My Heritage Helped Make My Beauty Brand a Success26/11/2020
South of the equator is Brazil; just north of the Amazon River in the depths of the rainforest is Guyana; nearly ten thousand miles east from there, you’ll find yourself in India; and off the Gulf of Guinea is Nigeria. These four women descend from those four vastly different countries around the globe. Some grew up there, but they all feel a deep connection to their ancestors and heritage. And they have one more thing in common: Their culture is at the very heart of their brands.
Each of the products they have launched is a beautiful reflection of who they are and their personal experiences. In many ways, their past has become their inspiration for product designs, formulation and ingredients, and brand messaging. And when these beauty entrepreneurs pull from the rich tapestry of their cultural experiences, you get gold hair jewelry reminiscent of African relics, skin-care ingredients from the Amazon, and a spectrum of eye shadows to flatter every skin tone of the world.
Here, these inspiring businesswomen — Deepica Mutyala, founder of Live Tinted, Nigella Miller, founder of Afra, Camila Coelho, Founder of Elaluz, and Sharon Chuter, founder of Uoma Beauty — share how they dreamed up their respective brands with products that are changing the world of beauty.
"Growing up, I didn't see base colors that worked for my skin tone, partly because shades didn’t exist but also because in Indian culture fair is considered beautiful. My mother would put a lighter-tone powder on me because in her mind that was the standard of beauty. By 16, I wanted to have my own beauty line to change that narrative. I promised myself when I started Live Tinted [it was a digital community before evolving into a product line] that it was going to stand for something bigger than me. It was for anyone who hasn't been represented in the beauty industry, which as a South Asian woman, I know includes us. To 'live tinted' is to embrace your skin tone. We posted discussions around topics that resonated with me, like avoiding the sun because we didn't want to get too dark, and people from all different backgrounds — Asian, Black, Latinx — would leave comments about similar experiences. And we all had the same number-one beauty concern: dark circles. So it was a no-brainer: We made Huestick, a color-correcting crayon that can also be an eye, cheek, and lip color, and the line grew from there. We all have more in common than we know and I wanted to celebrate that and unify people."
Live Tinted Huestick, $24 (Shop Now)
"When I was a child, my cousins and I would fall into these moments of doing each other's hair while spending time together — we didn't realize it was so precious. Hair plays a huge part in Black culture and my family's hair routines were a big part of my everyday life. That family time and those Black hair moments still inspire me today. I wanted to re-create iconic Black hair culture staples, like beads I wore, and steer away from mass-produced plastic. I wanted to launch a Black-owned collection of regal hair accessories that tie my Guyanese culture to my African-American culture. Afra, [a line of gold hair jewelry], is a merge of all my worlds. It’s fashion-meets-beauty-meets-lifestyle-meets-art-meets-Black-hair-meets-Afro-Guyanese-meets-Black-culture, which sounds insane, but I did do it. And it's not only for Black people; it's for celebrating Black culture. We don't know what it was like when Africans wore gold in their hair (we are so far away from those roots), but there can still be something we have today that fits in our modern world. When you see one or two real gold beads in someone's hair, it's a shocker, and it's amazing. [And when you wear them], you feel like royalty."
Afra Hair Bead & LOC Band Bundle, $360 (Shop Now)
"I grew up wanting to be just like my grandmother. To me, she was the most beautiful woman in the world because of her inner beauty and confidence. Elaluz [a line of makeup, skin care, and hair care] is largely inspired by her. She had an incredible ability to shine light on those around her [Elaluz is Portuguese for ‘she’s light']. As a Brazilian launching my business in the United States, it was important to me that I incorporate my culture into this brand, starting with the name. I wanted people to know Brazil is not just about soccer and carnivals; Brazil has so much history and rich agriculture. In every single product, there are Brazilian ingredients. The Beauty Oil, for example, is a mix of oils like cacay, buriti fruit, and cupuacu. I grew up eating cupuacu chocolate balls and never thought I would be using it in a beauty product. Now, every time I use my products, they take me back to Brazil."
Elaluz Beauty Oil, $55 (Shop Now)
"Sundays in Nigeria were like fashion week. If you looked at a Sunday service from a bird's-eye view, it was a kaleidoscope of traditional yoruba dresses in every color you could imagine. At Uoma, we talk about being colorful. Our eye shadow palettes are inspired by three Nigerian mythical goddesses and their color stories revolve around their characteristics. Allure is for the goddess Oshun (she fertilizes the earth), with yellows, golds, green; Savage is inspired by Oya (our warrior goddess), with flashes of silver and fiery reds; and the Poise palette is for Yemaya (the mermaid goddess), with lots of blues and cool tones. We also talk about being Afropolitan. It's the idea that 'African' is not one thing. Afropolitan encompasses the culture changes, diaspora, immigration, and shifts over the last 400 years. All of this comes from my upbringing, and I'm now sharing that with the world."
Uoma Beauty Black Magic Color Palette in Allure, $44 (Shop Now)
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