These Are the Black Beauty Founders Transforming the Industry

From celebrities like Rihanna to Tracee Ellis Ross and Gabrielle Union to history-makers like Pat McGrath and Briogeo founder Nancy Twine, read about the Black beauty founders redefining the industry.

By Alyssa Morin Jun 19, 2023 10:00 AMTags
Watch: Celebrity Beauty Brands: Rihanna, Selena Gomez & More

"I wanted everyone to feel included," Rihanna once said about debuting Fenty Beauty. "That's the real reason I made this line."

There's no denying the Grammy winner re-shaped the beauty industry in 2017 when she launched 40 foundation shades—completely unheard of at the time—that catered to everyone, especially those with deeper skin tones.

"Makeup is there for you to have fun with," Rihanna said in a press release at the time. "It should never feel like pressure. It should never feel like a uniform. Feel free to take chances, and take risks, and dare to do something new or different."

Her push to transform the industry made other brands expand their complexion ranges, a change now known as the Fenty effect, and also inspired a wave of experimental makeup as she released bold highlighter shades (hello, Trophy Wife!), long-lasting liquid lipsticks and playful eyeshadows.

But Rihanna isn't the only Black beauty founder to set new trends into motion.

Black Beauty Influencers You Should Follow

Celebrity makeup artist Danessa Myricks launched her namesake brand in 2015 and has made it her mission to represent the unrepresented.

"I need people to feel like they can come to us and feel good and see that there's something that represents them," she told Fashion Magazine in 2021. "As I'm creating, I'm always thinking about the people who are unseen, the ones who no one's championing and no one's creating for, because I know how it feels to not even be a thought in someone's mind."

Getty Images; Melissa Herwitt/E! Illustration

And who could forget about the history-makers that have broken barriers and opened the doors for others?

We're talking Pat McGrath, who became the first makeup artist to be awarded Dame of the British Empire, and Briogeo founder Nancy Twine who was the youngest African American woman to launch a collection at Sephora in 2014.

Keep scrolling to read more about the awe-inspiring Black beauty founders changing the game.


Rihanna revolutionized the beauty industry with Fenty Beauty, launching 40 foundation shades in 2017. Brands soon followed suit, releasing more inclusive shade ranges, which became known as the Fenty effect.

"Makeup is there for you to have fun with," she said in a press release at the time. "It should never feel like pressure. It should never feel like a uniform. Feel free to take chances, and take risks, and dare to do something new or different."

She continued, "I wanted everyone to feel included. That's the real reason I made this line."

The singer has also pushed the boundaries with Fenty Skin, which offers moisturizers, body lotions, toners and more, and has Fenty Hair on the horizon.

Gabrielle Union

The Bring It On actress decided to share her beauty secrets with the world after she re-launched Flawless by Gabrielle Union, a haircare line in 2020. 

"When I first launched, it was not Black-owned—it was Black-fronted—and it showed," she shared with Refinery29 about her missteps with her line's initial 2017 debut. "We were not accessible. We were not affordable. We did not lean into new innovation and better ingredient stories or healthy hair."

But Gabrielle learned from her past mistakes, noting she's leading with more transparency.

"What we underestimate with our consumers is the appreciation for honesty," she said. "It's like, 'Don't bullshit us. We get enough bullshit from everywhere else.' The truth is always a nice surprise, especially from businesses that you truly want to support."

Pat McGrath

Legendary makeup artist Pat McGrath is the mastermind behind a multitude of memorable runway looks from the past two decades. And she gave beauty devotees the tools to paint their own canvas with the 2015 launch of her eponymous brand.

"Makeup is about self-expression," she exclusively told E! News in April 2021. "When I was younger, it was nearly impossible for me to find the right shade of foundation. This was literally the reason I created my brand."

For Pat, who made history as the first makeup artist to be awarded Dame of the British Empire in December 2020, "It was important to create products and colors that would work on everyone," she added. "No matter your age or skin tone. I donʼt release anything that doesnʼt perform to the best of its ability and celebrate diversity."

Sharon Chuter

UOMA Beauty founder Sharon Chuter is the definition of a leader. The former LVMH executive left her high-level position to shake up the beauty space with her brand's 2019 debut.

"In the journey to break this proverbial glass ceiling," she told Yotpo in 2020, "I had to lose everything that was me. And so my journey to UOMA beauty was one of reclaiming my identity, reclaiming my person, confronting my own biases, understanding the consequences of my biases and submitting myself to become a tool for change."

In the summer of 2020, she broke barriers once more with the nonprofit Pull Up or Shut Up for Change, which prompted brands across all industries to evaluate how they were helping the Black community within and outside of the workforce.

Monique Rodriguez

TikTok-favorite Mielle Organics, founded by Monique Rodriguez in 2014, is more than just a haircare brand.

"It's about igniting that flame in that little girl that's sitting at home watching on social media [and seeing] Monique Rodriguez doing something historical," she told CNBC in December 2022 about building an online community. "So she can come behind me and shatter the next glass ceiling."

She added, "Success is not owned, it's rented—and rent is due every day. Don't get complacent, don't get comfortable, and never feel like you 'made it.'"

Though, with Mielle, now worth more than $100 million—we'd argue Monique has made it.

Alicia Keys

The Grammy winner redefined beauty norms when she vowed to stop wearing makeup in 2016. Four years later, she set another standard in the industry with Keys Soulcare by focusing on the wellness aspect of a beauty routine. Her debut line in 2020, dubbed the first ritual by the brand, featured three key products: a moisturizer, a facial roller and a candle. Each item, embossed with its own affirmation, was designed for the purpose of self-care.

"I believe beauty is not being afraid to love on yourself," Alicia told Oprah Daily at the time. "To value and uplift yourself, and have the result shows from the inside out."

She added, "This is not a bunch of products to sell; it's a state of mind, and our offerings help to remind us to connect more deeply with ourselves."

Ron Robinson

Ron Robinson is the real deal when it comes to formulating effective skincare. The cosmetic chemist, who has more than 20 years of experience, previously worked for top brands like Revlon and Clinique until he decided to come out with his own line: BeautyStat.

According to the brand's site, Ron formulated "the world's first 20% vitamin C serum," which is no small feat considering the ingredient has a reputation for being an unstable molecule.

"We found a way to stabilize pure vitamin C," he told InStyle. "We tested the concept of us launching a brand with our own consumer database. After I got back the independent clinical testing results which turned out to be amazing, I immediately said, 'This is a breakthrough.' And right there, the brand and product was born."

Nancy Twine

After seven years working in finance at Goldman Sachs, Nancy Twine decided it was time to move onto a new adventure—making history. Creating Briogeo in 2014, she became the youngest African American woman to launch a collection at Sephora

"I was inspired by stories my mom would share about my grandmother making homemade remedies, and at a young age I learned how to make my own hair, skin, and body care remedies alongside my mom," Twine recalled in an interview with Goldman Sachs. "These childhood memories ultimately inspired me to do something greater with the passion for creating and start my own clean beauty line."

And even when she faced obstacles, she reminded herself of her dream.

"I remained confident in my vision and always kept going," she said. "Being a woman is never the downfall, it's the icing on the cake."

Lisa Price

For decades, Lisa Price's uber-successful brand Carol's Daughter has been a holy grail for people with natural hair textures. After whipping up the beauty products in her Brooklyn kitchen, Lisa decided to launch the brand in 1993.

"I was natural and I knew a lot of naturals," she told InStyle in September 2021 about her brand's inception. "I knew that we were not the norm, but I knew we were out there and at first, I felt there just wasn't enough variety. What existed all had a certain look, feel, message, scent, package, etc."

She continued "It lacked fun and whimsy. I wanted my products to serve a purpose, deliver benefits, but also make you feel pretty, smell good, and make you smile."

Melissa Butler

"Don't hide your Blackness," Lip Bar founder Melissa Butler proclaimed to Essence in February 2022. "Don't be afraid to use your voice, because the reality is, only a Black person can use it effectively. By telling your story, you're also identifying a piece of the market that still has the opportunity for growth."

That mindset has helped Melissa create an award-winning brand, which offers everything from power-packed lipsticks to diverse foundation shades. And even after she was rejected on Shark Tank in 2015, she never stopped believing in her vision. Last October, she secured $6.7 million in funding, which is now sold in thousands of stores nationwide.

Diarrha N'Diaye-Mbaye

Ami Colé founder Diarrha N'Diaye-Mbaye entered the beauty space in full force in 2020 by celebrating melanin-rich skin with tinted concealers, lip oil treatments and more.

"I wanted to provide the basics for people of color," she told Vogue in 2021. "Beauty is all about perspective. It's all about what you feel is best for you and not about what others think that is."

But Diarrha, who named her brand after her Senegalese mother, has always been destined to work in beauty. "It was interesting being raised in a salon," she shared of her mom's braiding salon. "So to be there and witness that growing up has always been a part of me. I've always been obsessed with hair and beauty because of it."

John Legend

John, who is known for his ageless skin, is finally helping others achieve the same results with his new skincare line, Loved01. The singer explained that he wanted to provide affordable, yet effective skincare products for people of color.

"Far too often, those skin types are ignored or understudied, under-researched when it comes to developing and formulating skincare products," he exclusively told E! News in February 2022. "And so, we all felt that was a gap that needed to be addressed and that we could create a new product whose mission was to address that gap and to do it in a way that was really accessible and affordable for people."

Tracee Ellis Ross

"Patten was 10 years in the making," Tracee Ellis Ross revealed to Marie Claire in 2021 about her haircare line. "I wrote my first brand pitch in 2008 when Girlfriends finished. It's taken me that long because the gatekeepers and decision-makers of the beauty world did not understand the magnitude, importance, beauty, breath, and consumer dollars of the curl community."

She continued, "This is made from the heart of a woman who is honored to be a part of this community. This is 20 years of dreaming, digging in my hair, and thinking about what I was longing for."

Now, the actress has not only released award-winning products but recently created Pattern's first hair tool—a blow dryer the brand said on its site is designed for "curlies, coilies and tight-textures."

Taraji P. Henson

When the Empire actress couldn't find the right products for her hair, she made them herself.

"I started TPH by Taraji out of necessity," she said in an interview with Popsugar in February 2022. "I was wearing a lot of protective styles while I was at work and needed a solution to ensure I was taking care of my hair and scalp while in braids or under a wig or weave. I didn't see anything in the marketplace, so I created it."

She also hopes that her beauty brand will act as a form of self-care, telling People in 2021, "The hair's an extension of you and of your beauty."

"You should enjoy taking care of yourself. It shouldn't be a hassle," she noted. "And that's what we're trying to accomplish with this line."

Danessa Myricks

Celebrity makeup artist Danessa Myricks launched her eponymous brand in 2015 and has been transforming the industry from the inside out.

"I need people to feel like they can come to us and feel good and see that there's something that represents them," she told Fashion Magazine in 2021. "As I'm creating, I'm always thinking about the people who are unseen, the ones who no one's championing and no one's creating for, because I know how it feels to not even be a thought in someone's mind."

She added, "People use makeup to say who they are, to say what's in their heart. Danessa Myricks Beauty is always going to be that heart place."

Shontay Lundy

Black Girl Sunscreen founder Shontay Lundy changed the game in 2016 when she introduced an SPF that didn't leave a white cast on deeper skin tones. But her mission hasn't stopped there, as she has debunked the myth that melanin-rich skin can't get sunburned or skin cancer.

"There were no sunscreen brands that spoke directly to me and no brand made it their business to connect with me," she told InStyle. "That is what was lacking. I was never ever taught about sun safety and did not have viable options to protect my skin. If I felt this way, I was certain others felt this way as well."

She gushed, "It is extremely heartwarming to see more Black people staying moisturized and protecting their skin from the sun."


In September 2022, the "Goodies" singer introduced her skincare brand, OAM—an acronym she created for the phrase "on a mission"—that offers five clinical-level products with vitamin C. And before she debuted her brand, she tested her products on 96 women of various skin tones.

"I would say this is truly a missing piece in skin care today," she told Allure last August. "These products are for all skin types, so that's why we wanted to do [the clinical testing] with every skin tone." 

Ciara also enlisted the help of her long-time makeup artist Yolonda Frederick-Thompson, Rhode Island-based, board-certified dermatologist Tiffany Libby, former Sally Beauty executive JC Johnson and cosmetic chemist Maha—to help bring an easy, one, two step skincare routine to people's home.

Jackie Aina

Jackie Aina is known for posting honest reviews and sharing easy-to-follow techniques. And after partnering with several big name beauty brands, she decided it was time to branch out and create her own empire with FORVR Mood, a line of luxury candles.

"I created FORVR Mood for those who love what I do and want to try the things that I recommend on a daily basis that aren't necessarily makeup related," the OG beauty YouTuber explained to Business Insider in 2020. "The process of testing, pivoting, testing and pivoting seemed endless but we finally nailed formulas, materials, packaging, and branding."

As she put it, "Each product exudes a part of me."

(This article was originally published on February 8, 2023 at 3 a.m. PT)

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