Diarrha N’Diaye-Mbaye for Her Clean Beauty brand Ami Colé

Do you think beauty trends or aesthetics are overshadowing progress in the industry?

It’s a very nuanced and layered conversation because it’s hard to think about what I enjoyed and absorbed culturally growing up. Whether it’s MTV, the J.Crew catalog in the Jenna Lyons era, or the Delia catalog, you’ve seen these fun, carefree girls with their false eyelashes and straight hair and all that stuff. Not to mention how huge the French girl beauty aesthetic became, where the focus was on having clear skin and not trying too hard, and we were never really allowed to do that. It’s an aesthetic I wanted, but it wasn’t what I was seeing around me. I saw my aunts, and my mom wear the classic red lip and the classic red nail polish and press up their hair every Sunday. And seeing how important esthetics was to her routine, I didn’t see that being repeated outside of my home. I feel like we, especially black culture, when it comes to the clean girl aesthetic, is the microcurrent and the undercurrent of what drives it and what inspires it. Unfortunately, these little micro-trends bubble up to the top and suddenly, everyone is just looking at the surface level. No one has any idea what is going on at the root of it or where it comes from when it reaches this stage, it is very hard to detect because some people don’t want to hear it.

I remember working for a huge conglomerate and we were selling hair care products. At the time, we were creating tutorials on how to get box braids and the marketing was “how to get Kim Kardashian inspired braids”. I remember the uproar in the comments, and it’s ironic that I was working for this brand, on this team, obviously, that was part of the problem. But on the other hand, having experiences as a woman of color, who grew up as a hair salon baby in a hair braiding shop understanding the problem. I watched my team fight tooth and nail like, “No, Kim Kardashian made this popular,” even though it was rooted in a Black hair care routine. So a part of me feels that the conversation is sometimes so counterproductive because some people just don’t want to see it, especially when the influencer in question doesn’t credit it to the source. Then the other part of me is like, “Hey, maybe it’s our job to scream it from the rooftops and bring out his real DNA and real stuff.” I think everyone shares this frustration, it’s a constant tug of war, every few days when there’s a “new” trend.

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