Madame Scodioli: Bearded Lady Turned Cosmetics Entrepreneur

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When Madame Scodioli was young, she literally ran away to join the circus—to work as a bearded lady. Little wonder, then, that Scodioli has a flair for the dramatic! Now, she’s parlayed her unusual grooming know-how into a gorgeously packaged, yummy-smelling, whimsical collection of shaving, perfume, and skin care products. She has a popular Etsy shop and recently embarked on a partnership with Urban Outfitters. Since Father’s Day is right around the corner, we figured who better to give us some shaving tips and tricks than a genuine bearded lady?

What inspired you to start your brand?

Around the time I first started making soap, I had a watercolor portrait done of myself. I had my hair in fingerwaves, my eyebrows arched, and I was stroking my little goatee. I saw the completed painting and I couldn't believe how regal I looked. So much confidence and grace. Elegant, despite the beard! And I knew immediately that this should be the centerpiece of my brand. I love contrast. I love it when beauty and the bizarre hold hands.

What's the inspiration for the packaging and theme?

The entire concept is modeled around the American traveling carnival from the late 19th century through the Dust Bowl era. It's the magic of the carnival mingled with the freedom and mysticism of the gypsy lifestyle that sets the mood for all of our products. I want our customers to feel as though they're stepping back in time and traveling the dirt roads right along with us.

Speaking of carnival, you ran away to the circus when you were younger! How did that come about?

Shortly after my whiskers sprouted! When I left home, I didn't exhibit myself at first, I worked behind the scenes most of the time. Slinking around a carnival seemed like the logical next step. That's when I received the nickname Scodioli (sko-dee-o-lee). It's the result of a drunken misinterpretation of song lyrics. I have tons of stories, none of which are appropriate for sharing! Anyway, I spent most of that time drinking cheap swill and learning to remove various sticky substances from my goatee. Cotton candy, caramel—I have a relentless sweet tooth. It was only after forming the Scodioli Carnival in 2009 that I began exhibiting. By then, my goatee was more substantial, too.

What's your background in cosmetics?

Entirely self-taught. I really only intended to be a soapmaker, but you know how it is. Customers ask, "Why don't you make perfumes?" so you do. And then "Why don't you make lip balm?" so you do. And so on. They tell me what they want, and I do my best to make it happen.

Your persona is so mysterious! Care to talk about the beard?

Ha! I guess I am a little mysterious. Really, I'm just very private. I'm a workaholic and I don't get out much. My beard is a workaholic too. Soapmaking and perfuming—that’s my life.

What are your favorite products from your line right now?

I started wearing Widdershins (frankincense and myrrh) last fall, and now it's May, and I still can't put it down. I might be able to set it aside for my new one, Oracle (spicy fig and light musk) if I feel like wearing something fruity over the summer. And I don't go anywhere without my lip balm.

Congratulations on your Urban Outfitters expansion! What's next for the line?

Thank you very much! It's so unreal to be able to tell people that we're on UrbanOutfitters.com. We do have another big project currently in the works with a very intriguing company. It's in the early stages so I can't say much about it, but it's going to keep us very busy over the next few months! Aside from that, I hope to get back to work on my giant to-do list. I've been wanting to offer my perfumes and colognes in a different format. And the boys have been requesting a pre-shave oil. Ooh, and maybe we'll finally finish our website!

How is the business structured currently?

I say "we" often, but truthfully, I am the only maker of the products. My assistant Riley handles all the design work. Everyone else—the rest of the troupe—are always helping out in the form of inspiration or scent suggestions, but they aren't exactly employees. They've all got their own projects. We're a creative bunch. Right now we're not traveling. We're planted in a tiny town in central Kansas. Nice and quiet. I can concoct my potions in peace and the neighbors have no idea who I am or what I do.

Nearly all of the sales are through Etsy (we recently passed the 5,000 orders mark), and we sell quite a bit on scoutmob.com. We're in a couple of boutiques, one in Atlanta and one in Seattle. I always stay open to opportunities like the Urban Outfitters gig, and we've done a few sales on the European Fab.com.

So, any tips for the perfect shave?

The perfect shave (for me) is a traditional wet shave, with a safety razor and badger hair brush. I'll be the first to admit my guilt at buying razors based purely on aesthetics. It's always best to soften your whiskers first, either in a hot shower or with a hot towel. Make sure to pre-soak your brush before lathering up. The whole ritual feels like such an indulgent treat, and I highly recommend it for the ladies as well. You'll feel so luxurious, shaving your legs in the bath with a straight razor, or better yet, find a strapping young gent to do it for you!

What’s catching the Madame’s eye lately?

A variety of fun stuff from Soap Box Gypsy, Red Leaf After Shaving Lotion, Beard Oil from The Bearded Bastard, Cirmes Preshave Oil, DE razor with handmade wooden handle (they have badger brushes and modern-style razors, too), and this all-natural pomade. And I've been checking out a lot of ceramic shaving scuttles on Etsy lately, like this one. And geez, how darling is this Beard Brush?

Any parting tips?

If your man is into traditional wet shaving, ask him to teach you! It really is a treat, and there's no reason the boys should have all the fun. And since we're approaching Father's Day, ask dad or granddad. They would probably be super flattered to show you the ropes.