For as long as she can remember, Diarrha (pronounced “Gia-rha Jaye”) N’Diaye-Mbaye has loved all that is beautiful. He spent his childhood days in his mother’s braiding salon in his hometown of Harlem, New York. Yet beauty was more than just a business, it represented the “language and sustenance” of the N’Diaye-Mbaye family. N’Diaye-Mbaye explains: “If I wasn’t at the babysitter’s, I was at the store [Aminata African Hair Braiding] with my mom. “The shop, a longtime neighborhood staple, is located in the heart of Harlem’s epicenter of style on the famous 125th Street. “For me, it was some of my first experiences, seeing women do their hair, feel good and communicate through beauty,” N’Diaye-Mbaye fondly recalls.
Despite her early and frequent exposure to hairdressing, N’Diaye-Mbaye didn’t realize how much she loved the beauty industry until she tried another career path. Before founding Ami Colé, her skincare beauty line created in the fall of 2020, which she named after her mother of Senegalese origin, went to school as a pediatrician, an unusual choice given her self-described hatred of blood. After graduating from Syracuse University N’Diaye-Mbaye he realized that his true calling lay in his mother’s business and the lessons he had learned from those early days in the salon.
“My mother says the customer is always right,” convinces N’Diaye-Mbaye, who has become a new mother herself this year. “Not in a cliched way, but she’ll literally bite her tongue knowing they’re wrong. It was so important for that customer to come, but also to come back and tell her friends. ”This lesson instilled the importance of word of mouth marketing in N’Diaye-Mbaye, or essentially, in social media before it went mainstream.
N’Diaye-Mbaye, now 32, applied these lessons to the Ami Col foundationIS, using this community-centric approach to build her clean beauty brand. She has hired models from Harlem where she grew up to promote her brand and has heavily incorporated her Senegalese heritage into product development, which focuses on tinted concealers, darker toned foundation, lip care oil, uniquely designed face brushes and more.
“It’s the fabric of what we do,” he says with all his heart. “I’m an African woman, so it’s important to me that my culture is represented in my work.” That cultural representation included everything from the models she uses to the music she listens to (she loves afrobeat) and wants others to experience it too.
“When we work with agencies, I give them a playlist because I want them to be immersed in the world,” she pleads. But more than that, he wants Ami Colit’s being a celebration and a safe space for black women to have fun with beauty – something that says this community isn’t always allowed to do. “With serious runway makeup, women get Tyra Banks’ approach to beauty very ‘I’m fierce.’ I’m very similar to the girl next door. “
N’Diaye-Mbaye tells a story through its brand. A story that has historically excluded darker complexions as the protagonist. But he is writing a new fiction. “When I was younger, maybe 12 or 13, there was no room to tell a black story that was beautiful,” she says. “It was always the story of the ugly duckling where a black girl would have to change something about herself.”
Fortunately, N’Diaye-Mbaye never battled the insecurities of beauty, mainly due to her father always reminding her that she was beautiful in her own skin. “She always made me feel like I was the white tiger grazing the land, asking me, ‘how rare is your skin that dark?’” And N’Diaye-Mbaye now wants to do it for others.
Having worked for VIBE magazine as the brand’s social media director in the early 1910s and for beauty institutions such as TEMPTU, L’Oréal and Glossier, N’Diaye-Mbaye was no stranger to the beauty industry when she founded Ami ColAnd. She remembers seeing women walk into her mother’s salon, live in Harlem, hang out with their aunts in Senegal and think about how beautiful they are. But despite her childhood experiences with her mother and professional experience in the industry, she still faced challenges when she started her own business.
“I’m like, ‘Why isn’t anyone talking about this? Maybe they just don’t know. ‘ I thought about going in these spaces incite change and being able to share it with them, but when I found out it was a bit intentional, I thought, “Wait, I haven’t been invited here.” I happened to be here, “he says.” Understanding this and coming to terms with it, because there is also a grief that happens when you love something so much and it doesn’t reciprocate you, it’s difficult. “
But N’Diaye-Mbaye didn’t turn her back on beauty, she just changed it.
“When I think about what I’m trying to do and the feeling I’m trying to evoke, it’s like that moment where you find the perfect match or the perfect jeans,” she says. “I want Ami Colis be that thoughtful experience when it comes to beauty. When you put on that skin dye it really matches and it’s really clear that the person who did it has thought of you.
N’Diaye-Mbaye recalls a trip to Thailand where she went to her hotel room after a day of water sports and couldn’t use the hotel hair dryer as it didn’t work for her type. “She was too weak, I didn’t have a nozzle to comb my hair and I thought, ‘What if I walk in here and all the amenities here really work for me?’ I’m talking about luxury spaces that I’m not even considered in. So what happens when we as a brand offer you a luxury experience and produce [it] accessible?”
According to Independent beautyAmi Colé is expected to generate $ 2.5 million in revenue by the end of 2022. There is clearly a market for the brand, which has already achieved so much since it was first launched in May 2021. Even with the initial success, N’Diaye-Mbaye remembers the initial rejection she faced when she launched her brand.“I knew I was prepared, but people kept telling me no,” says N’Diaye-Mbaye. “I heard, ‘you look like Hourglass’, ‘Fenty already exists’ and ‘you’re a random girl from Harlem, who do you think you are?’
It was certainly daunting: there are just so many that no one can hear, especially when you are considering introducing to 100 people one after the other in a pandemic, you have no work, no savings because everything you have is going back into the company and run empty without inspiration because the only example of success at the moment is Fenty, a conglomerate.
But N’Diaye-Mbaye kept telling himself that Ami Colé needs to exist. Blink to 2020 when Black Lives Matter struck and investors got the epiphany that yes, black owned brands [are here] and no, them I have no money for financing. “Suddenly everyone has money. Suddenly everyone responds to emails. And suddenly people are flooding the gates to invest Ami Colé “, he lists.
It’s a bittersweet time. On the one hand, N’Diaye-Mbaye now has the opportunity to turn his vision into reality, but on the other, Why did it take the murder of a black man for some people to understand that racism is still happening in America?N’Diaye-Mbaye notes that even when he is an entrepreneur ensures capital, it is still an uphill battle. “You’re still breaking down that systematic mindset, because they never trusted you,” she says. “You’re not the nephew they can trust because he’s gone to boarding school and on weekends they play golf with his dad and have a house in the Hamptons. Here’s a black woman alone in Harlem, trying to learn the language and understand the contract papers. And once you’re at the table, you’re on your own. “
According to Harvard Business ReviewBlack women are more likely to start their own businesses, but they got it only 0.43% of the $ 166 billion in venture capital funding disbursed in 2020.
“With every step you feel crazy. Even today, as you continue to relaunch and keep looking at a new distribution, you are clashing with the giants. The playing fields are not even: there are many advantages, but while we do prevail, especially black women. ” N’Diaye-Mbaye firmly. “It continues to be very challenging, but it is also challenging.”
While N’Diaye-Mbaye might be an inspiration for black women (myself included), her inspiration comes from a not-so-unlikely source. “I’m still forever inspired by the product, ”she says. “When I go to Sephora and walk down those corridors and see the new trends, I get so excited. I have an amazing product person on my team and she and I are invigorated by things. I also get inspired to do my makeup or talk to my makeup artist friends and ask them what they are working on. They say, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if you did this or that?’ and I’m excited again ”.
Thinking about Ami Colalso the future of é gives N’Diaye-Mbaye something to be excited about. Imagining where she might go and who might be affected makes her more determined. Since the launch of the brand, its product range has expanded from skin enhancing tint, light-catching highlighter and lip oil treatment to include brushes, face powder, concealer and a host of other items. This is just the beginning. N’Diaye-Mbaye plans to add new products, including merchandise this fall.
“Imagine in a couple of years when we will be able to carry the heat and meet our girlfriend where she is in London, Canada and the continent, “he says.” We’re just getting started.
Meredith Jinks – Photography
Makeup: Jaleesa Jaikaran at Forward Artists
Make-up assistant: Linda Charles
Wardrobe designer: Sinceré Armani