of us. It’s not about if you washed your hair that day or what you’re wearing, it’s about what you’re projecting from the inside out. When you’re feeling that good and righteous about yourself, it shows.”

Jospeh’s first modeling job at age 49 for Dolve and Gabbana.

And so it began all over again- the dizzying whirlwind of success, the thrill of a new chapter emerging from an authentic moment of self-discovery. But this time, Cindy had her new perspective to keep her company. “I had decided all of my self-conscious days were past,” she says. “I was living my life according to what pleasured me.”

When she’d been working behind the scenes as a makeup artist, Cindy knew that her talent had to do with illuminating something pure and innate in her subjects, something that came from within them. But the lens was never focused on her. Cindy was always there only by association, one degree removed. Now, that had changed. She was the focus. Her face. Her body. Her radiance. Seeing how women all over the world responded and related to the real her was incredibly empowering. Cindy started to see her physical self as a vehicle for communication. “I live inside this body, but this body is not me,” she explains. “So, I can look at it with a kind of objectivity and go, ok, what’s mother nature going to do with me next?”

Wrinkles and age spots and any physical change can be confronting, and Cindy was no exception, but the fact that she was “not 18 feet tall, not 18 pounds, and not 18 years old” yet she radiated something that was seen as commercial really hit home. “The whole reason I’m modeling is that people have woken up and smelled the coffee. The whole industry – the advertisers, the media - they realize that my entire generation is making money and spending money, so if they want to get our consumer dollars, they have to speak to us in an exciting way. The consumer really is the one that makes the decisions, and the smart advertisers and businesses are listening to the consumers and giving us what we want. The older woman hasn’t been seen or listened to in a while, but that’s changing. We’ve spoken up - we’ve roared - and now they’re paying attention.”

“Every single cosmetic line in the world is anti-age, there was not a single pro-age cosmetic line ever to exist.”

Instead of thinking about aging as something you accept, instead of thinking about it as something we - especially as women - need to graciously endure, Cindy realized she wanted to revel in her age. “Aging is bad, stave it off, don’t let it show - that’s what everyone else says! Well, you know what?! Instead of pushing away something you don’t want, why don’t we go positively towards something you do want – vitality, passion, health!” she says. “If you want to be attractive, it’s not about the color of your hair or the texture of your skin, what’s attractive about a woman is when she’s enjoying her life. I am enjoying my life. And so are my friends. And we want to be seen, we want to be valued, we want to wear our god given faces proudly.”

The more success Cindy found as a silver haired model, the more it bothered her to see the ubiquity of the anti-aging messaging. “Anti-age equals anti-me,” she says. “Seriously, age has gotten such a bad rap. The older I get the smarter I get, the happier I get, the sexier I get.” Cindy began to think of herself as not merely opposed to the anti-age concept, but in line with its utter opposite. Cindy began to think of herself as deliberately, explicitly pro-age. “Pro-age is pro-each other, it’s pro-women,” she explains. “Pro-age is about showing younger women that they have something to look forward to. I would love my granddaughters to grow up in a society that says life gets better after 30 and even better after 40 and even better after 50. Because it does! Right this minute is the prime of your life.”

Boom! models representing the pro-age revolution.

Cindy thought back to that sense of community that drew her into the world of makeup in the first place, that sense of playing with your friends, enjoying yourselves, enjoying each other, celebrating being alive and celebrating beauty. She started thinking about this pro-age revolution she wanted to lead, and she started thinking about all the anti-age products out there and… “BOOM!”

“Every single cosmetic line in the world is anti-age, there was not a single pro-age cosmetic line ever to exist,” Cindy says. A friend pointed out that this large gap in the market presented a large opportunity, and that Cindy, with her decades of experience in the beauty industry, was perfectly positioned to seize it. “I said, that’s it, that’s what I have to do: BOOM!” She punches the air. “I decided to make cosmetics that would have a woman look how she looks when she’s happy because taking joy in living is a woman’s best cosmetic.” Thus arrived epiphany number three:

“You are the right age. 
The right size. The right color. 
The right texture. You are 
perfect just as you are.”

She started with the products, each of which reflected the simple, natural beauty ethos of the brand, from the Boomstick trio, which reduces a woman’s must-have makeup to three key essentials, to Boomsilk, a moisturizer that should be applied, “everywhere you have skin,” Cindy says, laughing. The consistent theme is letting go of the notion that we need all this stuff – literal and conceptual – to be our best selves. “The inspiration for the actual products was to pare it down,” Cindy explains. “Don’t tell women that they need to wear anti-aging cream and anti-wrinkle cream, which is anti-me and anti-them. This is about celebrating age. This is about not just accepting it but being excited about it. It’s about wearing your crow’s feet like a badge that you earned, that you gained in your life.”

The philosophy formed the ethos of the BOOM! products, and the nature of the products – and the enthusiasm of customers who used them –expanded and deepened the philosophy of BOOM!. “That’s a really big part of what BOOM! is all about,” Cindy says. “It’s a place for women to meet and start talking about these things that matter to us. When I called the company BOOM! it was originally because of the boomer generation, but then I realized all women are told age is dirty, bad and wrong. When you’re 25 years old, you start worrying about it. It’s all so archaic. It’s all make-believe. We don’t become less as we age, we become more. We become better. So, let’s be motivated by desire and pleasure and excitement. Let’s celebrate ourselves.”

Boom! has now expanded into skincare and haircare products.

A woman born in 2010, the year Cindy Joseph founded BOOM!, is now turning thirteen. She’s just at that age Cindy was when she first started to get interested in fashion and beauty magazines. Magazines that would be among the first sources of a message she and her friends would receive loud and clear about what was wrong with them and what needed fixing. Some seventy years later, it’s the same message that girl who is now turning thirteen is receiving: you’re wrong and you need fixing.

When Cindy’s friend first suggested she start a cosmetic company her very first thought was “the world doesn’t need another lipstick.” What changed her mind was the realization that every woman of her generation – and every woman of every generation that has followed since – is being sold the same message: to be ok you need to be someone else, and to be someone else, you need this … lipstick. “It’s all so archaic, it’s all make-believe,” says Cindy. “You know, I’m fascinated by this word ‘ageless.’ I have often heard myself be introduced as an ‘ageless beauty’ and when that happens, I very diplomatically give my thanks but I say, ‘I am not ageless, I am age-ful. I am not a blank slate. I am not this characterless person. In fact, I have more character than ever. That is what I have gained throughout my life. And I say the same to you, whatever age you are, you’re not ageless, you’re age-ful. Aging is just another word for living. You start aging the moment you’re born. So, really, every single moment is the prime of your life.”