Behind the gram: Sammy Leo talks social media, body confidence and business
The name Sammy Leonard conjures many adjectives and amongst these, empowering, confident and influential sit pretty high on top of the list. The very reasons that made Sammy Leo a natural fit as a Happy Way ambassador in our early days. As one of Australia’s leading social media influencers, Sammy has used her platform to shatter glass ceilings and change perceived ideals of body image, what it means to be a woman and most importantly what it means to feel empowered in a social media age. All ideals which underpin her two successful beauty businesses, OHELO Cosmetics and Breeza Balm. Founded with her sister Petra Leonard, both brands are marketed to empower women to feel their most confident in a world that doesn’t always allow it.
We asked Sammy to take time out of her busy schedule to talk all things business, social media and confidence – from the original queen herself.
How did Breeze Balm and OHLEO Cosmetics come about?
Breeze Balm’s formula has been in my family since the 1950’s - before I was born! It is something I have grown up with and use daily. I had so many questions about it, I felt I had to share it with the world and this where Breeze Balm was born! Aside from being an incredible lip balm, Breeze Balm is a piece of me. It’s a brand that represents happiness, confidence and inclusivity.
OHLEO Cosmetics was created because my sister and I love playing with makeup to create different looks, characters and we both truly appreciate the power of makeup. We also wanted to incorporate self love, worth and confidence into our brand to inspire others to feel their best.
What do you love the most about running a beauty business?
I LOVE the creative side; creating products I absolutely love and that work, getting inventive with ideas, themes and sampling! It’s so much fun I get to play with makeup all day!
How important is social media to your brand?
I love social media. It’s amazing to be able to spread our brand message in different ways through this platform. It is the way of the world these days so I’m grateful our message can come direct from us to our customers. A message which goes beyond the brand to inspire women to be more confident in their own skin.
Is there a certain level of responsibility that comes with being both an influencer and businesswoman?
Yes, I believe there is. I like to share my personal life with others and I have always wanted to inspire women in particular to feel good within themselves. I am also conscious of the fact that I not only have women my age following me but that I also have the younger generation too. I feel it is my responsibility to inspire them to feel confident in their own skin.
How do you navigate around this?
Both Breeze Balm and OHLEO Cosmetic are similar to my personal brand, Sammy Leo. Each brand works together to inspire, to show inclusivity and I also try my best to showcase my personal journey on @sammyleo - this allows people to relate and understand that I feel them!
OHLEO is about being fierce and strong? What does this mean to you in a digital age and during a time when women can’t help but compare themselves to one another…
I actually believe more and more women are finally starting to embrace themselves. We will never be able to overcome this as it is a way of life and we all have good days & bad days. But being aware of comparison is important. We all have at some point in our lives felt self-doubt, a lack of confidence, or even a sense of rejection. It is common to feel this from time to time as we grow. But every time my sister or I have felt this way there has been a small, quiet but nonetheless present inner voice telling us to keep going.This is who we call our inner QUEEN (or King). She is strong, she is powerful, she is kind, she is loyal, she is fierce, she is YOU. Every single one of us has her inside of us.
This has been the sole purpose behind our makeup range. We wanted women to use our products as a reminder of their inner strength, power and kindness. And on their hardest days, when they don’t feel their most confident and powerful, we wanted our makeup to bring out their inner queen/ king and alter ego. It is about taking power back from our own self doubts and feeling fierce, standing strong, being beautiful and most importantly being unapologetically themselves. Everyone is unique and we celebrate that.
What do you love the most about sharing your life on a public platform?
Seeing people's messages about how my personal journey or even business has helped them better themselves, or live their best life. It means the world to me.
What is the most challenging part of being so open?
Vulnerability. With being open comes peoples opinions to your pains or struggles or triumphs. You are sharing your personal life and not everyone will have a positive opinion about it.
How do you deal with any criticism that may come your way?
If it is constructive and kind, I will take it on board. If it is nasty and vindictive, I don’t give it any energy. I don’t even block. I literally move on straight away and focus on something positive. There will always be opinions good and bad. But it's how we choose to react which truly matters. We are always in control of how we let things affect us. I choose to focus my energy on positivity.
What message do you want to send to women about healthy body image?
Your body does not define who you are. It is not the be all and end all. We will always have something we want to change so instead of hating on yourself for the way you look – embrace yourself at this very moment and let your inner soul shine through.
When women view influencers on Instagram there is a common belief that they have it all, body confidence included. Can you share with us something you wish to be more confident about and what are you doing about it?
I am terrified of public speaking! I get nervous, my palms sweat, I feel sick and I get a gulf in my throat. I used to be amazing when I was younger but now for some reason, I really struggle! I definitely need to work on this! Practice makes perfect so I am putting myself up for speaking roles at events. Eek!
What is the one habit you abide by to practice self-love?
Being active. It makes me happy. Whether that is a moment to walk, exercise or just get outdoors. I treat it like me time.
What is the one piece of advice you would give your younger self?
Don’t do life for other people. Do life for you. Make choices because you want to, not because it will please someone else. Don’t think one person will hold your future in their hands - for the career of your dreams. If they say no, there is someone else out there who will believe in whatever it is you want to do. DO NOT GIVE UP.
What does confidence mean to you?
It means living my best life.
Can you share with us the best piece of advice you have ever received about self-acceptance and love?
…10 years down the track you will look back at yourself now and wonder why on earth you worried so much about your looks and why you didn’t see your self worth. You can change this now. I have literally thought this to myself already….
Who is an inspirational woman you look up to and why?
I have many people I look up to, to be honest but one in particular is Jada Pickett Smith. I believe that her and Will are truly living their best life. I believe they have a lot of answers about self love that most of us are still trying to figure out. They totally inspire me to be better, to think outside the box, to have more compassion for people and for myself. I love them!