The story of not finding makeup products that are suited for black women’s needs especially in western countries is not a new one. One woman from Zimbabwe set to change it and succeeded. Now she shares her secrets and offers advice on following your passion.
You come from Zimbabwe but live in Australia. So, firstly, let’s talk about being an international woman; any experiences you want to share with other women about being away from home?
Let me just point out that it’s not always easy to leave your own country of birth to go and live in the diaspora – a lot of women end up with mental health issues because sometimes we don’t have people to talk to out here, yes we have friends but people are busy going about their lives and don’t have much time to devote to your psychological needs. However, instead of focusing on negativity or feeling lonely or missing your relatives and friends back home I think it’s better to focus your energy on productive things. When I say productive I mean do things like maybe advancing your education, take on a new course, take advantage of the opportunities of being in the diaspora. Think of a business idea for example. Keep your mind active and continue to sharpen it but never ever feel sorry for yourself.
I would like to share a personal experience; I personally didn’t like or consider nursing as a profession of interest before I came to Australia but I ended up studying it because people would say to me well what else can you do in the diaspora. They would tell me all the time that nursing is the only profession I would find a job easily and I ended up doing it but my advice is; don’t conform. Don’t just follow what everyone is doing. Follow your own dreams. If you have a passion for something just go for that and you will be surprised. I personally think that if you do something that you love it won’t feel like work. I think there is nothing more painful than going to a job that you don’t enjoy doing. So I think spread your wings and also have fun because life is short and you only live once.
And now to the big question; how did Ruby Lynn Make-up come about?
It’s not something that I planned. I started off by doing a course to become a makeup artist. My intention was to teach my Zimbabwean sisters tricks on applying makeup because I used to hear a lot of negative talk about our appearance in terms of grooming and things like that. People would say ‘oh Zim men run towards South African women because their (Zim) women don’t know how to look beautiful.’ So to be honest that’s what drove me to do the makeup tutorials in the first place. I said no, I have an idea of how one applies make-up and I know grooming basics and I’m gonna share those with my sisters.
Add to that, I had so much extra time after work – I have a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing but sometimes I would go to work on night shifts and just feel bored that’s when I decided I needed to use that time fruitfully. I enrolled in a makeup course and started taking photos of my made up face and posting them in my Facebook group Kugeza Nerunako na Ruby Lynn.
Some women who liked the pictures started asking me to teach them how to apply makeup properly. As a result, I started making tutorial videos on how to apply makeup and posting them in the same group. There was so much passion from the women such that I realized they were hungry for more information on the subject. I also realized it wasn’t just Zimbabwean women but African women in general. After the interest grew, I started doing my shopping for makeup more often but I was facing one significant problem; in Australia where I live I couldn’t find foundations that match my skin tone so the foundations I would use would come from Zimbabwe. My sisters would send me makeup products via courier.
In Australia, you can find things like eyeshadow but foundations and concealers that match black skin are very difficult to find and I started wondering if I was the only one facing this problem especially among women in the diaspora.
There is no market catering for the make-up needs of women of color exhaustively so I decided there then that I needed to do something about it. I began looking for a manufacturer to create a line for me but I could not afford the fees they were asking for. But, looking back, that was a blessing in disguise because even though I couldn’t hire them to do the work for me they agreed to show me how to do it. It took me six months to do just research only. Long story short, eight to nine months later I came up with my own formula for mineral foundation. I came up with it myself. I would use my own friends to test the product until I was satisfied with its quality. I am confident I created the best product and made sure Ruby Lynn mineral foundation works best to cover blemishes etc and that it’s perfect for black women’s skin.
What lessons have you learned while setting up your own business?
The lessons that I learned while setting up my business are the lessons that have strengthened my life and changed it forever. Mostly because I had no one to ask, I knew no one who has done this before – create their own makeup line from scratch. Especially starting to create your own formula, that process was very difficult and made me realize how strong I am. The biggest lesson I got is probably realising that nothing is impossible. I also learned that it’s only you that can place limitations on yourself but if you really want something badly you can do anything you want. Nothing is impossible in this life that we live. If you put your mind to anything you will achieve that thing regardless of the obstacles.
All a person needs is to be passionate, strategic and to know what you want. And I learned that, as the old adage goes when life throws lemons at you just make lemonade. It sounds cliché but when I was setting up things I would get the proverbial lemons thrown at me sometimes but I would just make lemonade from them. Other times I would feel like giving up but then with time I realised that if something proves difficult its good to take a break and then come back again with more strength. I also learned the basics of communication in a professional manner while going about things like the acquisition of the resources that I use in making my products. So no doubt there was a lot to learn and I gained a lot from that.
What’s your favorite makeup tip that you would like to share with us?
My favorite tip is, I think I’m a bit biased on this one, so my favorite tip is for every woman to have the Ruby Lynn mineral powder foundation because it’s so magical and I always say that. Why, because with Ruby Lynn mineral powder foundation you will not need any concealer at all. It’s easy to apply, it gives a natural finish at once because it’s not every day that you have time to use a concealer to cover every blemish on your face or those dark circles that appear around eyes so with the Ruby Lynn mineral powder it’s just like a 2-in-one product. It’s all you need. And then afterwards you can just apply mascara and lip gloss and you are good to go.
What make-up sins are you guilty of?
(Starts by laughing) I am guilty of so many things honestly. Oh my god (continues laughing). Well, when it comes to my makeup brushes, I love them clean by the way but I don’t wash them as often as I say they should be washed. For example with my mineral powder foundation brush – I am busy telling people that it should be washed at least once every week but I think the last time that I washed mine is maybe 3 weeks ago (laughs). Well, it’s not good because this could cause some breakouts on your face so I would encourage people to wash their makeup brushes frequently! But seriously am guilty of not following this rule to the dot. Another thing is I don’t check expiry dates on my products and seriously that is a very bad habit. For example with my mascara, I think I have been using one mascara for the past 6 months, I think. I don’t change mascaras and that is very very bad because different types of bacteria can grow on mascara but I have a weakness about changing my mascara, I just keep using it.
Does make-up have occasions or should we just wear makeup according to your mood?
It’s a yes and no answer. We shouldn’t really wear makeup accordingly when it comes to occasions like work – I know that people say you should wear nude colours but seriously for things like work I think you can wear makeup according to how you are feeling because wearing bright makeup will never get you sacked.
So personally I wear makeup according to the way that I am feeling but there are also special occasions that you can’t just wear makeup according to your mood for example if am going to a funeral I won’t wear bright makeup colours instead I will do a more toned down nude shades. But for things like work you don’t have to always follow any set rules that’s why I said it’s a yes and no answer at the end of the day. I think it largely depends on how you feel.
Life is too short and who set those boundaries anyway. Who gets to decide what makeup rules we follow? I believe that you should do as you please; live your life as you want to live it, life is too short to worry about what other people will say or think of you. People will always judge but what’s most important is how YOU feel. If you are a nurse and feel like donning a bright red shade then do it. As long as you are happy and comfortable in your skin that’s what’s most important.
You have been nominated for the Zim Achievers award, how does this make you feel?
It makes me feel so happy and proud. But I want to say, I think that by just being nominated I feel that I have already won and to bring the actual award home will be the cherry on the top. The nomination makes me feel so proud, I had no idea about it until I received a call from South Africa that I had been nominated and I was so surprised. I am very happy that there are people out there who nominated me without my knowledge and it kind of gives me an assurance that I am doing something right and that gives me so much energy to keep going. I’m just so so happy about that.
After listening to your inspirational story do you mind sharing with us what makes you tick – what’s a typical day in your life like?
My day starts at 6 am and start working from my phone from 6am to 8am answering people’s questions – I receive a lot of inboxes on Facebook and on WhatsApp. Clients asking anything from skincare questions to other beauty advice and I really do enjoy to answer as much as I can. It’s hard to answer all of them because I receive a very high volume of messages per day – up to 200 messages per day so I try and answer about 50. After that, I take my 12-year-old daughter to school and then from her school I head over to the post office to post products that have been ordered online. After that, I go straight to the lab and start creating my mineral powder foundation because I am not yet ready to reveal the formula to outside companies. But I do have help as well. I have girls who help me at the lab. At 3 o’clock I pick my daughter up from school and oh I have jumped the part where I clean my house on my own. (Laughs) I also delegate to my kids by the way. As you might know, we don’t have house help here in the diaspora so everyone in the family has to help clean the house. I enjoy cooking and after 5 I start preparing dinner for my family although sometimes we will eat a light dinner because we will be so tired. So that’s my day. Am ever busy and hardly have time to breathe!