Join us for a conversation with Charisse Hughes, SVP and Global CMO at Kellogg Company, as she shares how two very important women in her life profoundly inspired her to become the leader she is today.
Inspiring Women: Charisse Hughes
Q: Since we’re celebrating Women’s History month, we’d love to hear about any female mentors who’ve inspired you in your life.
Charisse Hughes: There are so many women who have been knowing and unknowing mentors throughout my life. But the two women who have most profoundly inspired me are my mom, Lula, and maternal grandmother, Nola. Each of them had a unique hand in shaping me and the woman I have become. Growing up in Arkansas in the early 1920’s and living amidst segregation and intense racial tensions, my grandmother was resilient, constantly leaning on her faith to overcome adversity and endure. She and my grandfather had nine children and my mother was the third child. Though she did not have a formal education, my grandmother taught her children and grandchildren the importance of education as a path to emotional freedom, success, and independence. Being independent was a particularly resonant message for women and girls. It was my grandmother’s love of makeup that inspired me to pursue a career in beauty - everyday she would sit in front of her mirror and “put her face on.”
My mom's commitment to education propelled her to graduate from College in three years. At 20, she accentuated her independence by migrating to Chicago to become a teacher in the public school system. While working and raising me, she completed two master’s degrees - demonstrating her tenacious spirit, love of learning and ambition. After an impressive career in education, she shined even brighter becoming the first African American woman to serve on the Illinois State Commission in its 90-year history. Growing up with seven brothers, my mother had a crew of girlfriends that became my aunties. Her natural inclination is to encourage and uplift women.
I am deeply grateful for what my mom and grandmother taught me, and I carry the lessons with me every day – lean on God and have confidence in yourself, love and support your family always, remember you come from a resilient lineage, value lifelong learning, champion your squad, get “your beauty on” and laugh often.
Q: What prompted your decision to go from the beauty space and move into the consumer goods side?
C.H.: I'm inspired by the quote from Walt Disney, "Curiosity leads you down new paths" and the essence of this has defined my career journey. Curiosity led me to ask questions at different stages of my career about how I can grow, contribute and make an impact. Observing the disruption in retail led me to Pandora Jewelry as Americas CMO. I thought I could combine the Brand Building talents gained at Estée Lauder to this evolving space of data driven marketing. Now, curiosity has led me down another new path and into CPG. I was honored to join the Kellogg Company with its illustrious 115-year heritage. The Company purpose to create a place at the table for everyone is congruent with my values and commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion. I’m energized by the strategic vision, transformation agenda and the iconic brands and character assets that we can maximize for growth. At this moment, I am exactly where I should be.
Q: With this past year being so challenging, what has kept you motivated, positive and moving forward?
C.H.: Maya Angelou wrote in her poem Our Grandmothers that I come as one and “stand as ten thousand.” This reminds me of my ancestors and my own grandmother as well as those that came before me, enduring struggle and literally giving their lives and dignity so that I can be where I am today. I wholly embrace my responsibility to smooth the road for those that will come after me. To whom much is given, much is required.
Q: What is one thing that you have learned from making mistakes along the way?
C.H.: I believe that mistakes and failures are the best teachers. I remember launching a line of BB creams to quickly follow the trend, which ended up being a fad. The line was a massive failure. I’ve learned two lessons from this failure and many subsequent ones -- fail fast, fail cheap and leaders should lead, not follow.
Q: What excites and inspires you?
C.H.: During the pandemic, I leaned even more into my love of thousand-piece puzzles to inspire creativity and distract me from being at home all day. A good story, an interesting podcast and conversations with my husband and bonus children feed my desire for discovery and learning.
Q: What advice would you give to other women looking to pursue their own dreams?
C.H.: The inspiration from my grandmother and mom can benefit all women. I would also say be gentle with yourself, find your voice and let your fear be a motivator to pursue your dreams.
Q: Now to the fun part! What does your skincare routine look like and what is your go-to product from RéVive?
C.H.: Skincare is my favorite beauty category so I’m perpetually searching for the newest and best products. I use a simple face wash and Retin-A to resurface my skin, treat my acne and improve uneven skin tone. I’ve fallen in love with RéVive’s Firming Moisture Repair night cream – the texture is cushiony and comforting to my aging skin, and the scent lulls me to sleep.