Meena Harris is the perfect partner for Ulta Beauty's newest campaign, "Beauty&." Through her platform, Phenomenal Media, the multi-hyphenate celebrates diverse voices and fosters impactful conversations about identity. Ulta Beauty uses its prime position as a national retailer to do the same.
"This campaign spoke to me immediately," Harris says. "At Phenomenal, we center underrepresented communities in our work and reclaim spaces that often have not been available to us. Similarly, Ulta Beauty thinks about beauty in more accessible and inclusive ways."
The "Beauty&" campaign aims to highlight beauty's endless possibilities and amplify it as a force for good. It includes engaging visuals, the brand’s first-ever podcast called The Beauty Of (hosted by Ulta Beauty Pro Team member David Lopez), and a limited edition t-shirt collection made from recycled materials. Additionally, Ulta Beauty is making a $200K donation to the Jed Foundation, a national non-profit supporting the mental health of teens and young adults.
Harris' brand is known for its empowering apparel, so it's no surprise she played a major role in the t-shirt collection. Her tan tee features inspiring words about beauty emblazoned on the front and back. Her design inspiration? "I thought about this Toni Morrison quote: 'Beauty was not simply something to behold; it was something one could do,'" Harris says. "I think beauty is a call to action, and deciding to wear this shirt sparks conversation. We always want to create apparel that creates community."
Naturally, working on the campaign has made Harris ruminate on her relationship with beauty. She says she's always had an affinity for makeup and worked as a freelance makeup artist at Stanford University. "I would do makeup for student fashion shows and weddings," Harris shares. "It was truly a creative outlet. I found power in doing it."
Though she's no longer painting faces on campus, Harris still finds joy in the world of beauty. "I am lucky to have friends—like Tracee Ellis Ross of Pattern and Deepica Mutyala of Live Tinted—who have brands at Ulta Beauty," Harris shares. "I've immersed myself in the industry and the evolving nature of how we consume beauty. Underrepresented folks now have access to an industry that was historically unavailable to us. It's been fun to explore these expansive notions of beauty."
As the mother of two young girls, Harris wishes the soulful sentiments of the "Beauty&" initiative continue to ring true for generations to come. She says she's particularly inspired by how Gen Z uses makeup to create dialogue and express their identities. "It's so amazing to see young people using beauty as a tool of self-expression, whether it's for political expression or just because it makes them feel good," she says. "Showing off your eyebrows or deciding to wear a bold lip can make you feel empowered."
She also hopes the industry continues to authentically celebrate diversity like Ulta Beauty has. "When people walk into a place like Ulta Beauty, they can find what they're looking for and discover products that are made for them," she explains. "We're seeing incredible progress, but we still have a long way to go."