The issue of diversity in the beauty industry has been a long-standing debate, especially when Black women are excluded from the conversation.
Beauty standards according to the media have contributed to the stigma of racial bias that still exists today, which is what motivated entrepreneur Melissa Butler to create an inclusive brand where women of all shades are represented.
Frustrated with the unrealistic standards of beauty defined by the industry, Butler created The Lip Bar — a vegan and cruelty-free beauty brand helping to remind the beauty world and its consumers that everyone is beautiful.
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“I’m determined to change the way people think about beauty and their experiences with beauty,” she said. “More than anything, I’m just determined to increase the self-esteem of women everywhere.”
Butler originally started out as a licensed stock broker on Wall Street before quitting her job and committing to her brand full-time.
She later appeared on ABC’s “Shark Tank” alongside her business partner where her brand was ultimately turned down, but she didn’t stop there. Her rejection turned into motivation which led to her building a multi-million dollar beauty line that’s become a major mainstream success.
“Hearing ‘no’ gave me more courage than I ever knew that I had,” she said. “Rejection can be something that defeats you and brings you to your knees or it can be something that makes you take a step back and be honest with all that’s around you.”
As someone who still considers herself a student to the industry, Butler believes any opportunity offered is a chance to grow and evolve as a business leader.
Despite having no prior experience in the beauty industry, the Detroit native has turned The Lip Bar into a household name with a strong call to action for more inclusion in the industry.
In the wake of the mass protests against racial injustice this year, beauty brands received a massive call out from consumers and influencers for the lack of diversity on its leadership boards.
Thought leaders like Uoma Beauty CEO Sharon Chuter — creator of the Pull Up or Shut Up initiative — stepped up for Black women in beauty to hold brands responsible for being the change needed in the industry.
Butler credits people like Chuter and Urban Skin Rx® founder Rachel Roff for fighting for inclusion for women of color in beauty. Despite many brands arriving late to the inclusion club, she’s happy to see change finally happening for brands in a genuine way.
“I’m happy that the world is coming around to being more accepting and more loving. I don’t believe that people can be too late,” she said. “It’s dangerous to put people in a box. If we want people to ever consider Black women like myself to make it easier for us to start businesses or raise money, we have to do it consciously to get in front of that bias.”
In addition to focusing on being inclusive, Butler is shifting The Lip Bar’s focus to transform the meaning of beauty and how consumers can rely on the brand to redefine what beauty looks like for all women.
“Makeup has become incredibly intimidating over the last several years and it’s become this thing that is inaccessible,” Butler shared. “What we’re doing at The Lip Bar is making makeup easy. We’re taking the intimidation out of the routines and the complexity out of makeup by making products that are easy to use and curated by complexions.”
Butler’s belief for The Lip Bar is that makeup is an added plus, not a necessity to feel beautiful. The goal for her brand is to ultimately dismantle the idea that women need makeup to live up to society’s standards.
“Makeup should be fun and not transformative – it should be the icing on the cake,” she said. “The biggest thing for us is empowerment because we’re selling self-esteem. We want our customers to know that they are the cake.”
On top of being a beauty boss, Butler serves as co-founder of The Blk Pact –a pledge of Black allegiance created to economically empower Black communities — and sits on the board of directors for skincare brand Urban Skin Rx®.
As the founder and CEO of her own beauty legacy, Butler continues to push forward as a beauty trendsetter and leader for Black women entrepreneurs.