7 Black Beauty Entrepreneurs Challenging The Fatigued Status Quo


Last year, only the 14th ever black female entrepreneur raised more than $1M in funding. Discrimination in Venture Capital abounds when it comes to women, that much is certain, but even more so for women of color.

The exact number is unclear, but of the 2 percent of VC funding women received last year, it's estimated that less than 0.1 percent of that was allocated to multicultural women.

Given this, it's almost miraculous that women of color are able to bootstrap their businesses and turn them into long-lasting and relevant brands. The funds afforded to men (and to a smaller extent) white women grant them a cushion with which to pursue that ventures, that black women are simply not granted.

Somewhere black women have found large success against all odds is in the beauty spheres, whereby business is born mostly out of necessity because of neglect from bigger brands. With this in mind, we rounded up 7 beauty entrepreneurs, proving the discriminatory VC world ignorant, while changing the narrative about what it means to be relevant for a multicultural demographic.

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1. Kayla Phillips, Foxie Bombs Cosmetics

This outspoken entrepreneur founded her business with the intricacies of the skin in mind. Since 2015, she has created products ranging from bath bombs and soap to perfume. Her line (currently on hold) is both Vegan and ethically produced here in the U.S.

Phillips told The Fader; "When I see other brands that are owned by white folks and they're using our butters, it kinda makes me turn my head a little bit because these recipes have always been ours. The homemade items and whipping stuff up has always been something people of color have done naturally." Phillips's range is completely her own creation, and made by her own hands. It also happens to be ludicrously pretty. We've bookmarked the site for when Phillips decides to let us back in on her Foxie Bomb experience.

Kayla Phillips. Photo courtesy of Nylon

2. Iman, Iman Cosmetics

Founded in 1994, this beauty brand pioneered the way for most others here in its approach to diversity. Supermodel Iman had spent much of her modeling career being asked "did you bring your own foundation?" by makeup artists, when she decided that question was no longer acceptable.

The entrepreneur told SWAAY, “If you go into a lot of cosmetic stores, you still have the ethnic section in the back. It's like, if you're a company that caters to just women of color, you're sold differently. I wanted there to be options for us." She notes that while larger brands might be becoming more inclusive, there are still more options for women with paler skin. "I was the first company to create bronzers for skin of color, to put SPF in our products, to think of skin care and technology for women of color," she says. Thus, her radical approach back in 1994 became her meal ticket, with the company now estimated to be worth a cool $25M.


3. K.J Miller & Amanda E. Johnson, Mented Cosmetics

There is no nude that suits every skin tone, that much is for sure. So two women came together last year (over a glass of pinot, no less), to launch a beauty line that would cater to every.single.lip. Amanda E. Johnson and K.J Miller created the line in the purview that “every woman should be able to find herself in the world of beauty." Challenging an industry that has been slow on the diversity and inclusion uptake is especially inspirational, when something so basic as a nude lip has been taken for granted across all other beauty lines, but for those with paler skin. Miller and Johnson's collection will blow you away with its expansive range, and your basket will no doubt be full by the time you're done on their fun site.

K.J Miller & Amanda E.Johnson

4. Miko Branch, Miss Jessie's

Miko and Titi Branch launched their business, Miss Jessie's, having spent years working on formulas to accentuate black women's natural curls. From their grandmother's kitchen, they concocted recipes that would way day turn into award-winning formulas and a multi-million dollar business. Initially discouraged by the hole in the market that was targeted haircare at the black community. People actually wanted to wear their hair in its naturally curly, kinky or wavey state, but just didn't know how. “To my surprise" she says, “it created a conversation that was favourable. It took me no time to understand that this was our opportunity to get our business back." Branch told SWAAY, that after much experimenting, it was her late sister Titi who cracked the nut, and was the key to success for their first product, 'curly pudding."

Miko Branch

5. Katonya Breaux, Unsun Cosmetics

What's most inspiring about Katonya Breaux's story is not that she raised our beloved Frank Ocean, or even that she became an entrepreneur at a later stage in life, but that she came up with the solution to a problem, that nobody had thought to address before. Breaux's approach to beauty is revolutionary. Her line, Unsun Cosmetics, was founded after she had become disparaged by the lack of sunscreen options for people of color. "Representation needs to be universal," she commented to The Fader.

And indeed her line is representative of just that. According to the brand's description, "Unsun was made specifically for people of color representing the beige to dark chocolate tones of the spectrum. The desire to protect our skin from the sun should not mean having to wear foundation in order to cover the white and gray film that presents after application."

Katonya Breaux and son, Frank Ocean

6. Rihanna, Fenty Beauty

Rihanna veritably broke the internet last year upon the release of her hotly anticipated line, Fenty beauty, and boy, was it worth it. Fenty became the ball park for inclusivity, with 40 shades of foundation and a highlighter that makes every cheek sparkle (for real). With recent reports gauging that the singer's brand might outsell the famed Kylie Cosmetics, we're very interested to see where things lie at the end of this year. With Sephora struggling to keep the Fenty foundation in stock after its release, it was most recently the line of lipsticks that leaped off the shelves, and a quick dabble into highly-pigmented eyeshadows for the singers' line. While we eagerly await the next Fenty product dump, we pause in appreciation for the brand's directionality, which earned it a whopping $72M in its first month.

Rihanna. Photo courtesy of The Source

7. Kim Etheredge & Wendi Levy, Co-Founders, Mixed Chicks

Mixed Chicks founders Kim Etheredge and Wendi Levy mashed together business backgrounds from both coasts to create a line that aims to enhance waves and curls for multicultural women. Having caught the attention of a few noteworthy celebrities, including Ciara and Halle Berry, the ladies launched to wide acclaim. Levy told Dressing Room 8 "There's not just one beauty image anymore, so we can all find something to identify with these days." To date, the pair have launched a plethora of hair products and have even expanded into makeup, with all products extremely Twitteraffordable and widely praised by the ladies of for their effectiveness and pizazz.

Wendi Levy & Kim Etheredge

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Patriarchy Stress Disorder is A Real Thing and this Psychologist Is Helping Women Overcome It

For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.

As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.

Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.

What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.

Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein

This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.

Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.

While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.

"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.

Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.

In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.

"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."