From Strength to Strength: How Life’s Triumphs & Tragedy Have Shaped Olaplex CEO JuE Wong’s Journey

Singaporean JuE Wong holds many titles: an indefatigable champion of women, a dedicated mentor, a doting mom and grandmom, and an accomplished 4-time CEO of global beauty companies. In celebration of Women’s History Month, SGN chats with JuE (pronounced Ju-Ee), now Chief Executive Officer and Executive Board Member at Olaplex Inc., on her remarkable journey that has shaped who she is today.

By SGN | 19 Oct 2022

When JuE Wong was 12 years old, she told her mom she would one day live in the Big Apple. She references the iconic song, “Theme from New York, New York”, which says it all with its lyrics, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere”.

An adventurous soul: In 2019, JuE (pictured) completed the Camino de Santiago 300-mile hike via the Portugal/Spain route.

“I have always been drawn to large cities, especially having grown up in Singapore,” JuE says, adding that Singapore would always be the place she calls home, and where family and friends are. “I have never given up my Singaporean citizenship because I have always thought that someday I will be back home.”

After working and living in Hong Kong, London, Geneva, and Bangkok, JuE would move to the U.S. in 1996 and kickstart a formidable career spanning beauty, wellness, and consumer-packaged goods (CPG).

Rising to the Challenge

JuE is a beauty industry veteran, but it may surprise many to know that she does not have a traditional beauty background. She first cut her teeth as a trader at Cargill, where she enjoyed the analytical and fast-paced nature of the job.

JuE speaking in Shanghai, China for the launch of Elizabeth Arden: SUPERSTART in 2015.

On her first night in River Valley back in 2015, she went to the nearest hawker centre to dip her toes in exploring the city. “I ended up being so intimidated by everything that I got all my words wrong. I ended up ordering something I didn’t even want!” she remembers, laughing.

But how did she get here in the first place? Georgia’s journey began unremarkably, just like any other expat you’d meet in the CBD. She received a job offer from a public relations agency.

After multiple Google searches, she packed up to leave her home behind, including her close-knit circle of family and friends. It marked her first time travelling to the country, let alone the rest of Asia.

Since then, she’s also untethered herself from the very reason that brought her here. She’s no longer in public relations. Now, Georgia is working, happily, for herself.

Between 2015 to 2017, she (right, in red) led Elizabeth Arden as U.S. President, growing the brand’s appeal to a younger, digital-first generation.

After Cargill, JuE would rise to a director position at PepsiCo, before shifting gears and taking up a regional manager role at The Dial Corporation. When asked why, she shared that the position mattered less than the fact that she felt she was able to contribute in relevant and unique ways.

“I was making a career shift to CPG… I found myself bringing the same discipline and applying what I learnt from trading and commodities to brand building and sales, which truly gave me an advantage in driving the business forward into international markets,” she explains.

It was at her next stint with Murad that JuE got her headstart in the cosmeceutical beauty space. She remains grateful to Murad’s then-president, Marybeth Peterson, who she says gave her a chance to step up to an international director’s role. “Her trust and belief in me made me worked harder for her as I didn’t want to disappoint her,” she says.

A bespoke bobble head doll made for JuE’s speaking role at SHOPTALK digital conference in Las Vegas, 2018.

JuE went on to lead and be on the boards of household names the likes of StriVectin, Elizabeth Arden, and Moroccanoil. In early 2020, JuE embarked on the next stage of her career with Olaplex Inc. as CEO. The global pandemic soon took hold, but JuE was ready.

“Every leader was thrown a curveball when COVID-19 hit. It was clear that it was not about me, but my team, our clients, our partners, and our community. I knew that if I placed the brand before myself, I would win every time,” she says.

Her leadership philosophy quickly bore fruit. Amidst the uncertainties of the pandemic, Olaplex launched a new product and saw business grow by 97%, driven by their customers embracing self-care rituals during quarantine. Olaplex also took the opportunity to elevate conversations across social media platforms, double-down on partnerships, and improve product accessibility online.

Dealing with Loss and A Shifted Perspective

Despite having a career that spans across continents and multiple C-suite positions, JuE counts her life’s defining moment when she lost her husband to a heart attack in 2009.

“Losing my husband was my biggest wake-up call to the fact that time and tide waits for no one,” she says, crediting her late husband’s unwavering support as the bedrock of her achievements today.

“When I doubted myself, he was there to let me know I was wrong, and when I was overly convinced of a position, he would nudge me to think again,” she shares.

JuE’s advice to someone in a similar situation is to take the time to grieve and think about how to best carry on the loved one’s legacy. She recounts that the loss spurred her to do her best work and be the best human being she possibly could, in honour of her late husband.

“If time stood still” – JuE’s three family generations: JuE (upper right), her daughter bottom and granddaughter to her left, all around 4- to 5-years-old.

She also champions quality time with family, and guards against burnout. She leads by example, recounting steps such as such as not contacting her team on weekends so that they can fully recharge, as well as waiving KPIs for female colleagues on maternity leave. “For me, it is vital to provide your team with the berth to have a life,” JuE says.

Supporting A Diverse and Inclusive Workplace

At this career juncture, JuE has realised that there is much joy to give back and help someone when she can. “I am always grateful to the many people who have helped me along the way. As a mentor, I tend to have very clear endpoints and understanding of what the mentee hopes to achieve from the relationship,” she explains.

Reaching a career high where the mentee is now a mentor: JuE was invited to keynote at the 16th annual Outstanding 50 Asian Americans in Business Awards Gala Dinner, which identifies and selects outstanding leaders.
Aside from paying it forward in mentorship, JuE champions building a diverse and inclusive workforce that provides equal opportunity, taking on the task as a personal responsibility, beyond statistical compliance, as a woman of colour in the U.S. “Before diversity, equity, and inclusivity (DEI) was an acronym, I have always preached the importance of D&I by emphasizing the “E”. To me, diversity and inclusion is not about filling quotas but to add value and growth to a business,” JuE says. With March being Women’s History Month, we asked JuE what advice she has for women navigating professional and personal challenges. Her answer: play to your strengths and continue uplifting and supporting other women. “Stand up for yourself by bringing others along. Try to put yourself in other people’s shoes and see how best you can then get them to your way of thinking,” she says. “It takes a lot of practice to find and own your voice. Believe me, as you get older, it becomes easier to speak up. You will have more experience and gravitas, and these are helpful in finding your voice.”

About JuE

JuE Wong is Chief Executive Officer and Executive Board Member at Olaplex Inc. Prior to her current role, she held senior leadership and CEO positions at global businesses including Mitr Phol Group, PepsiCo, The Dial Corporation (now part of Henkel), Elizabeth Arden and Moroccanoil.

Today, JuE serves as Board Director to Kyra Beauty and Mila Moursi Advanced Skin Care, and Advisor to Versicolor Technologies.

Connect with her here.

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