Imagine trying to camouflage bone straight extensions into your 4C hair. That’s what it felt like to Virginia native Makeda Kalani Robinson when she was trying to apply false eyelashes that just didn’t seem to blend with her natural God-given eye hair. It was what drove her to eventually start her own beauty brand at just 17 years old.
A competitive dancer, Robinson was constantly needing to have her makeup done. Once she learned how to do it on her own, she started to learn more about the products. At just 14 she was doing brows for family and loved ones, and getting better at her craft every day. But applying lashes remained the only thing that she couldn’t master. And after many frustrating trials, Robinson began to think that maybe she wasn’t the problem.
“By the time I started to actually become good with applying lashes they just didn’t look like my lashes,” she told ESSENCE. “They were flat lashes and they didn’t look appealing. And I was just thinking, ‘This cannot be it. Let me create my own type of lash that is like our natural lashes and curls too.’”
She created Makeda K Beauty to do just that. Even as a teenager, Robinson knew that the beauty industry needed to adapt to the needs of women of color, not the other way around. Now she’s filling a gap in the market. While there are many lash brands out there, they don’t all cater to the needs of Black women, who often have curlier, thicker lashes.
Too young to get traditional lines of credit available to most entrepreneurs, she started with a round of funding from family, money she saved from working, the support of her mother, and the guidance of Arielle Loren of 100K Incubator. Robinson put together her own website and launched the brand, offering lashes that blend seamlessly with even the thickest and curliest of eyelashes in March 2019.
“You should never have to feel like you’re the problem or you’re the reason why your makeup or your lashes or your accessories aren’t matching you,” she said. “It’s the industry’s responsibility to make something for you, to make something to cater to all and truly do that.”
Makeda K Beauty offers different lash strips named after the five boroughs in honor of Robinson’s parents’ New York roots, a lash applicator, and lash glue infused with vitamins to promote growth while you wear your falsies. The strips are made from a synthetic fiber specially formulated to mimic the feel of one’s real lashes, and all products are cruelty free.
For Robinson, her beauty entrepreneur journey is off to a tremendous start. As her brand is nearing its one-year anniversary, she is preparing to relaunch, offering tutorials that have more of a one-on-one feel, and also introduce new products. She’ll also be offering consultations and makeup services to spread more of herself around the community.
“I wish I could help everyone,” she finished. “I wish I could share my discoveries with everybody. That’s what I’m trying to do now.”