How One Woman's Experience With Colorism Catalyzed a Beauty Empire
Too often, the best beauty stories go Untold, solely based on a person's skin color, religion, gender expression, disability, or socioeconomic status. Here, we're passing the mic to some of the most ambitious and talented voices in the industry, so they can share, in their own words, the remarkable story of how they came to be — and how they're using beauty to change the world for the better. Up next: Kim Roxie, founder and CEO of LAMIK Beauty and licensed esthetician.
I grew up in Houston, and as a child, I was surrounded by a culture in which colorism was evident. Attitudes regarding beauty in music, pop culture, and just around where I grew up, were very much skewed towards the idea that lighter skin was just prettier. My parents protected me and my sisters, raising us to know that dark skin is beautiful. So, I knew that the "light is right" attitude wasn't true. But that messaging was pervasive, and it had a tremendous impact on me.
When my parents took me to Atlanta to tour colleges, I saw so many Black folks who were loving each other out loud, regardless of skin tone. I knew then that I had to get there somehow. So, I chose to go to school at Clark Atlanta University. While I was there, I needed to get a job because I couldn't afford to actually attend school without working. When I applied for jobs, the only place that called me back was a makeup counter. I had never done makeup before, but they were my only offer, so I had to show up. This is really where I got my first experience in the beauty industry.
After a few weeks of working at the counter, my manager came to me, and asked me what I was telling my clients. I was confused, so I asked her what she meant and she said: "You're selling more makeup than anyone else in the store. Including me." That's when I realized that
I had fallen in love with not just makeup, but making people feel good about themselves.
I was good at my job not because makeup allowed me to have conversations with people that I never would have been able to otherwise. When I was finished with a client, they usually would just buy everything I recommended, which was a plus.
As I approached graduation, when people kept asking me what internship experience I had. I could only list my work at the counter because I'd enjoyed my time there so much, I stayed there throughout my entire college career. When my manager learned about my dilemma, they suggested that I open up a makeup counter in Houston. because I had already been so successful in Atlanta. So, that's what I did.
So many experiences have gotten me to where I am now, from my chemist overhearing me having to haggle manufacturing prices down at a convention, to mentorship from people like Cathy Hughes. But I really credit my mom and my sisters' belief in me for helping me stay the course. When I went back to Houston after completing college to open my first store, my mom gave me $500 to start my business. She actually ended up passing away from metastatic breast cancer. I had very low self-esteem in addition to grieving her passing, but I had a moment where I asked myself: "Why are you waiting on someone to come and do something that you really know how to do, so well?" My mother believed in herself like no other. She would put on a full face of makeup to go to work at the post office. When I thought about her and the confidence that she possessed, I knew I could get over my fears about the process and make my own cosmetics line.
The store that I opened in Houston was my first real venture into entrepreneurship, and it taught me everything I know today. I operated it in my 20s and early 30s, and I like to say that my clients raised me. Black women were 75 percent of my customer base, so I really got to know my core audience. Because of this experience, I am extremely accountable to my consumers today: their feedback and recommendations are what keep my company operating. Because of them, I do everything with intention when it comes to LAMIK.
LAMIK stands for Love and Makeup in Kindness. It's an acronym and an affirmation.
I like to say that love and kindness are your true makeup, because I truly believe that beauty is revealed and not applied.
I wanted every aspect of my company to be intentional, and just by saying the name, I hope that people can understand that beauty is more than skin deep.
The legacy of my mother is why it was important for me to have a clean beauty line in particular. When she died of breast cancer, I started looking into beauty products and started seeing so many chemicals and other ingredients that were linked to health issues. Then, when I looked into pre-existing clean beauty lines, it seemed like "clean" was just another word for white; there were, more often than not, no colors that would match people with my skin tone. So it became my mission to make diverse, color cosmetics in the clean beauty space.
With LAMIK, I want people to understand that when I say I make makeup with women of color at the forefront, this encompasses every skin tone. Other clean beauty lines use blanket statements that imply inclusivity, then proceed to launch products that could never fit my skin tone. LAMIK understands that shade ranges for women of color can span from the fairest to the deepest of hues. Whenever I get pushback on that, I think of one moment in particular that consistently lets me know that I am heading in the right direction. A woman went viral on the internet because she created a video after going to Ulta to get her makeup done: they could not match her foundation. She was rightfully upset, so I reached out to her to set up a photo shoot and a makeover, and we stayed in touch. When I won a national beauty pitch competition, a part of the prize was being able to launch on Ulta Beauty. Funny enough, that same woman ended up agreeing to be a part of my campaign. As a result, I ended up on Ulta.com.
Instances like that one often let me know that I'm doing the work that I was destined to do. However, I look forward to the beauty industry having more color. As proud as we are to be the first Black-owned, clean makeup brand to launch on Ulta.com, the fact that we've only just broken this barrier in 2022 is everything wrong with the beauty industry as a whole. My aim in this space is to not only make the beauty industry more equitable on all levels, but also to make diversity in the clean beauty space so normalized that it becomes something that people don't have to think about, but instead, come to expect.