The XOJET 10: Roxann Paulson, Cosmetics Executive
In her role as a cosmetics executive for numerous global companies—Avon, Estee Lauder, and most recently, Amsterdam-based Philips Crystalize, where she served as CEO and GM—work has taken Roxann Paulson all over the world. And given that she travels as much as two-thirds of the year for business, it’s not surprising that she has very high expectations of her travel accommodations. A self-professed “hotel snob,” she balances her strong opinions with a healthy sense of humor and genuine perspective. Now working as a private consultant for small firms and Fortune 500 companies, Roxann’s traveling no less frequently, but confessed to XOJET that sometimes the greatest luxury is simply sharing coffee with an old friend.
1. Growing up, what was your first dream destination?
After studying French with my high school French teacher, Mademoiselle Mart, for four years, I could not wait to go to Paris. I existed on crêpes, cheese and croque monsieur, because those were the only items I could translate!
2. Tell us about the first time you flew on a plane.
It was a trip to Walt Disney World when I was 11. I don’t remember much except for being really excited, and that was back when even a coach seat was exciting.
3. How many days a year do you travel now and what percentage is for business?
I travel at least two times a month, and one of those trips is always for business. Just last year, I traveled 215 days for business. I know because I had to fill in my expat Ernst & Young calendar for taxes.
4. When you travel for business, what’s most important to you?
If I have to fly commercial, it’s upgrades and aisle seats, in that order. In a hotel, it’s a mini-bar—I must have a mini-bar.
5. What’s the biggest difference between how you travel for leisure and how you travel for business?
Not much. Which is why I have to work for companies that value my time. I once worked for a company that put me up in a “budget” hotel for two weeks. It was grim: bedspreads you didn’t want to touch, that sort of thing. I had dinner with a friend and, trying not to be a complainer, said to her, “It’s not that I’m too good for XYZ chain,” and she said, “YES YOU ARE!” I don’t think I’m a snobby person, but the truth is that I am a hotel snob.
6. What was your most luxurious travel experience?
Botswana and Savuti Elephant Camp in Africa. When I showed friends and family where I stayed, my dad said, “I thought you were camping.” I was, but I didn’t tell them that my tent was a beautiful room built on top of stilts that had air conditioning! The staff cooked everything to order, and brought tea and cookies in the morning. It was camping—but luxury camping.
7. How have your attitudes about travel changed over the years?
Mainly that now I’m not opposed to staying with friends in their homes. As I’ve gotten older, I love waking up in the morning and having coffee with a friend I haven’t seen in a while, laughing about what we did the night before and just relaxing.
8. Most important aspect of travel in terms of your business needs today?
1. Wi-Fi. The world should be WiFi-ed, in my opinion. 2. Cute, nice, helpful, kiss-your-ass bellmen.
9. How do you spend your time in flight?
I’m lucky enough to be able to sleep sans drugs, but I do love my champagne to get me in the mood to nod off.
10. What’s your dream destination now?
The one place I’m dying to go is Jerusalem, Israel. I’ve never been and hope to meet G-d so I can ask Her what She’s thinking lately.
THE XOJET LIST
Favorite city: Madrid. It’s old-school Spain, it’s cosmopolitan, and I love practicing my Spanish. Also, since their idea of a vegetable is an olive, it’s nice not to worry about eating healthy.
Favorite hotel: Any Aman resort. They’re to die for.
Favorite restaurant: Touristy or not, I love the George, on top of Pompidou in Paris. You cannot beat the view, and they have the best filet of sole—it’s swimming in a pound of French butter, but worth it! It doesn’t get any better than sitting there with a glass of wine, looking out over the whole city.
Favorite bar: I really like local bars, like Chez Jay in Santa Monica. That’s a true classic, but it’s such a dive bar. I thought it was a strip club when I first saw it, and my friend was like, “No! That’s Chez Jay, we’ve got to go!”
Favorite resort: I’m not really a resort-y person. But just for hanging out, you cannot beat the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. You can go from little place to little place; the beaches couldn’t be better; there are ruins here, a little town there—that’s my version of a resort.
Favorite spa: In any hotel where I can have a massage and then walk upstairs to my room and go straight to bed.
Favorite museum/gallery: Anne Frank. I remember the first time I went, I cried. And who could have predicted that I would then live in Amsterdam.
Favorite publication(s) to read on a plane: My favorite thing to read on a plane is People magazine—it’s got the only crossword I can do!
Favorite luggage: TravelPro. There’s a reason why airline crews use it. Personally, I think it’s less pretentious than Tumi and just as good. I recently tried a very popular brand, and my first trip, the outside zipper broke. I don’t have patience for that!