Representation matters, whether it’s your local government, the food you are eating or the clothes you’re wearing. As a white woman, I am beyond privileged. Basically everything I consume is colour-coded to my preference, whether I like it or not. The beauty industry is no different, and while skincare has made efforts to become more inclusive, it still feels about a century behind.
Bella Aura aims to change that. Inspired by the BLM movement, Bella Aura founder Yasmine Jones was charged up for change, but not self-serving phoney displays of well-timed allyship. They wanted to make a serious commitment to being part of a new future of black-led beauty products. Yasmine set out to learn about these inequalities. Along the way, she developed a few friendships, specifically with a talented beauty content creator, enter Funmi Monet.
Aligned on more than just equalizing the playing field for black beauty consumers, Yasmine and Funmi’s bond may have been born on social media, but it’s bred in the mindset of change. Based out of Dallas, with a global following, Funmi’s socials are geared towards an audience of women who look like her. Women who sought her out for her authentic beauty reviews and tips, so why doesn’t that translate to who makes the products?
BET ON BLACK BEAUTY
Funmi’s expertise goes beyond the blog, working at a fragrance counter in a department store in college before joining a brand as a rep, Funmi was hands-on and knew what people wanted. Following trends and setting them are two different things, but her approach was a fresh take on fragrance. “In my community online, the most popular reviewers are men, even though when you think of perfume, you think of women. In this space, men have become an authority, reviewing and recommending fragrances to people,” says Funmi. This discrepancy creates a pitfall for consumers, are we buying something because a man is telling us to buy it, or are we buying it because we truly relate to it?
“There’s just so little representation. Many black-owned fragrance brands are people making it themselves, they manufacture, design and do the artwork, you don’t see a lot of them getting that wide distribution. Even Sephora just carried their first black-owned perfume brand last month. Out of thousands of brands. And it’s 2022! There’s a need to see more people that look like you, especially when you’re spending the money.”Funmi Monet- Beauty Content Creator, Perfume Designer
When Yasmine approached Funmi to create a fragrance, Bella Aura‘s first, it had to represent their union and shared goal of reaching this over-looked audience. You want to spend your hard-earned money on something you can relate to. In the beauty industry, we aren’t all walking around like Julia Roberts so why should we smell like her too?
Instead, Funmi opted to tap her roots and the women in her life that she wanted to honour. “I wanted to create a floral fragrance, I wanted a signature scent. Something that identifies you before they even see you. A signature scent is like a stamp that you leave behind. That olfactive experience is so important, a lot of times, people associate smells with who you are, so when you smell good people have a positive association with you”, says Funmi. She is very well-versed in this space too, she’s also a licenced therapist and mental health advocate.
YOUR SIGNATURE CALLING CARD
Bringing the timelessness of Turkish rose, Funmi’s favourite scent ushers in a classic and elevated note. Roses have a long history in perfume making, so it’s fitting she chose to begin with this beautiful scent. Funmi suggests it’s something you can wear year-round, it’s intimate, and you’re not going to smell this scent from across the room. The olfactory response is a close connection, you’re invited to smell, unlike a heavy-in-your-face-smell that hits you from across the room way.
While the Turkish rose is the star of the show, Jasmine, and orange blossoms are present and uplifting. Funmi always thinks about how it feels, she won’t wear something that doesn’t make her feel good- whether that’s perfume or clothing. There’s lemon and pink pepper in the opening notes that bring a zesty bright experience. “You’re hit with the floral notes of jasmine, and orange blossom; velvety, smooth, sensual. Then vanilla, sandalwood, very sweet. It is something that makes an impression. It’s a warm inviting intimate cloud.” says Funmi.
So many of our experiences are tied to how we feel, and yet, within this industry, there’s no representation. There’s only a very small handful of luxury black-owned perfume brands that are carried in high-end spaces. Look at Nordstrom or Holt Renfrew, you don’t see them being carried. And while we all can’t drive luxury sports cars, we can spend a bit extra on niceties like perfumes.
“Perfume is something you wear every day, it should be your calling card. Letting people see someone like me, creating perfume shows that it is a luxury you can access, you may not be able to afford that Chanel jacket but you can buy that $300 bottle of perfume…” Clearly, Funmi is in good company with Bella Aura.
Interview may be edited for length/clarity. All images courtesy Bella Aura.