<p><strong><em>Joni Rae with her Mobius Award, an international competition that recognizes outstanding advertising, design and creativity.</em></strong></p>

Joni Rae with her Mobius Award, an international competition that recognizes outstanding advertising, design and creativity.

<p><em><strong>Joni Rae on the cover of SALON TODAY</strong></em></p>

Joni Rae on the cover of SALON TODAY

<p><em><strong>&quot;I fight for designs that people say cannot be executed. I fight for product positioning that people say is too risky. I fight to move timelines forward. I fight for the things that move a brand from ordinary to extraordinary.&quot;</strong></em></p>

"I fight for designs that people say cannot be executed. I fight for product positioning that people say is too risky. I fight to move timelines forward. I fight for the things that move a brand from ordinary to extraordinary."

<p><em><strong>&quot;Now it&rsquo;s time to enjoy the fruit of my labor, spend more time with family and friends,&nbsp;wake up without&nbsp;a schedule and dive into my hobby --No Limit Texas Hold&#39;em!&rdquo;</strong></em></p>

"Now it’s time to enjoy the fruit of my labor, spend more time with family and friends, wake up without a schedule and dive into my hobby --No Limit Texas Hold'em!”

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<p><strong><em>Joni Rae with her Mobius Award, an international competition that recognizes outstanding advertising, design and creativity.</em></strong></p>
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Joni Rae with her Mobius Award, an international competition that recognizes outstanding advertising, design and creativity.

<p><em><strong>Joni Rae on the cover of SALON TODAY</strong></em></p>
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Joni Rae on the cover of SALON TODAY

<p><em><strong>&quot;I fight for designs that people say cannot be executed. I fight for product positioning that people say is too risky. I fight to move timelines forward. I fight for the things that move a brand from ordinary to extraordinary.&quot;</strong></em></p>
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"I fight for designs that people say cannot be executed. I fight for product positioning that people say is too risky. I fight to move timelines forward. I fight for the things that move a brand from ordinary to extraordinary."

<p><em><strong>&quot;Now it&rsquo;s time to enjoy the fruit of my labor, spend more time with family and friends,&nbsp;wake up without&nbsp;a schedule and dive into my hobby --No Limit Texas Hold&#39;em!&rdquo;</strong></em></p>
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"Now it’s time to enjoy the fruit of my labor, spend more time with family and friends, wake up without a schedule and dive into my hobby --No Limit Texas Hold'em!”

Behind every successful beauty brand is a great brain for beauty. Possessing one of the finest is Joni Rae Russell, a brand-building and marketing maven who devoted her life and tons of her considerable talent to developing, nurturing, and launching countless products within the beauty and wellness space. Joni Rae (or JRR), founder of Joni Rae and Associates, will be hanging up her marketing hat and picking up a winning hand, as she announces her plans to retire and to enjoy some well-deserved leisure and pursue other passions.

"I just love my industry and my business,” she shared with us, recently. “I looked forward to getting up every day and advancing the brands I worked on. I have met many of my closest friends through the business and it has provided a nice life. But now it’s time to enjoy the fruits of my labor, spend more time with family and friends, wake up without a schedule and dive into my hobby --No Limit Texas Hold'em!”

Joni Rae was born into a family of beauty aficionados, coming up in the barber manufacturing and distributing company her grandfather, a cosmetic chemist, created.

 “My father and his siblings built and grew that company into a full-service professional beauty salon distribution company (VJ CURCIO Beauty Supply) and expanded it into salon interior design and finance.”

At Curcio, she started at the bottom and worked her way up; first, picking orders in the warehouse and then in her early 20s, she was finally given a territory of beauty parlors and barbershops to call on. When she would walk into beauty parlors, they assumed she was a client (men were in the sales roles, then, not women). And walking into a barbershop, they figured she was just in the wrong place. Because “salesman” didn’t quite describe this petite and pulled-together powerhouse, she coined the term Distributor Sales Consultant (or DSC), a gender-neutral way of describing her job and a term that is still in use today. 

She was later promoted to the marketing, advertising and education arm of the family business.  It was then that she found her life's work.  As many people would go on to notice and note, Russell is an equally strong left brain/right brain thinker; she not only analyzes and strategizes, she also creates. Russell was always finding new ways to help their salon partners to be successful. She published and edited The Curcio Chronicle, an innovative 24-page newsletter focused on companies, personalities, and business trends in the cosmetics, hair, skin and nailcare industries. She presented new ways of marketing salon services and ran 4 educational events a month.

In 1979, she moved from the client to the agency side of the business, joining Merchandising Workshop, a large full-service sales promotion agency. By 1984, Russell had risen to senior vice president within the company, spearheading product introductions within 10 divisions of Revlon, and launching more than 100 new products to the industry.

Next stop, Redken, where she says she fell in love with their lab. “It was onsite, so complete, and you could test everything right there--it was a dream lab!” It was 1988 and she came in as vice president of marketing with responsibility for four salon divisions. While there, she also grew to love Redken’s founder, Paula Kent-Meehan and they became close work and personal friends.

BRAND ARCHITECT EXTRAORDINAIRE

In 1991 (now in Southern California), Russell struck out on her own, forming her business, Joni Rae and Associates, an award-winning marketing, branding, and creative services firm. For years, she excelled at unifying and strengthening her clients’ look and position by providing a cohesive, integrated program of services comprised of strategic planning, marketing development, product naming, positioning, packaging, promotion, publicity and advertising. “We worked with over 200 clients and branded more than 800 SKUs,” she says.

For hundreds of companies, she did a forensic review of their processes and then refined their operations, helping them shorten their launch times, (and increase their profits). She became a brand’s complete marketing and creative departments, offering all the services needed to send a product or program into the market, and then follow it and ensure its success. She was able to hit the ground running and always stressed the importance of a full product wheel of services. “You need it all working together, in harmony; positioning, formulation, packaging, promotion, education, media, PR, and distribution. If one of these elements is misaligned, the wheel won’t turn. Once that wheel is turning in the right direction, it goes on autopilot and that's when success begins.”

Over the years, Russell and her firm have garnered over 80 awards including 7 ABBIES, HBA Global Expo Package Design of the Year, a Mobius Award, and the ICMAD Leadership Award. She was one of Global Cosmetic Industries’ ”Twenty to Know” and Joni Rae was named one of SALON TODAY’S “Top Women of Vision.”

When asked how she would advise a woman taking over an agency today, Joni Rae had this to say: “I would tell her to put herself in her client’s shoes. To exceed their expectations. To over deliver. To maintain strong ethics. To support her team. To not be afraid to take risk. To never compromise quality. To strive for excellence and not take her eye off the prize. To stay on course. If she does not know the answer, ask. Do not miss a deadline. Have fun and don’t take yourself so seriously.”

We at MODERN SALON and SALON TODAY wish JRR every success in this next phase. And if she has as much success with her hobby as she has had with her business, Vegas…watch out, because Joni Rae is "all in" with everything she does.

PRAISE FOR JRR

 “You’d be surprised to know how many successful beauty brands have Joni Rae to thank for their success.  I’ve worked with Joni Rae for the past 25 years developing media programs for dozens of beauty brands she has helped create and brought to life.  She’s worked tirelessly behind the scenes and has a successful track record other marketers would envy. Joni’s unique talent blends creativity with a business sensibility that insures brand success on many levels.” --Gregg McConnell, business development manager, Evoke Agency

“I loved working with Joni Rae, her passion and creativity is inspiring. Joni taught me to look outside the box and helped me create some of LORAC’s most innovative products. I wish her all the best in this next chapter of her life.”--Carol Shaw, founder, LORAC Cosmetics

“I have rarely met anyone with the raw talent possessed by Joni Rae.  The most memorable project she commanded for us was "Zoom!", which ultimately went on to generate annual revenues of well over $100M – this was an emergency project which came into being because of a competitor with a new technology which was literally eating our lunch and causing the very existence of our company to be called into question.

“Joni Rae's passion and ownership over this project was remarkable and continued on when the assignment was finished. Her creativity, common sense and enthusiasm was infectious to the entire team. It is something one doesn't learn, but rather, is part of one's DNA. Much like two athletes with similar physical attributes, get one with a raw talent that I call ‘God's gift’, which propels that one athlete into greatness. I feel this is what Joni Rae has in her soul, her very being. And yes, I did often ask her about coming to work with us full-time and I probably became somewhat of a nuisance because I never really let up. I guess you always wanted to be a free agent.”-- Robert Hayman,CEO, Discus Dental

“Joni Rae is a professional with a superior knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of marketing and advertising in the Beauty Industry.  Working with Joni Rae and Associates helped accelerate the growth of the Malibu C brand at a pivotal time in the history of the Malibu Wellness company. The approach taken by Joni Rae helped our team re-evaluate our goals and how we intended to meet our objectives. The relationships Joni Rae had with publishers, editors, and influencers in the salon industry opened doors for us that we had not been able to open without JRA’s leadership. Learning more about the importance of the basic principles associated with brand awareness became fundamental in our decision and we still approach our marketing and advertising in the trade publications and to consumers at large based on much of what we learned from Joni Rae. Probably the only thing we would have done differently is to look to Joni Rae a decade earlier when she first introduced herself and her company to Malibu C.  

“We thank Joni Rae, Robert and all those associated with JRA for the knowledge, persistence and attention to detail that we experienced in the years we worked together.  We will miss JRA, however, we will continue to value our relationship with Joni Rae who will continue to be special in our lives.”--Tom G. Porter, president, Malibu C Brand, MWI Lab, Malibu Wellness, Inc.

“Joni Rae has been one of the most influential mentors and big sisters to me for the better part of my career in the pro beauty industry. A true force of nature.  She will be absolutely irreplaceable.” -- Sophy Merszei, CEO and founder, Novalash

“It was so long ago that I am guessing it was 30 years or so ago that my brother, Ralph Bijou (CEO) and me, Laurie Minc (CMO) were looking to outsource our Marketing, Packaging and Creative Design Services.  We were lucky to have met Joni Rae at that time.  Not only was it the right fit at that point in our lives, the synergy of us working together was so right and all good!

“The location of the JRA office near my residence allowed us to work at very unusual hours and to meet someone as ‘crazy’ as me, working all hours into the night, worked for both of us.  We accomplished so much together.  How do you put many years into a few sentences...not sure but here it goes.

“Joni Rae and Associates helped Jordana Cosmetics Corporation in so many ways.  From logo designs, slogans, point of purchase displays, header designs, model searches, photo shoots, package designs, catalogs and so much more which allowed us to keep our eye on our business without worrying about deadlines and necessary marketing updates that kept us trendy and current at all times.  My father, founder of Jordana Cosmetics, always taught us to run as lean as possible, to reinvest in your own business, and put the money into the product that will always keep the customers coming back…quality, value and honesty.  My brother and I lived by these words and grew our company wearing many hats and running a lean operation throughout our 36 years of doing business.  We were challenged financially but we were lucky enough to accomplish what was needed with Joni Rae’s services. We also found that our philosophy for business to be the same with Joni, quality, value and honesty, and will never forget the wonderful years of working together.  It was always fun, too!”--Laurie Minc, president and CMO, Jordana and Milani Cosmetics (1986-2018) 

"I have had the distinct pleasure of working with Joni Rae Russell on several mission-critical projects over the last two decades.  Her expertise, knowledge, attention to detail and overall passion for the beauty business is unsurpassed. With each company or initiative we worked on, Joni Rae inspired confidence and exhibited marketing mastery.  I will miss her but wish her well on this new journey. I am sure I will still pick up the phone to ask her for advice."--Melanie Kopeikin, beauty strategist, podcast host, founder/GM of The LABA Academy

“Joni Rae has been a true friend for more than 30 years. But more than a friend, she very personally helped us to build our business, Pravana. From its inception to the day we sold our company, Joni Rae’s attention to detail and constant striving for perfection helped to shape and communicate what our company was and what it could be. I’m very proud of what our Pravana team accomplished in 15 years of creating, refining and nourishing a growing company. I consider Joni Rae a vitally important member of that team.”--Steve Goddard, founder, Pravana

"Well read, well researched, culturally astute, spiritually attuned, generous, and courageous. These words are the essence of the Joni Rae Russell I’ve known and respected for nearly forty years. In the early 80’s when Joni was exiting Redken Laboratories to embark on her entrepreneurial adventure, Paula Kent Meehan hired her and handed her a check to develop Debbie Reynolds skincare line they named Studio Secrets.  Joni Rae was confident in her unique marketing/branding “calling”, she accepted the project and Joni Rae and Associates was launched. She has a copy of that first check displayed as a reminder of Paula’s faith in her.  Over the years, the awards on her wall are evidence of other leading companies’ faith in her and her talented associates.

I’ve seen that unique calling first hand as I worked alongside Joni Rae, as an integral part of the team creating, planning and producing REDKEN’s 50th Anniversary party in 2010 hosted by Paula at the Beverly Hilton Hotel and again in 2016, inviting a host of former and current REDKEN employees to gather at a festive dinner to celebrate REDKEN’s five decades of 'Lighting the Way' for salon professionals globally. With Joni Rae, every detail’s exact, every communication clear, every touch point First Class."--Ann Mincey,  vice president global communications (retired), REDKEN 5th Avenue NYC

“What can I say about Ms. Joni Rae?  It is not often that a vendor becomes a lifelong friend.  She has laser focus and keeps you on a path to success. You just need to listen.  All the best to your next chapter!”--Sharon K. Christie, CEO, Aromafloria Essentials and Cannafloria Essentials

“As an owner of Discus Dental we had the great fortune of working with Joni Rae Russell for 6 years.  Her creative genius helped us name, package, design, and sell a multitude of Dental products including the World's leading In-Office tooth whitening product which she creatively named ZOOM! The creation of Joni Rae's  "love-child",  ZOOM! quickly became a house-hold word. It actually made us all SMILE when patients walked in dental offices in over 100 countries and asked to be ZOOMED!!!!

Thank you, Joni Rae, you are one of a kind!”--Dr. Bill Dorfman

“Joni Rae and Associates did our marketing and advertising for a number of years.  Because of Joni Rae’s work, the way the industry viewed my company changed from staid and conservative, to one with its finger of the pulse of the industry, as well as current and future trends.  Joni Rae herself is a creative dynamo – and she puts every ounce of her energy into everything she does.”--Marc Spilo, CEO, Spilo Worldwide

“I first met Joni Rae by phone as we were on opposite sides of the country. After nearly 20 years in business, I had never agreed to compensate a potential 'vendor' in order to meet them. Something about her approach during our call caused me to move forward. Had I not moved forward to work with Joni Rae after our initial face to face meeting, the money spent that day would not have been wasted as I learned so much. Furthermore, our years working together taught me as much as I ever learned during my entire career in the beauty industry. Best of all, which is the priceless part, is that Joni Rae became a best friend. A mentor. Someone I look up to. Respect. Enjoy. Plus Robert ain’t chopped liver. He's the best, also. We became family. I love you, Joni Rae, always!”--Van Stamey, CEO, ThermaFuse

“It was terrific working with Joni Rae and Joni Rae and Associates.  Joni’s creativity and enthusiasm greatly contributed to the growth of LORAC!” --David J. Hirsch, general counsel to LORAC Cosmetics, Inc., (1997-2015)

“Joni Rae is an energetic, creative, passionate, and very loving person who stayed beside me for the last 11 years in my professional beauty career. To me, she’s my Italian mother, who makes sure that I stay on track.  Every day, when I’m thinking about marketing, I can hear Joni Rae’s voice in my head. She hinted to me this year that she was going to retire and live her life but I never believed that it would become a reality. But when it did become a reality, it was unreal for me. She still has the same energy back 11 years ago when I first met her. I understand that she knows how to plan and outline her chapters.

“I know she’s going to live and teach us what life is all about more than just a career. I can’t wait to follow her Facebook, admiring places that she goes, things that she eats, people she meets, and the new experiences she will discover.  More than a business partner, Joni Rae is my mentor. A mentor of my career, life, love, fun, and joy. I am very thankful to have met such a beautiful, selfless person in my life.”-- Jin James Choi, president, Izutech

“ I had the privilege to work with Joni-Rae for over 10 years, and finding the right words to describe her drive, ambition, creativity, and personal touch to every project would all fall short of how talented she is! I not only enjoyed our working relationship, but she also became a close friend that learned so much from.  I could not be more proud of her and excited for her on this next chapter of retirement.”--Bethany Crellin, president, AIA

"My sister, Joni, was born to be a marketing guru.  From the time when we were playing as kids, she inspired the other neighborhood kids to do more than just play traditional games at the playground.  Instead she ran a fright house, using our grandmother's wheelchair to whisk the neighborhood kids through a maze of frightening apparatus.  Her dolls were converted to being murder victims using mom’s ketchup and steak knives. She put on puppet shows which we presented to the audience consisting of other neighborhood kids. In some way, she was always master-minding new puppet shows or games which always seemed to draw an interested crowd of children and adults, alike.  It’s no wonder she became an authority on turning the mediocre into something tantalizing and interesting.  Drawing an interest and seeking perfection is just what she has always done well." --Vinnie Curcio, Manufacturer’s Representative

"I’ve just read the gracious quotes from many of Joni Rae’s clients and can’t overlook how, to a one, they all felt the same way. She gave them her all. I was in the back room in 1991 when JR&A was launched. I watched a powerhouse corporate executive transition from multiple assistants, leading multi-million dollar brands to learning how to use her first computer and typing her first business letters. What struck me then was how tenacious Joni Rae was and how she took personal ownership of every single project she would work on for the next 28 years. She could care less if it was a $200 header card or a multi-million dollar product launch. Whatever the project, she gave it her all and coaxed the same out of every JR&A associate.  JR&A began and ended as a home based business. Joni Rae and I lived with it 24/7 - 365. I think it took 20 years or so for her to actually take a vacation of more than 2 days. Such was her passion and commitment to what was a business of continually creating something new for each project and doing it under the unrelenting pressure of insane deadlines. 

Her determination, persistence and uncompromising work ethic drove the success of JR&A. Her love for what she was doing transcended every obstacle. I’ve never seen anyone work as hard for her clients as Joni Rae. Fighting for what she believed was right and in the client's best interest was her calling card. It’s gratifying to see and hear that owners of the companies she fought for day and night truly appreciated this marvelous, caring and tough woman who always strived to and, more often than not, exceed their every expectation."--Robert Russell, husband, JRA shipping department and errand runner
 

Originally posted on Modern Salon