March is Women’s History Month and JCPenney is celebrating by having a series with some of our women beauty founders who courageously lead the way for others to achieve their greatest aspirations. One such is Gabrielle Union, the founder of Flawless by Gabrielle Union. It’s a beauty brand offering texture-specific haircare products, infused with exotic hydrating ingredients, at an affordable price point. Gabrielle herself is a self-made woman who is not only the founder of Flawless but also an actress, author, and outspoken advocate of women.
Today, Destiny Villarreal from JCPenney Beauty had the opportunity to facetime with Gabrielle and understand her journey as a founder and everything that has gone into launching the brand. Here’s a sneak-peak of the talk with Gabrielle Union.
What do you think is the Most Courageous Thing that you have ever done?
Embracing vulnerability. I used to view people who were completely vulnerable as very dangerous, like why are you giving people ammunition to take you out? And then I realized that I was living in fear of being humiliated or living in fear of public opinion, and it put me in a little cage. It’s a pretty cage, but still a cage. And then you stop looking for more answers, you stop trying different things when you become a slave to hiding everything.
After hitting rock bottom as many times as I have, it was a suggestion and then it was reaffirmed by watching Brene Brown, she does a lot of work in the shame and vulnerability space. She said what if a vulnerability is your superpower? So, I decided to go with radical transparency and just lead with the truce whatever that is – good, bad, or ugly. I am not interested in running from it. And if I lead with it there is nothing that anyone else can do to humiliate me. I own my truce, I own my narrative, and it’s real and authentic to me. There’s nothing to be afraid of. All you have to do is build a community where people feel less alone and you will be free and save yourself.
Can you tell me about your Journey with Launching the Flawless brand? What caused you to bring these products to the market?
I had launched Flawless years ago. It was an opportunity bought to me by a group of gentlemen who heard that I wanted to do my own haircare line. They were financing and assisting so I said yes. Very quickly I realized that it wasn’t what I wanted it to be. Just because it has my face and name on it, didn’t make it a black-owned company, and it doesn’t mean that the textured hair community’s needs are being centered in the creation of this company, in the formulation of there are products, or in the marketing of these products. It was just off from top to bottom, and I felt very much like being a black shield that’s being used to exploit the community.
So, when I was able to get out of that deal after a couple of years, every though it was successful, it didn’t feel right. I wanted to restart the whole thing from the beginning. I knew I wanted to make sure that I partnered with who was my actual hairstylist, Larry Sims, who has been one of my best friends and my hairstylist for over 20 years. If I was getting into the hair space, why would I do it without the man responsible for all of my hair looks? So that was the first order of business. Then we wanted to make sure that people running our company, marketing our company – every part of this journey was centered to bring the needs of the black folks. One thing I was not prepared for was the tremendous success right out the gate.
For a lot of founders and entrepreneurs, one of the mistakes you can make is not being prepared for success. I think I got so accustomed to a slower burn, I have never been a number one choice for anything, but I was not anticipating this. We did not have the supply we needed to meet the demands, so this has been a humbling experience. I am constantly talking to other founders and entrepreneurs about how to do business and how to do business better in a way that makes me okay to go to sleep at night. When my daughters are looking at me, they have pride. That I not only have respect for myself but have respect for our consumers as everything is centered on us in an exploitive way. Like yeah, we took out all the harmful chemicals and ingredients – completely redid everything, but you need to never leave sight of who you are in this process. What are you about? And so, you have to be humble. Like this was our goal, this is what we are trying, didn’t work out that well in this area, so let’s talk to other people.
I am used to being a mentor, but I need to be mentored. I need to be humble and say maybe in talking to other women entrepreneurs, maybe they have a solution to one of my problems and that’s exactly what’s happened. As we relaunched, there was so much success, we realized we must have a give-back component where we share our resources and our platform with other black-owned businesses and that’s how ‘Lift As We Climb’ got started. Thanks to other partnerships, we are now able to provide more than just resources, information, and a platform. We can even provide financial help where we can.
Along this Journey what have been your Role Models or anybody that has Inspired you as a Woman?
There have been so many people like Pap MacGrath who have been super helpful in sharing information, Rihanna, obviously, for Fenty Beauty. Her team is super collaborative, and they share resources and platforms. And then there are black-owned, female-owned skincare companies like Donata Skinfood and Little Herbs Co. I randomly came across these companies online and became enamored by their founders and their founder stories. We are looking to amplify both these businesses because they are wildly inspiring. Like, when you’re in the thick of it, who can show me how to make something from nothing and you don’t have to look far? There has been a ton of people but those are the ones I lean on the most.
Do you have any Women-Led Products that you can’t just live without?
- Little Herbs – Oils and alternatives to ingrown hair solutions like you spray one, and so on. I love the whole line, my favorite being rose gold oil.
- Donata Skinfood – Hair mist that can be used, before adding the butter or oil, to lock in moisture.
- The Things We Do – Scrub cleanser
I tend to gravity towards like-minded folks, like how do they present great products, how do they move the world, how do they amplify and uplift their communities. That to me is also part of why I support different brands.
Do you have any advice for your Younger Self or the Future Generation?
It gets better. When you feel like you are the only one going through something, you are not and there is help and people do care. Your presence is a gift and stops being so worried to miss out on something because you are the thing you don’t want to miss out on. You are the best thing that there is. You are the best party, you are the best friend, the best lover. It’s you, it was you all along, and stop looking for validation outside of yourself. The only person you need validation from is yourself.
Watch the video to learn more about Gabrielle Union and her journey as the founder of Flawless. And watch this space next Tuesday to know about another equally inspiring woman founder. Share your takeaways from this talk with us by tagging #AllAtJCP. Then follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see if you get featured.