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From VS Angels To Obama: How A Hair Tool Sparked A Hot Business

Business

Not many people can say they’ve trimmed Obama’s eyebrows and curled Gigi Hadid’s hair in the same lifetime, but that’s just another week in the life of celebrity hairstylist and businesswoman, Sarah Potempa. In the past month alone, she’s flown to Paris to style 50 Victoria’s Secret Angels for the popular international runway show, hit Los Angeles to film an episode of Beauty Coach, and traveled to NYC to style actress Lea Michelle and Fifth Harmony’s Camila Cabello.


As flashy as it all sounds, though – and as star-studded as her clientele list is – Potempa’s primary business venture is putting her products into the hands of everyday women.

“For 10 years, I was at Proctor & Gamble working as a spokesperson, and I would talk to writers and editors about how to recreate celebrity hair at home,” she says.

“I was surprised to discover that many women don’t know how to do hair, and that even their own hair is a mystery to them.”

This realization served as the catalyst for Potempa’s line of innovative hair styling tools, a business she founded with her older sister, Erin, five years ago. Her younger sister, Emily, joined the team later, and all three now work together.

Most notable in the product lineup is The Beachwaver, an innovative curling iron that rotates at the user’s control to create three different types of curls. It comes in both a consumer and professional series, and features 350 custom parts, hand-assembled computer boards, a slick clamp that prevents kinks, 360-degree swivel cord, fully customizable temperature with LED screen, ergonomic handle, customized full-length internal heaters, and gold powder-infused tourmaline for uniform heating.

Basically, it’s like the fully-loaded, fancy sports car of hair tools. And while you’ve probably seen other versions of a rotating curling iron on the market, know that Potema’s The Beachwaver was the first of its kind. Since its inception, the tool has achieved cult status among everyday women and celebrities alike, and is the recipient of numerous accolades and awards, including Allure’s coveted Best of Beauty award.

The business is completely self-funded, and clearly a success, in no small part thanks to Potempa’s passion and pride, which reads through everything she does.

“Being a female entrepreneur in this business isn’t easy, and my sister and I have been through a lot. We’ve had a lot of people say a lot of things about how we wouldn’t make it, or that we wouldn’t be able to power through and fight when things got difficult.”

“We worked really hard and we are really proud of where we are.”

To that, Potempa adds that the joy of being an entrepreneur isn’t necessarily about becoming a multi-millionaire at the end of your run, but is rather about the run itself. So for those currently knee-deep in entrepreneurial mud, Potempa says to remember to enjoy the journey, and to be loyal to yourself, and your passion, along the way.

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The Quick 10

1. What app do you most use?

Instagram.

2. Briefly describe your morning routine.

I make coffee, check my phone and do my hair. And when I’m home, I’ll get my two kids ready for school.

3. Name a business mogul you admire.

There are a lot, but I’ll choose Mary Dillon, the CEO of Ulta. She came in new and has been transforming the business.

4. What product do you wish you had invented?

The iPhone. It seems like literally everyone has one.

5. What is your spirit animal?

The dog I just got is very similar to me. He is a Gentle Giant Malamute that’s super independent, really strong, but also sweet.

6. What is your life motto?

“Leap and the net will appear.”

7. Name your favorite work day snack.

Fresh green juice and almonds.

8. Every entrepreneur must be ... to be successful.

"Hardworking, and believe in the power of the universe"

9. What’s the most inspiring place you’ve traveled to?

Cambodia and Thailand. There’s something about the colors, intricate details, and their mentality. People were living in poverty, but so happy. When you’re working so hard at something for a long, there are definitely moments where you want to give up, or you ask yourself, “What’s the point?” But being able to “live in the moment” and stay happy is something I learned how to do after visiting southeast Asia.

10. Desert Island. Three things, go.

Book on how to build a ship, my husband, and a guitar.

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Culture

A Modern Day Witch Hunt: How Caster Semenya's Gender Became A Hot Topic In The Media

Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.


Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.

That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.

Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.

Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.

Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.

With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.

The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.

Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.

As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.

Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.