Kiok Kang’s path to becoming one of the most respected, independent young publicists in the LA beauty market wasn’t a typical one. Founding her own digital-first agency, Glowing PR, two years ago, Kang now manages a whole team and has worked with a host of clients in the indie beauty and fashion space. But how did a former musician with her sights set on Julliard become a beauty PR entrepreneur instead?
As a kid, Kiok was a self-described “disciplined pianist,” wholly devoted to pursuing a career as a classical musician and pursuing that with all her might for over a decade. Spending her formative years chasing state and national titles, and staying “laser focused” on her future career in piano, no other options even crossed her mind during high school. Then came a diagnosis that derailed her career plan and life passion — carpal tunnel.
“I knew my career in piano would be cut short,” Kang said. “From there, it was back to square one. I had to identify my other talents, instead of forcing myself towards a far-fetched career, like becoming a doctor — I hated math and science in school!” Pivoting to a soft science like PR was, in the end, a fairly easy transition for Kiok, who credits her extroversion and curiosity as ideal traits for working in her field.
“I never imagined making a career out of a genuinely innate personality trait,” she said. “Growing up and still to this day, I’ve always been the ‘go-to’ person in my social circles with the latest scoop on fashion and the best new beauty products. I’ve also been an excellent planner, and once I accepted my Type A personality, I thrived off of creating structure and goals.”
After growing up in Los Angeles — and attending schools in Santa Monica and Hancock Park — Kiok opted for college in nearby Riverside. As a college student, she landed her first PR internship, which meant driving 50 miles all the way back into LA. Despite the commute, Kang realized that she had “never felt more fulfilled and challenged in my life,” and her new career path was officially set. After working for several years with at a Unilever skincare brand, she decided to strike out on her own in 2017.
Bringing a decades-worth of experience to Glowing PR (the same amount of time she formerly invested in piano playing), Kiok started her agency because she wanted to help founders create their own story, and let it be a living, changing thing, instead of just recycling the same messaging over and over. “Glowing PR Agency launched out of a need to help brands tell their own meaningful stories to the right audience,” she said. “Creating a genuine, appreciative, and professional company culture was at the forefront of my mind. We offer a completely bespoke service that’s specifically tailored to the client’s goals and messaging.”
Glowing PR doesn’t just take on any clients, but only those they feel they can actually make a difference for — and whose values align with their own. “We take our time to onboard clients because we want to ensure that their goals are not just ones that align with our capabilities, but can also be achieved successfully,” Kang explained. “There’s power in saying yes and onboarding a client, but we believe in clear communication and expectations from the start to do the best possible job.”
Instead of prioritizing quantity, Kang always tends to go for quality. Perhaps it’s a holdover from her days as perfectionist piano student, but in her mind, taking on a client whose needs don’t match what she can provide would be pointless. At the same time, she sees real value in the products and companies that Glowing Agency works with, dismissing the way beauty, fashion, and PR itself are waved off as flippant or shallow.
As a Korean-American woman, Kang has a unique perspective on how beauty has been written off as frivolous and vapid in the Western world. “Some misconceptions about working in beauty is that it’s frivolous,” she said. “That’s not true at all — it’s a reflection of how you feel about yourself, your self-confidence, and oftentimes an unspoken language to everyone you interact with. Just as fashion is a mode of expression, skincare and makeup application can absolutely help you express yourself as well.“
When viewed through this lens, makeup and skincare are not some insipid activity to be ashamed of participating in, but tools for creating the best and most authentic representation of the self. That idea of integration is what powers Kang as she continues to grow Glowing PR into their third year and beyond. In her mind, paying attention to every part of the body is an integral part of self-expression, and her mission is to help both creators get on that level by helping them promote thoughtful, ethically-made products.
“There’s a holistic approach to beauty, where it’s not just about creating a beautiful base for makeup through good skin, but it’s also about paying attention to every part of the body,” Kang said. “Beauty is second nature in Korean culture. For example, applying a sheet mask every night is more of a necessity. Self-care is not seen as a luxury, but rather as a discipline.”
To learn more about Glowing PR Agency visit their site here.
Cinnamon has already featured several of Kang’s clients, including CLE’s Vitamin C Elixir and a profile on that company’s founder, Lauren Jin. Kang’s work as a female founder was impressive enough to merit a profile on her, as well, and we’re excited to continue working with Glowing Agency PR.