Here at GLAMOUR, we know that beauty sometimes gets a bad rep. It’s ‘superficial silliness’, ‘vanity’, and ‘shallow’. But we know the word ‘beauty’ encompasses far more – and can have a much greater impact on people’s lives – than these haters realise.
That’s why we spoke to these four women, who all run their own beauty/ lifestyle brand, about why and how they’re helping different communities, and changing the world around them. Prepare to be seriously inspired.
“I’m helping transgender people show who they truly are”
Jessica Blackler, Founder, JECCA Make-Up.
After school, I studied at the Delamar Academy of Hair & Make-Up, doing Doctor Who-style prosthetics and theatrical beauty for film and TV. I started showcasing my work on Instagram, and soon, I was getting requests for make-up tutorials. But I was surprised that so many of them were from men who were transitioning into women.
In 2015, I started giving one-on-one lessons to trans people and opened a small studio space in London. It was important to create a safe space where they felt comfortable and could discuss things they may not have wanted to talk about with friends or family. I wanted them to feel accepted and be open with me. And they were.
For most of my clients, it was the first time they’d ever experimented with make-up, and as women, it’s easy to forget how daunting and complicated it can be! The most common problem for my clients was covering beard shadow (where facial hair growth can be seen under the skin), so I showed them how to layer concealer and foundation to look natural, while still covering the tiny dark hairs.
Soon, I’d built up over 200 transgender clients, and sometimes I’d be in the studio for three or four hours with just one. It was demanding, but incredibly rewarding. Make-up plays a huge role in the male-to-female transition, and it was amazing showing people how to present themselves as the person they knew they were inside. But it became impossible to keep up with demand, and I was receiving hundreds of messages from people who couldn’t make it to the studio.
So, in 2017, I decided to launch my own brand, Jecca Make-Up, so that my products could reach all the transitioning people that I couldn’t. I conducted months of market research, using my clients as a focus group to test my products. Our first product was the Correct & Conceal, a colour corrector offering long-lasting coverage for beard shadow, birthmarks and acne.
Jecca Make-Up is less than a year old, but thanks to partnering with L’Oreal in June this year, we’re constantly developing products to offer unisex solutions. Next summer, we’ll be introducing eye and lip colour, and I can’t wait to expand our range to help our customers feel confident in their own skin. I now get messages every day saying, “Your products have changed my life”, “The trans community are so overlooked in cosmetics, and thanks to Jecca, we feel seen”, “I feel like I can be myself now.” And that’s exactly how everyone should feel – that they can be who they truly are.
“I’m giving people with disabilities the chance to earn a living”
Camilla Marcus-Dew, Co-Founder, The Soap Co.
Ever since I was a child, growing up in Bournemouth, I’ve spent a lot of time with young disabled people. My niece, Iesha, has cerebral palsy, and even as a kid in school I noticed how wrapped up in cotton wool she was. She was over-protected and stifled, and people didn’t realise how capable she was. When I started working at the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability after university, I saw the same thing was happening to the young disabled people who worked there, too.
I realised that many people with disabilities have the will to work, but the employment market doesn’t recognise them as able. So, I decided to combine this with my passion for the environment and making beauty more eco-friendly – and, in September 2015, The Soap Co. was born.
It’s a luxury, ethical skincare brand. I wanted it to be completely transparent, ensuring customers knew what’s in our products, who made them, where our ingredients came from, and what happens to the packaging when you’re finished. We started selling hand washes and lotions, and now our range also includes bath and body oils, exfoliating soap pebbles and gift boxes.
We now have 115 employees, over 80% of which have a disability or longterm physical or mental health condition. They’re always at the core of our organisation.
One of our employees went blind at the age of 20 very suddenly due to a genetic condition. Within just three weeks, he couldn’t see much more than holding his phone an inch from his eye. He was an electrician and couldn’t carry on working. He now works on our reception desk. Another man was 47-years-old when we employed him – he suffers with severe epilepsy, and The Soap Co. was his first ever job. He told me he finally had a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved as a brand – from helping disabled people have that crucial autonomy over their own lives, to reducing our impact on the environment – but we know there’s room for improvement. For example, we need to work on the recyclability of our plastic pump mechanisms in certain bottled products. But as long as we’re still striving to be better, I know I’m doing the right thing.
“I’m fighting our country’s hidden crisis – hygiene poverty”
Jo Jones, Co-Founder, Beauty Banks.
Growing up in London, I’ve seen people sleeping on the streets my whole life. But it wasn’t until my friend, who’s a head teacher, told me about his pupils borrowing deodorant, and even sanitary towels from staff, that I realised poverty didn’t just mean a lack of food, but a lack of hygiene, too. Girls were too scared to tell their parents that they had their periods, because they couldn’t afford towels or tampons. Boys who felt ashamed in class, because they knew they had body odour. Something had to be done.
From a career in beauty PR, I’ve seen how many products go to waste – and so has my friend and colleague, journalist Sali Hughes. We saw an opportunity to marry the gap between the people who don’t have anything, and those that have an abundance. We thought, “if everyone gave a few toiletries they didn’t need, then we could give them to those in need.”
We came up with the name ‘Beauty Banks’, my friend Lauren at Top Shelfie Illustrated created our logo, and Sali shared the initiative to Instagram. Soon, boxes of donations were arriving for me at work. We’d spend hours sorting them into parcels for different homeless shelters and food banks, our friends and families helping us deliver them all over the country.
It’s incredible to see how Beauty Banks helps people – especially young girls and boys – feel more clean, confident and happy. We received a huge ‘thank you’ card from a school, where each pupil wrote a personal message about their struggles, and how much happier they felt at school. But it’s also really moving to see awareness being raised. A little girl told us she was going to use her toiletries to ‘make slime’, but her mum and dad told her she shouldn’t waste them when she could donate them to us instead, and help people feel good about themselves.
But we’re only just scratching the surface of an enormous problem. Our country is in a hygiene poverty crisis. Just this week, a school got in touch saying: ‘We need your help, kids can’t keep borrowing off their teachers.’
We’re currently setting up our website and in the process of registering as a charity, but until then, keep up to date and find out how to donate on our Instagram, @thebeautybanks. It may feel like we’re a long way off a solution, but together, we can help people living in poverty to achieve their most basic of human rights – to be, and feel, clean.
To read Sali’s feature on Beauty Banks, pick up the Autumn/ Winter issue of GLAMOUR magazine, on sale 13th September.
“I’m giving people with learning difficulties a platform to express themselves”
Becky Sheraidah, Founder, ARTHOUSE Unlimited
I studied fine art at university, and after graduating and becoming a freelance artist, I started working one day a week with adults who had learning disabilities at a day centre. The work they’d create was amazing – everything from painting to designing product packaging. But because of their learning disabilities, which meant they needed constant supervision, and sometimes couldn’t properly understand or communicate, no one had any expectations of their skills – and neither did they.
I wanted to create a business out of this gap in the market, and in turn, give people with disabilities like Down’s syndrome and cerebral palsy the chance to earn a living from their work.
So, I set up ARTHOUSE in Hertfordshire, a social enterprise with a small studio space where artists would do workshops with people with learning and physical difficulties. We catered for everyone – there were men and women as young as 21, with ages all the way up to 70-something. They’d create jewellery, wall art, homeware, but especially popular were the soaps, candles and reed diffusers – which we still sell now. The artists create all the product packaging and design, and even work with different suppliers on making the actual scented product.
When galleries and stockists, such as the Royal Academy of the Arts, started noticing what we were doing at ARTHOUSE, sales increased. Now, we’re established as a registered charity and have our own board of trustees and our own team of staff, volunteers, suppliers and in-house tutors, and we’re stocked in over 430 shops across Britain. We have collaborations coming up with Lush, the V&A, and a range of soaps, mugs and bags has been rolled out in Oxfam this month.
People are always so surprised when they learn it’s adults, often with severe learning difficulties, who have produced this beautiful work. And a lot of the time, the artists themselves can’t believe it either, and it’s hugely moving to see their joy when they defy their own self-doubt.
We’re soon launching a range called ‘Lady Muck’, including bath milks, body butters, moisturisers, and the neon pink and gold foil packaging was designed by Peter, one of our artists. Five years ago, he didn’t believe he could be creative at all, and now he’s designing packaging and even held a sell-out exhibition.
1.5 million people in the UK have a learning disability, yet their opportunities for valued work are so limited. By giving these people a space to express who they are, and earn money from their work, we’re saying to them: ‘You are valuable’. And there’s nothing more worthwhile than that.