Whether it's 1940s-era designers copying our Sunday church hats or Bo Derek rocking cornrows in "10," Black women have always inspired the world with our effortless personal style. But throughout history, a handful of women have taken the "style muse" thing one step further, making a culture-altering impact on the business of global hair, beauty, and skincare. From Madame C.J. Walker to Naomi Sims, these powerful black beauty pioneers have shaped the way we present ourselves to the world. In honor of Black History Month, we salute the top ten black beauty movers and shakers of all time.
1914, Madame CJ Walker
In 1905, Madame CJ Walker launched the “Wonderful Hair Grower,” the very first relaxer. Her hair company was so successful that she became America’s first Black female millionaire.
1925, Josephine Baker
In 1925, the St. Louis-born entertainer began erotic dancing at Paris’ Théatre des Champs-Élysées, becoming the Toast of Paris—and introducing the world to a luscious new beauty standard.
1945, Eunice Johnson
Not only did Johnson co-found Ebony magazine in 1945, she also created the Ebony Fashion Fair tour. And in 1973, she launched Fashion Fair Cosmetics, one of the first makeup lines for Black women.
1969, Naomi Sims
In 1973, supermodel Naomi Sims launched a wildly successful wig line and, three years later, she debuted the now-iconic Naomi Simms Collection, a line of Black beauty and fragrance products.
“Discovered” at Nairobi University in ’75, this supermodel-turned-supermogul has launched two beauty brands: Iman Cosmetics and I-Iman Makeup. In 2007, she debuted Iman Global Chic for HSN.
1993, Lisa Price
In the early ‘90s, Brooklynite Lisa Price began whipping up all-natural skin and hair care products for her friends, which soon sparked a successful mail-order company. Before she knew it, the brand became Carol’s Daughter, and her faithful devotees included Steve Stoute, Mary J. Blige, Jay Z, Jada Pinkett Smith and Oprah. Now a multi-million dollar company, Carol’s Daughter’s delicious-smelling, good-for-you products are a bonafide phenomenon—and Lisa Price is one of the most successful beauty businesswomen in the country.
1995, Alex Wek
Alek Wek’s distinctly Sudanese features always set her apart from the Cindy Crawfords and Kate Mosses of the ’90s, turning her into a star. We love her for always carrying her Dinka beauty proudly!
2000, Roxanna Floyd
In her twenty-year reign as the grand dame of Black makeup artists, Floyd’s unmistakably chic work graced numerous movies, music videos and magazine covers (sixty of which were with Essence).
2009, Pat McGrath
Called the world’s most influential makeup artist by Vogue, Pat McGrath has created some of the most exciting runway looks, ever. In ‘04, she was named Cover Girl and Max Factor’s creative director.
2011, Michelle Obama
America’s never seen a First Lady like Mrs. Obama. Not only is she whip-smart and graceful, she’s also a great beauty (with flawless makeup, always!). She’s everything a beauty icon should be.