Originally Published in South Charlotte Weekly
Charlotte native Amanda Johnson grew up going to the beauty parlor with her mother. She remembers listening to women discuss beauty hacks and trends. Johnson always loved beauty but she didn’t know she would make a career of it.
In fall 2015, Johnson was venting with friend-turned-business partner, KJ Miller, when they decided to look further into the lack of quality beauty products available for women of color.
“We both shared that we’d been looking for the perfect nude lipstick and couldn’t find one anywhere,” she said. “We wanted to know if this was a bigger problem and what we could do about it.”
The fellow Harvard Business grads took on every beauty counter and associate in New York City – where they both work and live – to no avail. They were also surprised about the lack of representation of people of color working in beauty departments.
“This wasn’t just about nude lipstick anymore,” Johnson said. “Beauty brands aren’t prioritizing us in product development, and we don’t get to participate in trends.”
Johnson and Miller saw a whole population being underserved as well as an overwhelming need for everyday beauty products for women of color. The two ventured out to create better options starting with nude lipstick.
They spent most of 2016 researching and developing six nude lipsticks that launched their line, Mented, at the beginning of this year. Without support from manufacturers, they set out to learn how to create lipstick from industrial molds and a variety of pigmentations. They invited women of color in all shades to try out their products to perfect it.
“Women of color don’t have pink or beige lips, they need a brown base for the lipstick to show up,” she said. “Before our product went on the market, I would have to use concealer, lip liner and lip gloss to create the look of a nude lipstick – imagine when I was running product development at Barneys constantly running back and forth from my desk or the bathroom to rebuild my nude lip!”
Because of the high demand, Johnson said their products were quickly accepted. It wasn’t long before online beauty influencers started wearing and sharing the products with their followers. One hundred beauty influencers have independently chosen to promote Johnson and Miller’s products. The company has also grown its Instagram account from 100 to 10,000 followers in nine months.
On top of the six nude lipsticks, they’ve also launched a lip gloss and nail polish line. She said it won’t stop there, because they plan to develop and sell all beauty essentials. Plus, every product they launch will be made in the US as well as being vegan, nontoxic and paraben free.
“Our vision is to create a global brand that provides quality, everyday beauty products and a community for people of color,” she said.
Mented – short for pigmented – isn’t just about beauty products. It tells the story of what women of color have struggled with as the image and definition of beauty for a long time. Their brand showcases the natural beauty of all women of color and gives them a place to belong.
Johnson said their line will always be about pigmented products inclusive to all shades of people of color and it will also make their story not just their own.
“Every woman should be able to find themselves in beauty,” she said. “Every woman should have access to products for the everyday beauty routine.”