Beauty,  Beauty News,  Black-Owned Businesses

Black Beauty Brands Not #Blackowned

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."

September 2019: Desiree Rogers and Cheryl Mayberry McKissack acquires Black Opal Beauty, prompting removal from this article.

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 honor 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. Parent company Markwins produces Black Radiance, which could possibly become black-owned in the future due to its all-black branding and marketing team.

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 four popular black beauty brands that aren’t black-owned with non-black CEOs:

Black Radiance Beauty (under Markwins Beauty Brands): Sung-Tsei “Eric” Chen

Ethnicity: American (?)

Eric Chen, CEO of Markwins Beauty Brands, which is the Parent Company for Wet 'n' Wild and Black Beauty Brand Black Radiance

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:

Black Radiance's Response to Alissa Ashley
Black Radiance’s Response to Alissa Ashley

Prestige Black Beauty Brands

black|Up Cosmetics: Lionel Durand

Ethnicity: Caucasian (French)

Lionel Durand, Current CEO of Black Beauty Brand BlackUp (also black|Up) Cosmetics

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

Steve DiAntonio, the CEO of Black Beauty Brand Color Me Beautiful

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.”

Her photo:

Flori Roberts of Black Beauty Brand Flori Roberts Cosmetics
Flori Roberts of Flori Roberts Cosmetics

On Linkedin, Flori Roberts is included among the brands associated with the Color Me Beautiful Company. Flori Roberts joined the CMB family during the late 1990s-early 2000s (source).

Sacha Cosmetics: Satyakama “Kama” Maharaj

Ethnicity: East Indian

Kama Maharaj, CEO of Black Beauty Brand Sacha Cosmetics

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.)

Blaq Vixen Beauty's "Conversation" with Sasha Cosmetics
My “Conversation” with Sacha Cosmetics

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 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!


  • Taye Nicole

    I love that you took the time to dissect and research these companies. It’s sad that in 2016 companies continue to bury the information. I remember a time where the current CEO’s picture would be plastered on the About Us page. Like you said, I’m grateful they cater to woc but we absolutely have to categorize them correctly.

    • Blaq Vixen Beauty

      Thank you, Taye! I think we beauty bloggers need to hit up these companies to revamp their “About Me/About Us” pages. Whenever I land on those pages and see that there’s no picture of the CEO or a clear timeline about the founding of the company, I immediately become suspicious. And it should never be that way. We as consumers need transparency to make informed purchases. As soon as I’m well rested, I’ll be adding more receipts as necessary. Thanks again for commenting!

  • silverlips

    Wow!! It has been ages since we chatted but I just wanted to drop a line to say Thank you for this article. Hope all is well!! 🙂

    • Blaq Vixen Beauty

      Tasha, yes, Sacha is based in Trinidad and Tobago but from my research, the family identifies as East Indian rather than West Indian. Would you consider East Indian as “black?” If the family has any other admixture that would be classified as “black,” I am disappointed that they choose not to claim or acknowledge that ancestry in interviews.

      • Dixie Rect

        I am a Trinidadian. And I can attest that the owner and the family that run Sacha Cosmetics is of Indian descent. They are a well known family in Trinidad and the brand first became locally popular in the 90’s.

        In Trinidad, East Indians are identified as persons whose family/ancestors originate from India and are racially identified as Indian or South East Asian. Whereas, the term “West Indians” is a catchall regional term, used to describe Caribbean people in general.

        Getting back to the Maharaj’s – It is also unlikely that the Maharaj family, have African ancestry. They haven’t knowingly identified themselves as having any. And very few East Indians in Trinidad are mixed race.

        In Trinidad, they will happily classify themselves as East Indian. While in foreign markets, they will more readily associate with the black cosmetics category and remain vague about their roots, because their focus is on building the brand, exploiting niche markets and grabbing some market share.

        • Blaq Vixen Beauty

          Thank you Dixie for stopping by and sharing this information with us! I keep reading that people consider Mr. Maharaj as West Indian because “he looks black” and has set up shop in a majority “black” region. But like you said, Sacha Cosmetics’ focus is to make money and if Mr. Maharaj can do that by pretending to be a black business owner, he will continue to be ambiguous about his origins.

    • Gabie

      Me too! I knew they were arabs there (because when I was younger, my neighbours were) but not East Indians.

  • Boutique Rita

    Very informative post. Thanks for taking the time to do all of this research.
    I hope I don’t sound too cynical and crude about Nikos and Carol Mouyiaris, of Black Opal, but here it is: If Carol owns substantial shares in Black Opal, and depending on how the succession plan is written, she might end up with controlling shares in the company should Nikos pass away. Carol seems like she has some recent African ancestry, so maybe that counts? Also, between her idea to create a line to cater to women of color, and Dr. Carol Burgess’ work in formulating the makeup and skincare products, you can absolutely say that Black women are the driving creative force behind Black Opal.

    Too cynical? Well, Miss Carol is Jamaican, and it should be common knowledge by now that that culture is still very steeped in colorism. Carol clearly comes from a previous generation that still preferred to identify more with any other culture than Black, and she might have enjoyed “brownin” privilege herself. I can’t help but put that out there, especially given the bluntness with which Black Opal issued a statement (I believe it was them, in December 2015) that they never claimed to be black owned. Maybe I’m reading into it too much, but it sounded like it was more than just a factual correction. It sounded a lot like the way Shea Moisture has unapologetically been distancing itself from Black women. It wouldn’t annoy me at all, but it was Black women who have brought attention to their brands. Yeah, you had a few white mothers who picked up their products for their biracial kids or Black adopted kids, and other mixed-heritage women are coming around, but it’s been 20-plus years. We kept them going before they blew up and attracted Mitt Romney’s capital.

    So, Black women are still the driving force behind Black Opal, from the corporate suites to Main Street. One more icky remark from them like that, though, and they can forget my dollars. Let’s see how them and Shea Moisture deal with Iman, AJ Crimson and Vera Moore, coming for their dollars. Also, Bobbi Brown knew from Day One that Black models were being underserved on the runways, so she was one of the early mainstream beauty brands to make a conscious effort to mix colors for them. With competition like that, go for clarifications and rephrasing not open disrespect.

    • Blaq Vixen Beauty

      Rita, I do understand your reasoning; in fact, I would agree with you that should Nikos pass away, it would be logical for Carol to be the succeeding CEO since she is one of the original founders. However, since Nikos’s company, Mana Products, Inc., is the parent company of Black Opal Beauty, would Carol therefore be the new CEO of Mana Products, Inc. in the event of his death or does he has someone else in mind to succeed him? I can see if Carol still had her BioCosmetics Research Lab company separate from Mana Products, Inc. It seems that Mana superseded BioCosmetics Research to become the parent company of Black Opal Beauty. So with that said, I would like to know what Carol’s official role is at Mana Products, Inc. since she no longer has her own company separate from her husband?

  • DaBe

    Thank you so much. I’m buying black ONLY. My mom told me today Black Opal is not owned by someone of color. Should of known better,these brands are in large chain stores.

  • Amber Spryng

    Great post!!!! Can you do one about black owned beauty products from foundation to lip color? I know you have a post for highlighters but it would be great to have a list of the companies that are actually black owned.

  • Jaelynn

    Interesting article.. I love the fact that you really dug up somethings about these so called “black owned” makeup brands.. I wonder is Milani the same thing..

  • Quincy Anne Moore

    I appreciate this article. I often used black radiance and I always tell my sister she should use black owned cosmetics and now I feel really silly lol. Looks like I’m going to try some of the other brands out there.

    • Lakish Campbell

      Quincy, you know it happens to the majority of us. I think we as black people are conditioned to see brands as black-owned because of certain keywords these companies use. And then when we dig beyond the tagline, the logo and the “About” page, that’s the only time we discover that someone else is profiting from the African-American beauty experience. There needs to be a movement demanding that these beauty brands revealing who the owner(s) are, the CEOs, the CFOs, etc. If we as a demographic are keeping these brands relevant in the stock market, we deserve that courtesy as consumers. Thank you for visiting and commenting!

  • karen

    JUVIA’S PLACE. I’ve never been so disappointed by a company in my life.
    Their customer service is terrible. If you end up with a defect product
    you’re basically stuck with it as you’d have to pay for shipping just
    to return it. They don’t even email me back. I spoke to them in live
    chat and they said I’ll only get a refund when it’s in their hands but
    they can’t even email me back how do I know that I’ll even receive this
    refund. I ended up paying extra charges that they DO NOT let their
    customers know about. I paid for delivery charges already, and when I went to
    post office to pick up my palette I had to pay another 15$ that they don’t let you
    know about. So I ended up paying a lot more then I was told for
    shipping. They claim they offer various shipping companies yet they
    choose the one where it benefits them the most causing you to get
    unknown charges if shipped internationally. They do not try to
    accommodate their customers in any way. No reimburse for extra charges,
    no discount, no offer of refund, nothing. They don’t care if you have
    pictures of the product or receipts. This company is only in it for the
    money. They don’t care about keeping their customers but they’ll keep
    that paper doe. I will never purchase from this company again. There
    goes my money down the drain.

    Side Note**
    I read an interview
    with the owner of Juvia’s Place. She is FULLY AWARE of her poor
    customer service yet SHE DOES NOTHING about it. Instead she chooses to
    play the victim about race and such when she received backlash for her
    customer service.

    I’ve done more than enough research about how
    much of a fail this company is. And I am never one to complain. I just
    want people to be aware of what’s going on. And how they could possibly
    be effected.

  • Autumn T

    I love this research! While I try to buy black owned makeup every chance I get, the only specific company I buy from is Black Radiance because it has very affordable foundations that are also great quality. Everything else is black owned dollar makeup boutiques from instagram.. if black owned makeup companies had affordable makeup that didn’t break my bank and stays in my monthly budget, I’d buy from them in a heartbeat.

  • Su B.

    East Indian and West Indian people are descendant of African peoples. The Caribbean chain was an integral point in the slave trade and thus a population of the slaves that ended up in the Continental United states had either transported through or slaves that were sold or traded in the Caribbean. While there rampant colorism still exists, West and East Indians identify as black people. We share the same struggles as black Americans, and the same residual struggles of the effects of slavery if not in some cases very much amplified. So in response to the ethnicity Jamaican and Trinidadians on this list we are Afro-Caribbean or yes, Black!

    • Blaq Vixen Beauty

      Su B., I do agree that Jamaican is black. I never said Black Opal Beauty’s founder was not black. However, her husband, who owns her brand under his parent company, is not. He is Greek. I’m specifically focusing on who owns Black Opal Beauty now and its CEO, not who founded the brand. Also, Sacha Cosmetics’ founder/owner doesn’t identify as Trinidadian, and while you see people of East Indian descent as black, I do not. Additionally, I have read comments elsewhere that he along with his family do not identify as Trinidadian nor do they identify as Afro-Caribbean, as you mentioned. Who are we to say otherwise? However, if I am wrong, why doesn’t he outright claim his African ancestry? Why doesn’t his daughter? Are they ashamed to acknowledge this? There is some transparency needed here and preferably from the owner’s own mouth.

      • Su B.

        I respect your opinions. There’s still so much black stigma and colorism that goes on in the Caribbean that most people I think would be surprised that these attitudes have existed and are strongly perpetuated for so long. But they are very much alive and well. So I’m not at all surprised that theywould deny their blackness. In the Caribbean the closer you are to whiteness the better so so many people outright deny it.

        • Blaq Vixen Beauty

          Do you still feel comfortable supporting Sacha Cosmetics knowing they deny any semblance of blackness they have (if they have any at all seeing as the Maharaj family isn’t originally from Trinidad and Tobago)? Should black women still support them?

  • Betty Okpo

    Girl you did some digging ,excellent article ,we black folk need to create are own brands instead of waiting on others to do it

  • NYC Gal

    The problem I have with these non-black people who target black women consumers is that they have to put black women at the executive level. There should have been black women in the second, third etc position after the non-black CEO!

    • Lakish Campbell

      I agree. We saw what happened with SheaMoisture once people started researching Linkedin. The majority of the executive positions within the company were occupied by white women.

  • Adrianne Bryant

    Thanks for the information and research. It’s not easy so I appreciate you taking to time to keep us up to date woke.

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