Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Check out my most popular article of 2015 “How Black|Up Curiously Lost Its Black Founder Fabrice Mahabo.”
This article was originally titled “Black Beauty Brands with Non-Black CEOs” (hence the permalink) but was changed to “Black Beauty Brands That Aren’t #Blackowned” shortly after publication. A peer suggested that readers like you will care more about ownership rather than positions/titles. Am I explicitly asking you to boycott these brands? No, just make more informed makeup choices that correlate with your beliefs.
Recently, I watched Alissa Ashley’s Black Owned Makeup Brands Matter (#BOMB) Makeup Youtube Tutorial. In this surprising video, Alissa uses black-owned brands to achieve a complete look. She features 100% black-owned brands like AJ Crimson Beauty, Juvia’s Place, Lena Lashes, and Coloured Raine. SheaMoisture is 51% black-owned at the time of this post. Black Radiance and Sacha Cosmetics are not black-owned at all. Black Radiance is ran by a black team that could possibly negotiate a deal to buy the brand from Markwins.
I love this black-owned beauty brand challenge, and I hope more beauty gurus participate. However, one disturbing trend I’ve noticed is misinformation. Unfortunately, too many of us think that the leading black beauty brands are black-owned. Moreover, what’s even more disappointing is that no one names the CEOs of these companies. As influencers, we have to ensure the information that we share with our network is accurate.
Here are five popular black beauty brands with non-black CEOs:
Budget Black Beauty Brands
Black Opal Beauty (under Mana Products Inc.): Nikos Mouyiaris
When you visit Black Opal’s “About Black Opal Beauty” section of their website, this is the following snippet that explains Black Opal’s history:
In 1994, three creative forces combined their passion for beauty and their joint knowledge of issues specific to skin of color to develop the groundbreaking brand known as Black Opal.
The Muse, a professional woman of Jamaican descent, who embodied the Black Opal consumer, provided the inspiration, the Chemist, possessed unparalleled expertise as a product formulator and the Doctor, a Board-Certified Dermatologist, offered exceptional knowledge and expertise. Together, they developed a comprehensive and affordable collection of targeted skincare products that would combine state-of-the-art technological advances with proven ingredients to service the unique skincare needs of skin of color for men and women.
Now it’s time to decode what this all means!
- The Muse is Carol Mouyiaris (Jamaican)
- The Chemist is Nikos Mouyiaris (Greek-Cypriot)
- The Doctor is Dr. Cheryl Burgess (African-American)
While these three collaborated to create Black Opal Beauty, only Mr. Mouyiaris is credited as the sole founder/owner (not co-founder) of the Black Opal Beauty brand (under Mana Products Inc.). The problem is, at least for me, is that instead of listing himself as a co-founder (because he needed his wife Carol and Dr. Cheryl Burgess to help with Black Opal), he put himself as the CEO/founder of the brand on Linkedin (Black Opal falls under Mana Products Inc.).
I know Carol has been credited as the founder of Black Opal Beauty in several publications since the inception of the brand. However, I could not find her on Linkedin at all. I searched both variations of her name (Carol Jackson Mouyiaris; Carol Mouyiaris) but a profile could not be retrieved.
Unbelievably, I found Carol on Intelius and the information I uncovered is, in a word, baffling. Check the screenshots:
Like I said before, if anyone ever researched Black Opal’s history (either in the past or currently), Carol Jackson Mouyiaris was always credited as the founder/owner of the brand. At the very least, Carol should be VP or some other high-ranking role within the company. Why is she reduced to a mere manager?
Furthermore, browsing through the Linkedin profiles of Mana Products employees, both past and present, I noticed two things:
- Everyone either has “Mana Products/Black Opal” for the company or
- Mana Products listed as the company with Black Opal Beauty mentioned in the summary/experience/recommendations. See for yourself.
Update: Black Opal Beauty responds on their Instagram with the following message on July 29, 2016:
If this was truly the case, how come every employee on Linkedin failed to include “BioCosmetics Research Labs” on their profile? Wouldn’t they at least put “BioCosmetics Research Labs/Black Opal” as the company if this was indeed true?
So I found the following information from Trademarkia and Justia Trademarks which states that the Biocosmetic Research Labs trademark was allegedly “abandoned” possibly due to failure to respond or late response in 2011:
Then again, I come across another document (which you can view in full here) that identifies Mana Products, Inc as the owner of Biocosmetic Research Labs:
Mana Products, Inc is the trademark owner of the Black Opal Beauty brand:
Who is behind the Black Opal Beauty website?
Black Radiance Beauty (under Markwins Beauty Brands): Sung-Tsei “Eric” Chen
Ethnicity: American (?)
If you’re looking for the founder/owner of Black Radiance Beauty, you’re not going to find this pertinent information on the company’s About Us page. Ever wondered why Black Radiance’s products cost more than Wet ‘n’ Wild? You’re not going to find an answer to that query either.
However, what I can tell you is that, according to Bloomberg, Markwins International Corporation was founded by Eric Chen in March 1984. I can also inform you that Markwins acquired Black Radiance in 2002. Check out their response to Alissa Ashley’s inquiry about whether or not they are black-owned:
Prestige Black Beauty Brands
Ethnicity: Caucasian (French)
Although my article “How #BlackUp Curiously Lost Its Black Founder Fabrice Mahabo” received over 400 social media shares, black|Up still appears on many black-owned beauty brands lists. black|Up has not had a black CEO since 2007-2008. By the time black|Up arrived stateside in 2010-2011, we only knew of Lionel Durand. Articles during this time always identified the creator as an “African makeup artist,” not Bernard Fabrice Mahabo. The black|Up shareholders appointed Durand as the CEO, while Jean-François Damour became the Owner/President of black|Up Cosmetics. Read the grimy backstory on how this all happened.
Mid-Range Black Beauty Brands
Flori Roberts (under Color Me Beautiful Inc.): Steve DiAntonio
Ethnicity: Caucasian (American)
For the longest, many of us figured that an African-American woman was the CEO of Flori Roberts. However, I assure you that she’s Caucasian! In an interview, Roberts shared why she created her eponymous cosmetic line for women of color:
While consulting for Dow [Chemical], I heard several black models discuss how they could not find make-up colors [for their skin tone] and had to mix and match. That was when the idea of a class line for black skin became my entry point into the beauty industry, then dominated by giant companies.
In the mid 1960’s, I actually became the pioneer in niche marketing for Black cosmetics, an underserved segment of our population. My husband, Dr. Craig Roberts, provided the scientific expertise because we were determined to produce quality products that would be sold in department stores with knowledgeable black cosmeticians behind the counter. That was my dream and it grew beyond what I ever imagined.
Learning on the job, I grew with it and was able to make a difference for my African American employees and my customers. We withstood competition and other challenges and, even today, the Flori Roberts brand is known as the “first.”
Sacha Cosmetics: Satyakama “Kama” Maharaj
Ethnicity: East Indian
I suspect some readers will take issue with this last entry since Satyakama “Kama” Maharaj created Sacha Cosmetics in Trinidad and Tobago. He is also a person of color. I’ve contacted the brand twice through Facebook about his exact ethnicity but have yet to receive a response (update: the social media manager of their page read my message at 3:52 AM this morning but did not respond. Again.)
Undeterred, I kept digging until I uncovered an article written by Trinidad and Tobago Newsday last year. The newspaper interviewed Maharaj’s niece Aruna Maharaj to talk about the legacy her beautician grandmother, Madame Maharaj, left behind:
“I was 13 years old when my grandmother passed away,” Aruna tells us. “I never understood how amazing of a woman she was and how significant her contribution to the beauty industry was. She became the first cosmetologist in TT and created the first hairdressing school here as well; possibly, one of the first in the Caribbean.”
As the story goes, the title Madame was bestowed when the young, simple woman of East Indian descent from the fledgling Borough of San Fernando, made her way to Paris to study cosmetology. At that time, such a journey would have taken weeks by boat.
Ramdoolarie “Madame” Maharaj, Aruna’s grandmother and Kama’s mother, was East Indian. Another publication, IndiaWest, reached out to Kama’s daughter Shivani Maharaj to learn about the company’s new storefront location in Little India. Little India is an Indian district in Artesia, California. The official Facebook fan page has its location listed as Artesia, California as well. All these revelations point to the fact that Sacha Cosmetics is not black-owned. Moreover, if there is a possibility that the owner does have African ancestry, I would happily update this post with this information as this fact is yet to be shared in interviews, etc.
Black Beauty Brands with Non-Black CEOs: In Conclusion
I do commend all of these brands for providing high-quality products for melanin-rich consumers everywhere. However, here we are in 2016 still saying that these brands are black-owned in tweets, in infographics, in videos, etc. If you love and support these black beauty brands, great! But stop mentioning Black Opal, Black Radiance, black|Up, Flori Roberts and Sacha Cosmetics when someone wants to know of any black-owned beauty brands. If I hear or read any new updates concerning these cosmetic companies, I’ll update this post. Until then, what do you make of this roundup? Are there any other brands you would love to see researched? Let me know at lakish at blaqvixenbeauty dot com!