Black people have brought immense innovation to the beauty and wellness industries for decades. Yet, we've historically received meager support to help take our visions to the next level. 2020's racial reckoning—ignited by the deaths of Black people like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor—magnified the lack of equality across all industries, including beauty. In the immediate wake of last year's racial injustices, countless beauty brands issued statements of support for the Black community. But, now, a year later, many have failed to back up their words with impactful initiatives focused on long-term change. However, Ulta Beauty is one brand that exemplifies what it means to rally behind the Black community.
In February, the retailer announced a new initiative called MUSE (Magnify, Uplift, Support, and Empower) that focuses on championing diversity and inclusion in beauty. Ulta Beauty is now expanding upon its movement with the MUSE 100 list. The list honors 100 inspiring Black voices in beauty and awards each recipient a $10,000 grant to help them continue making an impact.
The Ulta Beauty DE&I Counsel selected recipients with input from a panel of industry leaders: Ulta Beauty's diversity, equity, and inclusion advisor Tracee Ellis Ross, Cosmopolitan's beauty director Julee Wilson, entrepreneur and co-founder of Melanin Haircare Whitney White, and celebrity stylist Mecca James Williams.
"I'm excited and consistently encouraged by Ulta Beauty's continued commitments," Ross says. "The MUSE 100 demonstrates a significant evolution of Ulta Beauty's mission to uplift Black voices. By shining a light on these inspiring changemakers, we empower Black communities and continue the important work of fostering foundational change."
The honorees span ten categories: Makeup Magicians, Hair Raisers, Well Makers, Fearless Founders, Story Shifters, Luminous Leaders, Executive Excellency, Culture Creators, Style Setters, and Next Gen. Ahead, we asked four of the recipients to share what being a member of the first MUSE 100 cohort means to them. Keep scrolling to read what they had to say.
Well Makers: Aeshia DeVore Branch
Aeshia DeVore Branch is the founder of Pretty Girls Sweat, an organization committed to making fitness fun, affordable, and accessible for busy women. "As PRETTY GIRLS SWEAT's 10th Anniversary approaches, I do not take moments like this for granted," DeVore Branch says. "It is an honor to be recognized, supported, and empowered alongside so many admirable visionaries by a brand that adds value to our lives. I appreciate that Ulta took an active role in amplifying these voices."
DeVore Branch plans to use a portion of the funds to launch a selective line of natural and affordable self-care essentials that help active women look and feel their best pre-and post-workout. "[The grant] will also help us continue educating women of color on the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle to inspire future generations to follow their lead," she says. "We do this through accessible wellness content and events, and we also have college scholarship programs across 30+ campuses, focused on building wellness leaders for our communities and families."
Style Setter: Rajni Jacques
Rajni Jacques is currently the global head of fashion and beauty at Snap Inc. Previously, she worked at Condé Nast as the fashion director of Allure and Teen Vogue. "It means everything to be seen as a force and pioneer in this space that was never meant for me when it was carved out," Jacques tells us. "But now I know that sometimes it's not about them creating the space for you, but me creating a space for myself.
Executive Excellency: Tomi Talabi
Tomi Talabi runs communications at Pinterest and is the co-founder of The Black Beauty Club, which focuses on the culture and community of beauty. "It is an honor to be included with visionaries whose years of work have finally shifted the beauty industry over the past 18 to 24-months," Talabi says. "The Black Beauty Club focuses on community and uplifting others, so it is different for me to be recognized when our focus is to make sure others are seen. As a community-driven initiative rooted in conversation and storytelling, we will be using this grant for our content development and social media strategy. We will also continue to create more meaningful spaces in real life to share and connect with The Black Beauty Club community."
Culture Creator: Brooke Devard
Brooke Devard is a product marketing manager at Instagram and host of the Naked Beauty Podcast. "I'm excited to be recognized for helping to create the culture around beauty," Devard says. "I believe podcasts and deep conversation around beauty are one of the most impactful ways to shift culture. I started Naked Beauty because I didn't feel beauty culture reflected my experiences or the experiences of many Black women. To have the Naked Beauty podcast and my community honored in this way makes the five years I've put into building the show so worth it."
Devard plans to use the grant to invest back into her podcast and plan a live show. "There's nothing like having my listeners gather IRL, so I'm excited to be able to do this again," she shares.
You can view the full list of MUSE 100 recipients on Ulta's website.