How are mental health and your products related?
Mental health is the foundation of how we create product ecosystems. We have two mental health experts we work with and a holistic product developer. She and I have a combined 24 years of product development experience. It’s fun to relate these products to psychological concepts. The first part of an emotional awareness trip is learning your vocabulary, collaborating, and understanding the conversations that are important to our consumers. Are they talking about perfectionism, attachment styles, what is important from an emotional needs standpoint? Rather than “Oh, you need a new facial cleanser”. You can meet a need, which means you can add deep value to people’s lives. Once I am able to connect the product to the psychological concept, this is where the research begins. We take a look at the data and also start with our mental health expert briefing to dig deeper into this concept. Once we can understand what the concept is from this perspective, it is natural to relate some of the benefits and concerns of an emotional concept to a physical product.
The way we buy and use physical products is already inherently emotional: when we feel stressed, we take a shower and wash ourselves during the day. Every product ecosystem is made up of two parts, because we don’t live our lives only in the physical or digital world. It’s about how these two things interact.
True Grit lends itself to exfoliation, but it’s about redefining what individual, societal and community resilience means. We are expected to just exercise, emotions to be weaknesses and to smile and endure it. True emotional resilience is when you stumble, you’re vulnerable enough to ask for help, pick yourself up, and try again. How do you create a discourse around it and make it feel okay, to just be a human being rather than the history of the company?
It’s so appropriate for the times we find ourselves in. “Man up” is such a gendered term in itself and a lot of the traditional ideas around resilience are very “do it yourself”. How does SELFMADE support this new idea of resilience?
It is recognizing that there are small steps towards resilience. It’s not like you show up one day and all of a sudden you’re resilient. It’s also about having conversations about what resilience looks like in different communities, from an AAPI community to a Black community to a Latinx community, examining these nuances against a general statement on resilience. . The next part is understanding the danger and impact of forced resilience: when you expect a person, without them saying where they are, to “get up”. And while we have both of these physical products, what really ties the brand together is the community and the talk around it.
For our launch of True Grit, we hosted a panel discussion with stylist Michelle Obama, who has been an ally of black and brown creators and designers; the main organizer of the CROWN Act, a law that protects black people from discrimination against their natural hair; and Darian Harvin, a black journalist at the intersection of pop culture and politics. We think of our consumer as that irresistible person: you can love beautiful things, but you can also care about activism, politics, neurology, whatever it is. Creating these spaces where the politics of beauty and our mental health intersect, this is where we sit. These are the kinds of conversations we want to have.
Speaking of politics, it got me thinking about the timing of this launch and the recent increase in hate crimes in Asia. I was wondering if you have any ideas on this?
This is something that I have personally counted with myself. My community has always been pretty quiet [about it]. It’s a very quiet pain that I haven’t had a chance to dig into, but because it’s so prevalent right now, I have no choice but to face it. We are in a time where we need to take up space (this is actually a big part of learning resilience). There are a lot of great resources to donate to, and that’s fantastic in terms of awareness, but I also know from my experience and talking to other people that when we feel ashamed, it’s at this time that we inflict pain on others. What this tells me is that my community, and the community in general right now, is suffering. It is our responsibility to invest in our emotional well-being. How can I appear in this world and interact with other people?
When the shooting took place in Atlanta, it was the first time my partner and I had a conversation about how people can hate me for the way I look. These were really tough conversations, and what prevailed to be the most powerful through it was sharing my story about racism. I have endured it since the moment I was born as a child of immigrants. The only thing that differed between me and these women who were shot was the privilege, period. Talking about my experiences and encouraging those in the Asian community to talk about their experiences has been our first small step. We haven’t had a long history of marching and protesting. While it was a terrible time, the silver lining was seeing more voices come out that never took up space, or even knew how to do it. It starts with each individual.
Seems like a lot of things within the beauty industry that needed to change are getting more and more recognition as well. Have there been any challenges or roadblocks?
This is what matters most to me, change and impact. It’s hard for me to say challenges, because I think if we can have a black president, as a woman of color, I can raise a lot of money. To be quite real, less than 2% of VC funds went to women last year, and even less than to women of color. When I look at the statistics reality I feel like it’s a mountain, but luckily I have some great people on my team. Recruitment was not difficult, due to the compelling proposition of emotional well-being and the mission to democratize access to mental health in a creative way. I am proud to have him as a pilot. We have people who come from very different backgrounds: behavior strategists, the music industry, technology, all of the above. I remember one of my beauty industry mentors, when I was facing all these obstacles and obstacles, said to me, “If you can’t change it from the inside out, you may have to drive to change it. I like challenges, so it doesn’t seem difficult to me. It happens every day, non-stop, but I am extremely reassured in the team and the response to SELFMADE. And that answer is not “Oh my God, I like this serum”, it’s “It is necessary. “
I’m curious how this relates to this shift around more conscious consumerism.
I’ve even seen it over the past couple of years in different facets of consumerism, like greenwashing, finding a plastic bottle inside the paper ones. With the tide of Gen Z being a lot more outspoken, they’re not afraid to call a brand’s bullshit. Then you have these brands apologizing for being called, not because they messed up, but because they were called. If an active ingredient is clinically proven to be 1%, you have to use it at 1% to make that claim, right? And consumers have called the brands for fairy powder ingredients for marketing. The knowledge of the Gen Z consumer is so much more connected, and if you do that you are essentially saying that you are disrespecting the consumer. What they want are brands that respect them. The main message that passes [with SELFMADE] is that we respect you, so we are not going to fuck you. If there is something in the product, for example a perfume, it is not bad, but there is a whole anti-perfume thing going on. We will say that it is a mixture of perfumes, even if it contains essential oils, and not just say that there are only essential oils. It boils down to: How much do you respect the people you sell to? How much do you want to build a relationship with them, rather than trick them into buying your shit?
Corporate karma, isn’t it?
Coming back to resilience, what do you think are the biggest misconceptions?
That you have to do it alone. Huge misconception. At the heart of this brand is the development of products focused on emotional well-being and healing. There is evidence that even perceived support from another or community helps speed up the healing process. It’s not a solo sport at all. Resilience looks different to different people in different communities. The way I demonstrate resilience cannot be expected from someone else because you never know what generational trauma it’s coming from, what happened because of that resilience. Also, “what doesn’t break you makes you stronger” has always been linked to resilience, but it’s not really real resilience. Resilience is when you can call on yourself, your energy, and your efforts to cope. In this culture of turmoil, we feel like we need to do 10 things [at once]. This resilience factor is not focused on productivity or strength. It’s all about adaptation, and especially now we just need to survive, and that’s more than okay.
That old adage of “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is neglecting all the nuances of personal experience.
It takes away the space to say it’s hard, right? Even if you say that, I’m like, “Girl, tell me about this. These connections and validation points are so powerful. For the smallest thing, the moment you self-validate, it helps increase your self-confidence, your self-esteem, all of those things. This is what we can do for each other, it is not fixing anything per se, or giving advice, but just being there.