Lady M just launched a collection of melanated mannequins that are sure to make you want to play dress-up. The brown-skinned beauties are not only not ashy (if you use mannequin heads, you know what I’m talking about), but are also designed with Afrocentric features. We are talking full lips, almond eyes, high cheekbones, and, in the words of Beyoncé, “Jackson Five nostrils.”
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The mannequin heads are the brainchild of Shaneka Neymour, who also owns a hair extensions brand and fashion line. The Bahamas-native and Netherlands resident says she first got the idea after she couldn’t find one that looked like her.
That’s actually a common complaint from many beauty pros who regularly with work mannequins that aren’t realistic-looking and are often painted a weird grey-brown color. And, the hair, well, that’s another story.
So, Shaneka created her own. The first offering is Melanie (“A fun version of ‘melanin’”) and comes in three skin tones: Royal Honey, Coco Supreme, and Divine Ebony. The mannequins come with your choice of makeup levels — a natural nude beat, soft glam, and full glam — and a pair of eyelashes. The wigs also have soft heads that allow you to secure wigs via pins or wig bands pulled below the chin. Shaneka also shared that the ears and nose are soft enough to add earrings or a nose ring.
After falling in love with these beauties, we chatted it up with the rising entrepreneur to learn more about her game-changing offering.
HYPE HAIR: What inspired you to create these beauties?
SHANEKA NEYMOUR: I think back to the first moment of disappointment. I was working on my brand of afro hairpieces I had started in 2015. For my first event, I was looking for a mannequin head, and I couldn’t find one that looked like me nor one that had the right hair texture to display my products. I ended up choosing a brown one with European features. It got the job done but still didn’t feel authentic. After an encounter with training heads again in early 2019, I decided to use my creativity and resources to do something about it.
What also stands out to me are beauty supply store displays. You walk in and see the walls lined with mannequins showing us the latest hair and wig trends, but none of them look like us. You don’t really see yourself in their faces. It’s something we don’t really think about. I want people to open their eyes and see what’s around them. I want to present options and to inspire up and coming creatives to believe that they can do more.
HH: What was the process like to create your own mannequin?
SHANEKA: That was a tedious process! I had no idea how to actually get started with faces, or even with a mannequin. I started digging. Finding a manufacturer wasn’t that hard as I was already dealing with manufacturers for my clothing and hair. I started working on the face with 3D designers. From idea to seeing the first samples, it took about seven months.
HH: How did you come up with the face?
SHANEKA: I knew what kind of features I wanted. I started designing it myself, and I got help with technical details. I wanted the lips to be right, the nose to be right. I wanted it to be relatable so you could see that’s a Black woman.
HH: Nice! Your mannequins really show that beauty isn’t one-size-fits-all. How does “Melanie” fit into our ongoing conversations around beauty?
SHANEKA: “Melanie” is inspired by things/features that people often reject — whether you do it to yourself, feel it within your own community, or from society in general based on predetermined beauty standards that we continue to wake up from. Those are exactly the details that I want to highlight as valuable assets that make us unique and beautiful. Because once you accept it as it is, that reflects on the outside and becomes part of the Black girl magic.
HH: What impact do you hope to make in the beauty industry?
SHANEKA: I hope to bring a positive feeling of recognition. I want to redefine the norm and bring a sense of pride. We deserve to be seen and represented in the right way — especially in an industry where we spend a lot of money.
HH: Congratulations on this accomplishment. Do you have your eyes on anything else?
SHANEKA: “Melanie” with hair for cosmetology training. I already have the first prototype with yaki straight hair. And. I’m working on two other sizes: the medium size version with décolleté [aka a low neckline] that most beauty supply stores use and the large size bust with shoulders. I am looking to expand into more face shapes. My sister wants one with a square jaw, and [in the future], I hope to start a campaign to find the next face.
For more info on Lady M mannequin heads, visit shopladym.com.
Interview cut and edited for clarity.