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25 Aug

How Dibs Cofounder Jeff Lee Keeps Mind and Body

How Dibs Cofounder Jeff Lee Keeps Mind and Body

Jeff Lee talks a mile a minute and no wonder — his days are jam-packed.

The entrepreneur has not one, not two, but three jobs, all related to his lifelong passion for beauty and fitness. Lee, who’s the cofounder and chief executive officer of Dibs, can also be an authorized fitness trainer and a beauty pageant coach for elite contestants within the Miss Universe and Miss World competitions.

“Should you take a look at the dawn of civilization, the pursuit of beauty and fitness are a number of the earliest things we’ve within the archeological records,” Lee said, during a recent interview — a rare moment of sitting still. “Fitness and wonder are tools people use to feel higher about themselves on this planet. As a society, we feel that our standards have been unfairly imposed on us.

“I agree with that,” Lee continued, “but I believe the pursuit is virtuous and adds joy to our lives.”

By way of beauty, that philosophy has led to Dibs, the brand that Lee cofounded with influencer Courtney Shields and Tula Skincare founders Ken Landis (who also cofounded Bobbi Brown Cosmetics) and Dan Reich. The L-Catterton-backed makeup brand, whose hottest products include Desert Island Duos blush and bronzer sticks, launched in 2021 and is estimated to have sales between $15 million and $20 million. Lee declined to comment on the figures.

When he’s not running the business, likelihood is Lee is running. Or doing burpees, or lifting weights, or getting some squats in. The manager is an authorized fitness trainer under the auspices of the National Academy of Sports Medicine, a credential he earned while pursuing his MBA. “I desired to learn the science and process behind it,” said Lee, who also achieved his goal of understanding in every Equinox gym world wide— all 90 of them — in 2017. He has since added all subsequent openings to his tally and is up-to-date on all 110 locations.

Jeff Lee

Lexie Moreland/WWD

Lee was not all the time so physically minded. A self-described nerd, he entered Stanford University as an obese teenager. “I discovered I used to be in class with Olympians. They were great at what they did they usually were kicking my a** within the classroom,” he laughed.

It was then that Lee began understanding, all of the while pursuing his undergraduate after which law degrees, and training beauty pageant contestants during his spare time. Lee had all the time been fascinated by pageants, and commenced blogging about them during college. That caught the eye of a father of a contestant, who hired Lee to educate his daughter. “Miss Universe and Miss World are contests of skill, not beauty,” said Lee. “There’s a mindset that determines whether or not you win.”

Confidence is the important thing component — whether within the interview portion of a pageant, the talent section and even the power to exude assurance while standing in a showering suit in front of a billion people, he said.

Today, Lee counts as clients pageant contestants from China, Venezuela, Peru and Indonesia, in addition to Nbiha Syed, CEO of The Markup and winner of the 2023 NAACP/Archewell award, noting his specialty helps clients “get fitness into their very busy lives, in order that they’re able to take care of it on their very own.”

Lee himself works out six days every week, cycling through days of weights, high-intensity training and aerobic activities, and kinetic movement like mountain climbers, high knees and lively planking. He sleeps for five-and-a-half hours an evening, and takes 15- to 45-minute naps each day as needed.

It’s lots — and Lee wouldn’t have it another way. “I believe that as humans we’ve a fundamental urge to be higher, to be more of something and to derive your happiness from it, whether it’s the urge to check, to work out or to beautify yourself,” said Lee. “That’s what adds true color to our life, beyond just the necessity to sleep and eat.”

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