Josephine Pearl Lee, the model better known as Princess Gollum, was riding high off a year of professional wins — including a coveted gig walking Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty show — when her doctor told her to quit smoking. “I was going through some health things, which turned into a health scare. It was my first one, so it hit really, really hard,” she says. “That was my sign, knowing that I needed to figure this shit out.”
Lee began exploring her options, but nothing stuck. A long time cigarette smoker, she also used vapes and e-cigarettes, products that make it easy to consume substantially more nicotine without the hassle of going outside. “That made it almost impossible for me to quit cold turkey,” she says. Lee considered prescription medication, but that felt daunting. So she headed to her local CVS for nicotine patches, lozenges, and gum. “[The] section said ‘Smoking Cessation.’ What does that even mean? It felt really outdated — like Band-Aid version 1.0.”
Instead of giving up, Lee took the opportunity to create a better solution for smokers like herself. On a photoshoot for pimple patch purveyor Starface, she pulled founder Julie Schott aside and pitched Blip, a brand that would make young people feel good about quitting.
“The feelings I was getting for wanting to quit were rooted in shame and guilt,” Lee says. Schott, the entrepreneur who flipped the script on breakouts with her playful line of star and Hello Kitty-shaped zit stickers, agreed that smoking cessation — a largely impersonal, sterile space — was due for revamp, and connected Lee with product and brand development maven Alyson Lord.
Lee’s vision immediately resonated with Lord, now Blip’s president. A cigarette smoker for 17 years, Lord had her own history of unsuccessful quit attempts. As she and Lee began bringing Blip to life, weathering their nicotine cravings together, the two quickly identified what was missing from the smoking cessation market: a sense of community.
“It’s more than just the drug facts on the side of the box,” says Lord, who hasn’t regularly smoked in nine months. It was important that Blip not only offer nicotine gum and lozenges in brightly colored boxes — a far cry from the blandness Lee encountered at CVS — but also build a base of like-minded quitters, both online and IRL.
In addition to sharing educational resources from Blip’s Head of Medical Affairs, Mark Rubinstein, the brand’s Instagram encourages followers to share their stories. Blip will also roll out a supportive text messaging program for anyone who purchases its products. And using a social platform called Geneva, customers will be able to find and connect with each other online.
“We also want to show up in real life,” Lord says. Prior to launching this summer, the brand toured with Paramore. “We co-branded a truck that went to 20 cities around the country. We were able to connect with people, help them understand Blip, and get some cool merch.” In addition to the return of the Blip trick, customers can look forward to regularly programmed nightlife activations — namely with Emo Night Brooklyn, a monthly emo and pop-punk music party. “We are going to wreak havoc in a healthy, positive way,” Lord says.
Blip is bursting onto the scene as a growing number of young, “sober curious” customers turn to zero-proof beverage brands like Ghia, Seedlip, and the Bella Hadid-endorsed Kin as they reevaluate their relationship to alcohol. While booze and nicotine are different beasts, Blip borrows from the ethos of programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, which offers a built-in community and support network.
“When they say the opposite of depression is connection, it’s really true,” Lee says. “The products that exist now fail [because] there is no communication with the people who need them. [Blip] is about learning your own personal triggers, but also knowing that you can let others in — you don’t have to do everything by yourself.”