The Beauty Entrepreneur Who Built a Lasting Legacy

Tune in to Black Women OWN the Conversation, an unprecedented “communicate-easy” TV show produced by OZY and the Oprah Winfrey Network, on OWN every Saturday from August 24 to September 14 at 10 pm (9 pm CT), and catch one hundred Black women discussing beauty, motherhood, love and thoughts, frame and soul.
Last month, California has become the primary state to ban discrimination primarily based on a hairstyle with the Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act, a response to several excessive-profile instances in which humans of coloration had been denied jobs or sent domestic from college for carrying locks or braids. Weeks later, New York observed suit. Meanwhile, Netflix has introduced that it’ll produce a four-component collection approximately Black cosmetics icon Madam C.J. Walker, starring Octavia Spencer and Tiffany Haddish.
But at the same time as we’re all remembering Walker — née Sarah Breedlove, a Black cosmetics entrepreneur who’s frequently known as the primary self-made woman millionaire in America — permit’s not neglect about her precursors. Specifically her mentor and notion, Annie Turnbo Malone, a Black female and inventor who constructed a cosmetics empire valued at $14 million 1/2 a century earlier than the repeal of Jim Crow and lengthy before Walker.

The daughter of former slaves, Malone changed into born in small-town Illinois simply four years after the Civil War ended. As an infant, she did the hair of circle of relatives and neighbors; in excessive college, she located an interest in chemistry and combining compounds. Malone had noticed that some of the human beings whose hair she worked on had scalp illnesses, probably because of the hair care products available on the time, which blanketed bacon grease and heavy soaps. She commenced making her very own products, operating on a formulation that might soothe scalps in preference to irritate them and would stimulate hair increase. Toward the cease of childhood, Malone and her sister Laura decided to enter the hair business collectively.
Before the age of 20, Malone had developed her own shampoo components, along with side compounds designed to both develop and straighten hair, such as one called “Wonderful Hair Grower.” She offered her products door to door, riding a buggy around her small town to advertise and promote her wares. In 1902, she moved to St. Louis, wherein she opened a shop and recruited a fleet of women to sell her products on the town.

“A lot of the enterprise models that got here after her like … Mary Kay … stemmed from Annie Malone and her agents,” says Chajuana Trawick, the chair of favor and layout at Lindenwood University. One of those sellers was Madam C.J. Walker, who labored as a laundress and suffered from persistent hair loss earlier than getting hired by using Malone. Later, Walker might marketplace her own “Wonderful Hair Grower” tonic the use of Malone’s components, which precipitated Malone to copyright her cosmetics beneath the name Poro. Walker and Malone would be as compared for the duration of their careers, even after Walker’s premature demise in 1919. Both could be credited with inventing the recent comb, though Trawick’s research suggests that neither invented it. Another distinction among them, Trawick located, become that Malone’s products not often attempted to sell ideals of White splendor to Black women: Her unmarried skin-lightening cream changed into for dark spots, at the same time as a number of Walker’s products (and White-owned splendor brands advertising to the African American network) leaned heavily on advert copy promising lighter skin and straighter hair.

Malone, a deeply nonsecular girl, saved her cognizance on the venture, which was nothing less than uplifting her network in St. Louis, specifically the African American community known as the Ville. “She wanted to uplift her community of girls by way of using them — she wanted them to have those capabilities and schooling so that they can be self-enough and earn cash,” explains Trawick.
At a time while Black women have been largely restrained to jobs of domestic servitude, Malone opened a massive manufacturing facility that doubled as a beauty university, meant to train African American women to make and promote cosmetics. The plant additionally served as a network middle and leisure complicated, offering an auditorium in which Black entertainers — frequently barred from other accommodations — may want to stay inside the dorms and earn their preserve appearing for the plant’s workers. Malone additionally donated tens of thousands of greenbacks to orphanages and Black universities. She’s said to have helped her personnel buy property while banks refused them loans, and she or he paid to have the roads paved within the Ville. She opened dozens of Poro splendor faculties around the U.S.
In 1927, Malone’s empire was threatened via an acrimonious divorce when her husband demanded half her fortune. With a guide from charitable institutions, the clicking, church leaders and the president of the National Association of Colored Women, she gained sole possession of the Poro logo and moved her business to Chicago. By the Nineteen Fifties, whilst Malone died in her overdue 80s, there were 32 branches of her cosmetology faculty.
Throughout her life, Trawick explains, Malone’s objective changed into not non-public reputation — it became something extra. “Everything now could be about self-promoting and branding,” Trawick says. “Her recognition changed into on uplifting girls and giving them financial freedom.”

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