KJ Miller remembers walking the aisles at drug stores and being disappointed. She’d look for makeup and find only a small section with a handful of products that were somehow meant to encompass the full breadth of skin tones for women of color, including herself.
Years later, her friend, Amanda Johnson, was similarly frustrated when she shopped around for makeup to wear to work but couldn’t find something that matched her natural skin tone.
From that disappointed and frustration, Mented – a play on “pigmented” – was born. Mented is an inclusive beauty line whose products ensure that people of all skin tones have access to makeup that showcases their true self.
But after meteoric growth and success came the coronavirus pandemic that upended plans for millions of businesses across the country, including Mented.
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Do people still wear makeup during a pandemic, and if not, what would happen to the business and employees?
“What I couldn't promise was that I'd be able to make sure my whole team could have jobs,” Miller said. “And that really was my priority, making sure that I didn't have to let people go. It wasn't a promise I could make, but it was the most important thing to me.”
Miller, who's based in Philadelphia, and Mented are taking part in a digital documentary series called Rebound, created by NBC Owned Television Stations and NBC LX.
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The second season of Rebound focuses on three Black-owned businesses and the unique challenges they face, as well as how they’re using creativity and innovation to make their mark on a changing society.
In an ever-changing journalistic landscape caused by the coronavirus, we flipped the script and provided businesses with cameras to give a behind-the-scenes look as they document both their struggles and successes.
For Miller, the last year has brought to bear the difficulties and uncertainties of trying to run a business while pregnant and wondering how she will set an example and forge a bright future for her daughter while helping her navigate a world still largely gripped by racism.
Mented is a part of that. A company never afraid to take a stand, the 2020 slayings of Black people like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery only reinforced their desire to speak out.
“If there's something I can do to make the world a little bit better for her and for me and my family and my friends and my community and my customers, I'm going to do it. Or at least I'm for damn sure going to try because that matters to me,” Miller said.