Growing up, I was never the right shade of brown.
When it came to makeup, I had to be somewhat of an artist, blending a carefully curated mix of concealers, foundations and powders to match my unique shade of Indian skin. Even when I found colours that appeared to more-or-less match my milky-tea complexion in real life, flash photographs would make it look like I had painted on a mud mask rather than foundation.
Canadian media legend Monika Deol knows this struggle all too well. Deol estimates that between her time as a DJ, the host of MuchMusic’s Electric Circus and a reporter on City News, she has been in a makeup chair nearly 6,000 times—and each time, required mixing and matching different shades to suit her medium skin tone. (Note: When Deol wasn’t in the makeup chair, she says she would get her foundations custom blended at Holt Renfrew, a luxury she knows many can’t or aren’t willing to pay for.)
“I was constantly running into challenges with my makeup, whether it was concealers that don’t conceal dark circles, foundations that have to be mixed to match, and powders that are too ashy,” says Deol, who was born in India and raised in Canada.
And this was a problem shared by numerous other women of colour, myself included. Case in point: even today my personal beauty routine requires a liquid foundation for spots and under eye circles and then a powder in a richer shade of brown to revive my colour so I don’t look like I’m about to pass out. Neither product does the trick alone.
While it may seem like beauty brands have broadened their palette to include more skin shades in recent years, Deol points out that diversity often gets distilled down to black and white, ignoring the shades of brown in between. “Two thirds of the world’s population is us. It’s Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern, from Guyana, Mauritius—why aren’t we at the table?” she asks, adding that Iman’s 1994 launch of Iman Cosmetics for women of colour was her source of inspiration.
In an effort to address the needs of one of the fastest growing beauty markets, Deol created STELLAR*, a new beauty brand that focuses specifically on the needs of those of us who fall somewhere in the middle of the skin tone spectrum. The initial launch includes 22 foundations ($45), 17 of which cater to medium skin tones, as well as a range of concealers ($32), powders ($36), blushes ($30), lipsticks and a mascara ($26).
For Deol, who was one of the first Indian women to appear on Canadian television and has always been a strong advocate for diversity and inclusiveness, her makeup carries a message. “I love the colour I am, so I’d like a makeup for the colour I am,” she says, explaining that she avoids many Indian beauty brands because they often contain ingredients to lighten skin. “I think everyone should be who they are.”
Before we wrap up our interview, Deol looks at me, square in the eyes and says: “I’m so happy you’re here. When I started there was nobody Indian.” And to me, that statement sums up her message: that it’s time to *finally* recognize that people come in all different shapes, sizes and shades—and that needs to be represented on shelves.
STELLAR* launched online at Sephora.ca on March 7 and will be available in select Canadian Sephora locations as of March 13.