Beauty influencers and aficionados convened at Pier 36 on Saturday in New York City for day one of the first-ever ESSENCE Beauty Carnival. It was a fun-filled day that included demonstrations and conversations about makeup, skin care, hair, nails, and all things Black beauty. A
nd when ESSENCE Global Beauty Director Julee Wilson sat down to have a candid conversation with fashion and beauty icon and mogul, Iman, she meant business–beauty business.
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The entrepreneur and face of IMAN Cosmetics shared a plethora of wisdom nuggets, imparting the crowd with words of encouragement and the spirit of Black entrepreneurship.
“You don’t have to compromise to be invited to have a seat at the table. You can buy your own table,” she said. “We don’t have to be at the mercy of anybody. I’m fine eating alone.”
Iman came to the U.S. in 1975 at the age of 18 after being discovered by renowned photographer Peter Beard. But even as a young model, she always had her sights on something bigger. When she was confronted with the reality that Black models earned a lower hourly wage than White models, she became even more determined to push her goals forward. In a time when Black models had to mix their own foundations at professional photo shoots with big name designers, she saw an opportunity, and set out to secure her bag.
“Don’t shy away and belittle yourself. Don’t take whatever you’ve been given. Ask for it,” she mused to the crowd.
In 1994, she did just that and launched IMAN Cosmetics to address the beauty needs of Black women and women of color. And she never looked back. Now a global brand, IMAN Cosmetics can be found in almost every retailer that sells beauty products. She credits that to what she calls “grounding out” to find your customer. These days, you can liken that to social media outlets like YouTube and Instagram, which has allowed beauty influencers to build empires through their social followings.
“Know your worth. The companies are courting us now because they know we know our worth and they want what we are imparting with, [which is] the money. And at the end of the day diversity is not a trend,” she said.
“People always thought that diversity meant that we want to be included. No. We just want to be acknowledged. I don’t have to be at your party if you don’t me at your party. But when we’re talking about business, I deserve to be a part of it.”
No words have ever rang truer. And Iman, it isn’t much of a party if you’re not there.