Image Source: Danessa Myricks
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: Danessa Myricks, makeup artist and founder of Danessa Myricks Beauty.
I’m a New Yorker. I’ve lived all throughout the city in Brooklyn and in Harlem, but most of my life I spent in Queens. In my adult life, I really didn’t understand where my love for beauty came from. But as I’ve been reflecting on my life and especially my childhood, I’ve realized that my career and the choices that I make in terms of the things that we create at Danessa Myricks Beauty are because my childhood was loving at home, but not so much so outside of the home.
For most of my life growing up, I got bullied for my complexion, for being a little overweight, for the texture of my hair, and for my acne, just to name a few things. I spent a lot of the formative years in my life just not feeling beautiful or recognized for who I was and what I looked like. I always felt like an outsider. The way this made me feel became more apparent when I got to an age where I had a little more control over my own conversation with beauty. I would ask for foundation, or any kind coverage, to help me get through puberty.
My mother would go to every makeup store just trying to find a foundation shade to match me and cover my acne, and we couldn’t find anything, so the last resort was a theatrical makeup store where she found some cake makeup. It wasn’t exactly my shade, though, so I kind of looked like a coffin every day going to school. I also remember when I was talking to my mom about wearing makeup for my brown eyes. I was bussed to a different district, so it was mainly Caucasian people I went to school with. I felt like everybody has these interesting eye colors and I just had brown eyes. I distinctly remember my mother saying, “Well, if you want your brown eyes to shine, just wear blue eyeliner.” I’m still obsessed with blue eyeliners to this day because of it. At that point, I realized how much color can impact the way you feel about yourself, your style, and your features.
I held onto all of that, so when I had the opportunity to really participate in this conversation about beauty with the creation of my brand, I remembered all of these moments and used what I was creating and what I was doing as an artist to be the antidote to what I experienced growing up.
When I was around 30 years old, I was working at a publishing company, and it happened to publish Black hair magazines. I was working in the sales and marketing department selling photo shoots, but the company would hire a makeup artist and photographers for each shoot, and I remember them all just seeming so beautiful, energetic, and happy with the freedom of their lifestyle. It was very intoxicating. I was just that boring girl in the corner, the nerdy girl watching all these dynamic artists come in. But seeing the transformations that they would make – I saw the models come in and how they left was like – it made me stop and think: “Oh, wait, I don’t even recognize this person anymore.” It was just so magical to me.
After a while on the job, my boss came to me and was like, “I’m going to be changing my focus. We’re going to be closing in about 30 days.” He was giving me a heads up because I’m a single mom with two kids, and at that point, I was just working a job. I wasn’t necessarily doing something that I was incredibly passionate about. So I found myself at a crossroads. I wanted to be more creative, I wanted to be excited about jumping out of bed and to contribute to the world in something that felt a little bit more significant. I also really wanted to be free. Free in my aesthetic, free in just my creativity, and free to be in control of just my destiny. I decided then that I was going to be a makeup artist.
My experiences working with other people in beauty put an exclamation point on the gap that I knew I had a duty to fill. There was still so much to be explored around perspectives on how people wear makeup, who consumes makeup, and what shades will or won’t sell, as well as how open and daring people are willing to be with color. I felt that there were so many limitations in beauty. There were so many boxes that were created by brands or by the industry itself with no context that didn’t make sense to me, because in my world, what I saw was very different from what brands were creating. When it was time for me to create, I kept all of these gaps in the industry in mind.
When creating Danessa Myricks Beauty, my brain just encapsulated that idea of feeling like an outsider, and I specifically wanted my brand to embrace everyone. I really wanted Danessa Myricks Beauty to feel like a big hug – like you are welcome here, whoever you are, however you’re coming. We’re going to show you how to have fun and be free with makeup. I wanted everything that I created to feel purposeful, like I was impacting not just the beauty industry but also just everyday people on a deeper level.
There were quite a few roadblocks that I ran into while getting this brand off the ground. For one: I had all these ideas, and I would go to this big trade show in Bologna, Italy, to try and find manufacturers to work with me. There were a lot of people with no interest because we had no identity as a brand and weren’t being sold in major chains. They had the minimum requirements to make a product that were so far beyond what we could even think of at the time. There were a lot of labs that I would’ve loved to be able to create with, but we just really didn’t have the money or even the infrastructure to pursue them. The ideas that I had for products were also extremely different, so people didn’t understand what I was trying to create. Finding people who wanted to dream with me was so tricky. Even to this day, it’s hard to find people who want to create the unknown.
The first product that DMB launched was our highlighters, our “Enlight” powders. I purchased a camera because I wanted to do makeup and see it through the lens in order to understand how I needed to improve. What I found was that it was really hard to make the skin look like skin in terms of radiance and the liveliness in photos. When it came to deep skin tones, everything that was available looked muddy and unnatural. So when I started Danessa Myricks Beauty, the first things that I made were these ultimate life-like, skin-like highlighters that looked beautiful on deep skin tones, and I just continued to build from there, keeping the everyday makeup artist in mind.
As for where Danessa Myricks Beauty stands right now, I feel so grateful for our Sephora partnership. It was a dream that I always had but didn’t think was attainable. It’s been a big accomplishment to be there, and now I want to stay there and make an impact. When I think about the future of the brand, I don’t want it to just be a brand. I want it to be a company that makes people feel something. I want to break barriers, reinvent, and reimagine how people think about makeup. If I can’t reimagine, rethink, rediscover, or move the industry and our ideas around beauty forward, I’m not going to make it. With this, it’s also important that we are successful, and I’m leaning into that because I want to open the doors for more brands like mine to be able to participate in environments like Sephora.
I’m hoping for a future where everyone is always included in every conversation in the beauty industry, regardless of gender, regardless of age, regardless of how you identify, who you love, or what your style of makeup is. For me, the industry should be about global acceptance. I wish for a day where every conversation doesn’t have to be about why certain brands don’t include groups of people when they launch these magical products.
Overall, though, I just hope that people see my journey and see possibilities for themselves. That’s my biggest wish. Whether it’s someone consuming beauty who sees possibilities for themselves in what I’m creating or a brand founder or creator who wants to make an impact and build something, I hope my presence underscores the idea that their wildest dreams are possible for them, too. I really felt like I had been marked as the least possible person to succeed, so any level of success that I have, I’m grateful for. But I’m less grateful for myself and more grateful for what it means in the future for everyone else.