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.
Deepica Mutyala, Founder of Live Tinted
“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)
Nigella Miller, Founder of Afra
“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.”