In Conversation with Melayci Beauty Founder, Kelly Carmen Njike, On the French Beauty Industry and Lipstick for Women of Color

by Amanda Winnie Kabuiku

Melayci originates from marrying the words melanin and legacy. Combining colors and organic ingredients, Melayci Cosmetics is a range of lipsticks and lip pencils with intense pigments and nourishing ingredients. Both natural and bold, Melayci offers affordable luxury cosmetics designed to make women’s lives easier, healthier, and more beautiful. Its unique case, made of brown wood, surprises you with its originality. Entirely vegan, the products of this label are rigorously formulated to bring out your natural beauty.

Founder, Kelly Carmen Njike chose to draw on her personal history to design quality products at Melayci Cosmetics. Her path to self-acceptance, inspiring the brand story, began on a trip to the United States in 2015. This trigger marks the beginning of a whole new adventure. With a graduate degree in Marketing and Advertising, Njike consolidated her narrative in a range of lipstick and lip pencils suitable for Black and melanin enriched skin. Melayci launched in 2019 focusing on two main values in its fight for inclusion: reveal unique beauty and pioneer a message of appreciation.

 

 

In Conversation with Melayci Founder, Kelly Carmen Njike

Amanda Winnie Kabuiku: After a year behind the masks, lipstick was relegated to the background. How did you personally experience the effects of this? 

Kelly Carmen Njike: Indeed, with a full range of lip products, we were definitely in the middle of this crisis. Luckily, after the successful crowdfunding campaign we did to launch the brand, many new people were curious to discover, test the products, and overall support us. Hopefully, it helps to limit the damage. In parallel, we needed to find a smart way to maintain the attractivity of the products, and then, we capitalized on the versatility feature of the product. 

Thanks to the smooth and velvety texture and high pigmentation, our lipsticks can also be easily used on eyes as shadows and cheeks as blush. Moreover, we were proactive by suggesting looks at home for online work meetings, a romantic night in, or just self-care. It was a very challenging year!

 

(Pictured: Melayci Cosmetics Founder, Kelly Carmen Njike)

 

AWK: Meylaci offers lipsticks and matching lip pencils. Do you want to focus solely on this type of product? What does expansion look like?

KCN: Definitely, yes! For the first launch, we truly wanted to highlight Beauty by the power of color that, according to us, allows us to express a mood or a daily mindset. We wanted all women to have a Melayci product that they could bring everywhere with them. Lip products were the perfect combo to answer our goals and even much more. They are the final touch to a makeup look, more often than not, the part that you keep in mind. 

As for new products, we aim to be present in the best-challenging categories, for example, makeup for eyes or foundations on which there is a huge demand through our communities. By the way, our clients already expressed to us their needs and wants on these specific categories that we can’t wait to work on!

 

AWK: The brand promotes the representation of Black women in the French beauty industry. Do you think the beauty space in France is growing to be more inclusive?

KCN: According to me, incremental change is being made. However, there is still a considerable amount of work to do in terms of representation in the French beauty landscape. During the market study, we realized in 2018 of 200 women, 80% were affirming France was limited when it came to finding suitable products. In three years, we’ve seen positive strides driven mostly by young Black entrepreneurs. There are also many new American brands available in France that are opening the road to inclusion. There is a profound level of consideration offered with adapted products and overall representation in haircare, skincare, and makeup. It’s sincerely made and thought for us after many years of being ignored in the mass market. 

At Melayci we proudly assist the change by furthering the powerful messages of self-affirmation for Black Women. Whether it be in social media marketing or representation in advertising, those are some good first steps. To keep growing to be more inclusive in the French beauty industry, one solution would be to multiply recruitment of people of color to help develop the market. “#PullUpForChange” launched by Sharon Chuter, the founder of Uoma Beauty, largely revealed the clear gap in the lack of people of color in the Beauty corporate world. If we want to talk about intentions to be more inclusive we need to do it at all levels to be credible.

 

AWK: The events of 2020 marked a turning point in the way specialty media treat Black-owned brands worldwide. As a French brand, have you seen a change for beauty entrepreneurs? Do you feel support from the French press? Is Black beauty in France still perceived as an alternative market?

KCN: I would say yes, for sure! As for Melayci, we had beautiful exposure in the press. With an affirming positioning on highlighting and celebrating Black beauties through an empowering concept and to answer a lack of representation, I noticed that the French press was/is really interested in developing the topic. Over the last two years especially, they were looking to deeply understand the reasons for wage and hiring gaps, to have explanations regarding the delays in France vs the States. For instance, they wanted to know more about my personal experience as a testimonial and recommendations for a better inclusive beauty market.

I believe that the more we will highlight facts, the more we will generate awareness on this topic. That’s what is currently happening. I am so happy that these concerns are seriously covered widely. I hope that it will help to have a more inclusive market. We need to keep going with this positive development.

 

AWK: Why do you think Black Women, such as ourselves, have gravitated towards bold lip colors?

KCN: To simply rock and honor their beauty. Indeed, those bold lip colors are more than perfect to match our beautiful melanin-popping skin tones! When we wear bold lip colors such as our lipstick “I’M JOYFUL”, an awesome warm burnt orange, we are flawlessly embracing our skin by playing with contrasts via those vibrant colors. The results are wonderful!

 

(Pictured: Melayci Cosmetics Lipstick Range, I’M JOYFUL Lipstick, $20.75 USD)

 

AWK: I can’t tell you why, but to me, it has something to do with your story about the liberation of Afro hair. The size of our lips has long been a subject of mockery and an element of rejection for many. Your decision to pursue lipstick specifically is intentional isn’t it?

KCN: Indeed, you’re completely right. I love to talk about my beauty revelation through the wear of my natural hair. That had a clear impact on the story I wanted to write for my brand. 2016 was the year of my revelation. I decided to cut all of my relaxed hair off and leave my natural hair (which I hid for a very long time). Like many, I answered to pop cultural beauty standards and tried to avoid mockery at school for example, or even discrimination at work for example. 

That choice allowed me to embrace strong values of identity affirmation, my beautiful heritage, self-confidence, self-esteem, and pride. From then, my mission was clear. I know that in the development of my brand, I will also help other Black women to reveal their unique beauty. I plan to create products that make sense for us, full of positive values and strong messages. 

Let’s embrace what we were born with: hair, skin, lips, body, every specificity (particularly rejected for many in the past) that make us unique and beautiful. 

As I was saying earlier, lipsticks are certainly beautiful and pertinent products to answer this cause: revealing the inner and unique beauty of each woman, helps them to show and express their beauty with pride. I wanted to show diversity within the community through a variety of muses – a multitude of morphologies; lips, hair, skin tones, personalities…that is what makes us awesome!

AWK: We have always had an eye on the United States. Even in France, we grew up with African-American heroines. Who are your biggest influences and why?

KCN:  Let me quote Oprah Winfrey! I have a lot of respect for this woman for her worthy experience. The strength that she demonstrated to build a great empire despite a life that was unkind to her…She had a very difficult childhood, sexual abuse, and very little means. Her aura is simply magical. She has this ability to make us understand that everything is possible, while full of good deeds and so many years of experience in many areas (charity, representation of the black community, racism, empowerment, and more). Oprah is such an inspiring woman, a legend. She inspired me a lot in my vision and ambition for my brand.

 

(All images, courtesy of the brand)

 

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