Chyna Made Her Own Makeup Company Because No One Had Her Shade
While working at a makeup counter for some of the world’s biggest beauty brands, Chyna found that she still couldn’t wear the products she was selling because they didn’t carry her shade.
Tired of mixing shades or simply not wearing high-end brands at all, she saved her money and created her own luxury cosmetics line catering to women of color. The Brooklyn native built her brand from the ground up and wants women everywhere to feel beautiful and confident. Check out our Q+A for some kick ass motivation and what Chyna thinks about the current “trend” of makeup brands carrying darker toned products.
In your own words, what would you describe your career as and how did you get there?
I’ve had serval jobs over the years, but I’ve always worked in beauty. I’ve been on this journey of makeup artistry since I was 13 years old. At first I wanted to be an entertainment lawyer, but makeup was always a passion of mine. When I was 19, I got pregnant with my son and ended up getting a job at Cosi in New York. I was working there to provide for my son. When I was at the mall in Brooklyn one day, I saw this black owned makeup company kiosk with beautiful black women selling products and it really stood out to me. I went over and asked if they were hiring and one of the girls told me to come back on Tuesday.
When I asked my manager for Tuesday off, he said no and if I didn’t come in he would fire me. That was huge for me because I had to chose between a job that helped me provide for my son and an opportunity that wasn’t guaranteed. In that moment I learned about courage. Although I was young, scared, and timid, I went with my gut and took a risk by leaving my job and going back to that kiosk.
I went there everyday for two weeks straight, but didn’t know if I had the job or not. When my mom told me to ask the manager, she told me I did and that’s when I knew that whatever I want, I will get.
What void do you feel you’re fulfilling in the beauty industry?
I worked for that company for five years and started working for major brands like Chanel, Lancome, etc. It was crazy because I would be selling these products but wearing another brand because they didn’t sell my shade. I was the top seller, got all the hours, but still couldn’t wear the companies products even though I made so much money for them. I would bring so many black customers because they would see me and be like, “Wow, a dark skinned women working for this brand.” This made me [feel like] black women [were coming] to these counters, spending so much money, and aren’t even supported. I feel women of color are overlooked and underrated. So I said, “I’m going to get my money together and my knowledge up and invest in my own business.”
It kills me when people act like melanin is a trend, but this is who we are. I knew it was a void in our culture because women who look like me didn’t matter. I can’t even imagine what my mother and grandmother had to go through to look and feel beautiful because brands are just now supporting darker skin tones. We come in so many shades, it’s wild that all these years we haven’t been supported.
When you first became a freelance MUA what did you struggle most with?
I struggled most with being so personal with everything. When doors closed, I took things personal because my heart was in it. If I could tell my younger self to be patient, I wouldn’t have struggled with allowing people to understand and see my vision on their terms.
What was a difficult time in your life that you overcame and how did you do so?
Seven years ago I gave birth to my daughter and a year later her father was murdered. The world became quiet and I knew what it felt like to want to die. I didn’t understand death and that things happen to good and bad people. I lost my passion for everything. I couldn’t get up, look at my kids, nothing. I remember hearing my mom on the phone crying because she couldn’t take my pain away.
I was losing so much weight and not feeling anything anymore, and in that moment I realized that I had a family still and that tragedy became my blessing because it put a different type of light under my ass. It made me reclaim my strength and passion and that’s when the sky literally became the limit for me.
What made you open up your first storefront in Brooklyn as opposed to any other location and what has owning a storefront done for your brand?
Brooklyn is a place where I see little brown girls like me who don’t know they’re beautiful. We didn’t have anything beautiful or luxurious growing up. I remember telling my friends I was going to do this as a kid and they would look at me like I’m crazy because the storeowners in our neighborhood were whites, asians, and other races.
I want girls to know that when one wins, we all win. Brooklyn is where I learned how to hustle, where I earned my stripes. My store taught me about loyalty and how self-hate is out there. Black men and women struggle to support each other because some feel like they don’t deserve nice things; so when people see someone who looks like them doing well they start to try to bring you down. I didn’t understand it at first, but my store taught me these life lessons and so much about my culture. My first store had to be in Brooklyn because I am Brooklyn.
Do you feel that there is a difference between black owned cosmetic lines and non-POC brands, in terms of support and sales? Why or why not?
This question is so needed. It’s so funny that when I got into this industry a lot of MUAs goals were to work for MAC and I learned how they’re owned by Estee Lauder. They put us in the mall [in retail positions], but when you look at their corporate offices it’s all non people of color. MAC is powerful because they see how important influencers are and use this to their advantage without having to do much. So they send these black YouTubers and beauty influencers products because they see how happy we become when someone from our community gets on.
They see how social media influences so much and now they’re realizing our power. Like how ABH has a chestnut shade, but where was this shade five years ago? I want black people to realize that these major brands aren’t really for us, they just act like it for sales. I wish I had more money to do all the things I want because we have to work extra hard to get half of what they have. I know for a fact my products stand right beside all these major brands.
Where would you like to see yourself and your brand in the next year?
My plan is that all women of color can literally find something in Dollhouse that makes them feel beautiful and special. I don’t wanna be in major stores, but I want to have storefronts all over the world, in places where kids are still being called ugly because they have dark skin. I want my stores in places that ain’t shit. Places they call the slums. I want to make my people feel better.
What’s something you want your supporters to know about you that they can’t learn from your social media?
I want people to know that I’m a God fearing woman who has been through hell and back. I’ve survived abuse and tragedy. I want women to know that I’ve struggled and made some and lost some, and am no different from anyone else. I know that it gets greater later and that makes me never quit. To all women reading this, be patient, understand timing, know your power and live your life to it’s true potential.