My Year-in-Review | A Personal Essay on 2018

Allison McNamara sipping champagne green dress

Allison McNamara Year in Review 2018

It’s the eve of New Year’s Eve 2018 and wow, what a year it’s been. Last year on this day, I was in my favorite city Paris sipping champs and showing Cass secret nooks and crannies in the City of Light that I used called home in 2008. I rang in the New Year in Paris too, a city that I’ve always looked to for hope, glamour and creativity–so it was quite fitting to start my year of growth and new beginnings there. I kicked off the year in a place I have always dreamt of visiting, Marrakech, Morocco. It’s now one of my absolute favorite spots to travel to and I cannot wait to go back, take a look at my in-depth Morocco travel guide here.

But starting off this year on vacation was a challenge for me. As much as I wanted to relax, reset and enjoy all of the beauty Morocco has to offer, I was anxious knowing I was about to embark on the most daring journey I’ve taken so far in my career–launching a new business. I left my full-time job almost four years ago which is freaking nuts when I think about it. These past few years of fending for myself, relying on myself to cultivate new relationships and create new job opportunities was the perfect training for launching MARA. And now looking back, vital.

MARA soft launched on February 19, 2018–a holiday, President’s Day. After years of trial, testing, submissions, components and operational logistics, MARA Algae + Moringa Universal Face Oil was finally here, and she was greeted with the most open, loving arms. I am blown away by the support myself and my brand has received this year. From present and former bosses that I look up to so much like Jen Atkin and Katherine Power, to top influencers and new acquaintances–everyone was so excited to test and try the product I had worked so hard to create. I knew this formula was really special even back before we had finalized it–the feel is unlike anything I had tried before and it instantly gives my skin the nutrient and hydration boost it’s looking for. We got amazing feedback and support from the media outlets I’ve worked for in the past almost instantly–my girl Kirbie at POPSUGAR included MARA in the very first press piece about new March product launches, followed by The Zoe Report, Refinery29 and Byrdie, all of which happened organically through my friends, colleagues and contacts. There is that saying if you build it they will come, and it’s true. Customers found my little corner of the internet and fell in love with MARA almost instantly. The messages, emails and DMs I get on the regular about how much people live for MARA still blows me away, and that’s the point of all of this–to make people feel happy and confident in their own skin.

March was a pretty special month for me too–I treated myself to a new car, and got to be on the cover of WWD’s Beauty Issue alongside Jen Atkin and the rest of her Ouai / Mane Addicts squad. April kicked off with my birthday in Malibu and a stay at Calamigos Ranch, a jaunt to Santa Barbara with my friends, a trip to SF to meet with Sephora, Coachella, and MARA launching in our very first brick and mortar store, Ranch at the Pier in Malibu, and for them I am forever grateful! April was also the first time MARA made print–in the Hello Giggles’s inaugural magazine issue.

In May, I went to Las Vegas with Cass for one of her clients, shot an influencer campaign for Chinese Laundry, had photoshoots for features on The Select 7 and SwearBy and launched MARA in our first multi-store retailer, The Now–a super chic and charming massage parlor that was always a placed I envisioned as MARA’s home. Seeing MARA on The Now’s shelves was such a surreal experience, the perfect precursor to launching MARA at Credo Beauty the following month in June. I also went to Hawaii with a few of my best friends over Memorial Day and while I was there, MARA got the most amazing story review by Erika Stalder on Refinery 29, which sent our sales into overdrive while I was away. I am so grateful for her and that story and the fact that we made it into the R29 email blast too…it was the perfect way to kick off summer.

In the midst of all of this launch excitement and scoring new retailers for MARA in the brand’s infancy, I was behind-the-scenes deep in preparation with product 2 and working hard to get my first product EU Compliant, since Cult Beauty had requested to carry the product (OMG.) People are shocked to find out that I have quite literally done everything myself. From selecting the packaging, hiring freelance graphic designers, fulfilling all of the orders, press and store outreach plus a whole lot of google, I have literally constructed this entire brand myself without any help of any sort of outside agency. It’s much more challenging this way, but it has been so fun even the most stressful situations are fun to look back on now. Getting the first product EU Compliant was honestly a b*tch, but seeing it launch in August on Cult Beauty and TREND on their homepage was bananas. I was just getting back from a summer vacation on the Amalfi Coast–which is actually where the idea for MARA was conceived, and it was the perfect button to tie up a slow summer of handwork.

The summer also brought my high school bestie’s Barzlorette in Austin, Texas and a quick trip to San Diego to see Dua Lipa perform, and our vacay to Positano, Amalfi and Capri. MARA also became a best seller at Credo Beauty and one of their top-selling face oils, crazy!

I went to New York again for both fashion weeks, something I am more than ready to retire–I always say I’m never going back haha. I also had an amazing partnership with Sephora this year and created loads of social content for them, attended Sephoria and co-hosted Sephora Live. People always ask me if I miss hosting–and I do. But I also got so burnt out on the day-to-day and the cattiness of it all that I can’t imagine going back to a full-time job like that. My job has so much more purpose to me now–there is something about being a host that felt so narcissistic. And does anyone really watch hosted content anymore (besides like HGTV?) But you never know I’ve been approached for a few projects that could pan out in the new year so I never say never. It would be fun to shoot something seasonally instead of daily, and I’m definitely opening up my mindset to that for 2019. In October, MARA and I were both featured in C Magazine. I had always dreamt of seeing myself in a magazine and it finally happened, twice!

November was a special month too–Nicole got married in Playa del Carmen and Cass and I went a few days early to stay at Be Tulum and wow it was magic. My two besties Natalie and Omeed also tied the knot and it was such a special wedding / party. November was also the month where everything was finally coming together to launch MARA Algae Retinol Face Oil. I could do an entire post (in fact, I will) on the set-backs that happened to me with this product. It was a nightmare and honestly a true test to my patience and determination to have a beauty line. Bottles went missing for weeks at a time, factories stopped responding, the largest storm to ever hit the coast of Asia occurred just days after my components set sail for the US… I had my first panic attack which lasted days.

But if you think I’m passionate about my first product, then just you wait until you get me started on Algae Retinol Face Oil. This product was the reason I wanted to create MARA and I believe it’s a total game changer. It’s the first of it’s kind–a BHT-free retinol oil with hemp-derived cannabis, fermented green tea, black cumin, meadow foam, fermented argan… it’s a sheer delight for the skin. It launched on December 6, 2018 and the response was massive. Granted, we have gained a relatively cult-following since the brand’s inception earlier this year with people on their 5th and 6th bottles of Universal Face Oil, but we overwhelmingly surpassed every previous sales month, including November which was an all-time high for us.

December has been pretty wonderful, I hired MARA’s first publicist to help me launch the new product, Simona Evna and she has been so incredible. We flew to NY to meet with all of the New York beauty editors which was something I have been envisioning all year. I was fan girling when I met most of them and I was so flattered that they all took the time to meet with me. The response to the new product has been incredible so far and I can’t wait to see what 2019 has in store, because I have some pretty big dreams I hope manifest.

The year ended with a trip to Utah to visit family for the holiday which I wish had gone better, but at the same time was an eye opening experience that I need to release relationships that no longer serve me. The holidays can be a sad time for those like me with strained family relationships, and this year I finally learned that just because it’s the holiday doesn’t mean you have to go see your family. I plan on starting new traditions next year so I can actually enjoy a holiday break.

2018 was all about taking chances, making mistakes, learning (lots and lots of learning!) but I feel so prepared and equipped to take on the new year. MARA has new products coming out and hopefully some awesome new retailers-MANIFESTING. I hope to work more with brands to create content I love, create more editorial content for myself and MARA and film a new show.

I hope you had a beautiful year! Thank you for following this journey and if you made it this far, wow!



Allison mcNamara

Shot by Lydia Hudgens


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