Courtesy of Kristen Noel Crawley

Describe yourself in three words.

Perceptive, thoughtful, dreamer.

What does beauty mean to you?

For me, beauty is about acceptance and empowerment. Learning to accept yourself and love that person you see in the mirror can be a long journey, one that lasts a lifetime. When I started to accept the little flaws I knew I couldn’t change, I feel like I shed so many of the misconceptions I had about beauty and of myself as an individual. I felt more empowered from within, and I think that started to show outwardly in both my confidence and lifestyle. Part of it is also learning to accept others and the various standards of beauty that can coexist in our world. This is something I’ve tried to establish through KNC Beauty from the start, as I’ve always wanted my brand to be inclusive of everyone, no matter your expression of beauty. It gives me a sense of strength to know that I’m building a community of like-minded individuals who share the same values as me.

What is an accomplishment or goal you’ve achieved over the last year, big or small, that makes you feel most proud?

I’m extremely proud of the KNC School of Beauty, as it’s been such a success, and we were able to organize the entire production in a virtual capacity while under the limitations of quarantine. There were a lot of moving parts, but the finished product has led to some of the most meaningful conversations I’ve had in the last year. I’m so thankful to all of the women who have joined me in this initiative, and I was so proud to see my longtime partner Revlon support us as a corporate sponsor, offering a $10,000 grant to a selected finalist from each session we hold. It felt like everything truly came together in the best ways possible, and I couldn’t have done it without my team at Sun-ny Side Up, who helped to organize and implement everything so that we were able to make the splash we wanted to. I’m so proud of the community that has been built among our audience over the last three sessions, and I’m really looking forward to developing this further as the year goes on.

What are some of the emotions that have come up for you as the plight of Black Americans has moved to the forefront of the collective consciousness over the last year, and how have these emotions helped or challenged you personally and/or professionally?

I’ve felt a lot of frustration and anger over the past year due to the racism and rhetoric that’s so blatantly in our faces that people continue to display all across the country. It makes me sick, and it makes me sad because, as a parent, I never wanted my children to grow up in a society where these systems continue to keep us down. We’re a Black family, and this will directly affect the future my kids have in this world. I’ve felt conflicted as a mother not knowing exactly how to address these topics with my boys, which has been difficult because it doesn’t feel fair that we have to teach these things to our kids so young. I want them to grow up knowing they can be whomever they want without fear or judgment from others. Professionally, I very much wanted to take a stance with my business to show that we can be a leader in this conversation and actually encourage change as a Black-, female-owned brand.

How can allies be helpful now, as it pertains to Black-owned beauty businesses? What actions would you like to see beyond performative social media posts?

I think that as consumers we have to make a pledge to continue and diversify our shopping habits. Whether it be local, women-owned, or POC-run, we must find ways to support businesses that don’t necessarily have the same visibility as a corporate operation. I’ve had a lot of success finding these smaller companies on social media, through which I’ve been able to connect and actually support them with my dollar. To be an ally, you have to show your monetary support and buy the product or service provided. It takes a lot to grow a business, and financial investment is where it can start most of the time. Even retailers that carry Black-owned brands and have shown support through initiatives like the Fifteen Percent Pledge need to do more to build these labels up and bring them to the forefront of our shopping experience. Whether it be a brand partnership that takes center stage or something like our KNC School of Beauty where folks have the opportunity to start their own business, the conversation has to be focused more on the growth and success of BIPOC-lead companies. 

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