Diarrha, product marketing manager at Glossier, and I have something very similar in common: we figured out how to use the few things about ourselves (being black, a woman and a millennial) to navigate the beauty industry to our best abilities. We used the very things that could have possibly excluded us from an industry that had, in the past, excluded us, to get where we wanted in the business. These are the reasons I was all ears on her insight into the beauty business. I also wanted to know more about her Senegalese background and her skincare routine because her skin is flawless.
Below is Diarrha’s beauty story.
I’m born and raised in Harlem, but I’m first generation Senegalese, so Senegalese-American. I grew up on like 116th, but it’s literally like Petit Africa, you know what I mean? It is Senegal, down, Guinea down; you don’t even feel like you’re in the U.S. or A! I was born and raised there.
It wasn’t until my later years, going to college, that made me really want to touch into where I’m from, to speak the language, which was important to me. I’m still trying to learn the traditions and everything, but just having that a part of me, because, to your point, we were talking about this earlier, having your own swim lane or knowing where you come from, knowing your identity and knowing your clear point of view gives you a competitive advantage when you’re coming to the table.
That’s been most of my spiel, especially in the beauty industry, but just to rewind a little bit, I came from the fashion industry. I was working at Rebecca Minkoff doing social media there.
Oh yeah, you were.
Yeah, I was doing that for a while and just jumping in, I fell in love with it. I thought, “I’m doing Twitter for a living!” My parents don’t know what that means. They want me to be a doctor, of course.
That’s when I fell in love with social media and then I went to Vibe magazine and got a completely different aspect of the world of social and storytelling and deep diving into analytics and so forth. At the time I remember that I was particularly fascinated by product analytics and the way that companies can use marketing data from customers to improve their products and services. It really is amazing that data and software can be used in this way. But of course, there’s a glass ceiling when it comes to publishing houses, especially in the hip-hop world. But I went back to the beauty industry. I never fell out of love with social media, it’s mostly just outgrowing companies or looking for new opportunities. Then I moved on to corporate America. Going into a big giant [corporation] you have to know your voice and know what you stand for. That’s kind of where I am now.
Have you felt or have you found that it’s really hard for corporate America to understand the POV from women of color? Or is it that they don’t always care?
That’s a good question. It’s sensitive-because some things, I feel on one hand, and other things I feel on the other. You’ll be in these rooms and it’s like a sheer ignorance. People have no idea because of one, privilege. They didn’t really have to dive into someone else’s culture because it didn’t really affect their lives so why think about it. Two, exposure, you know what media does. People still think chimpanzees are running around wild in Africa, you know what I mean?
That is so true.
Little do they know that, Lagos is the most booming- girl, It’s just crazy. So you don’t know if it’s their sheer ignorance of trying to exclude someone from the conversation or no exposure to it. Also, you know, the numbers. You’re able to take numbers and kind of manipulate them. I’ve been, even as a youth, going to the Dior counter and wanting to try the most star, diamond or whatever the fricking shade was, formula. I was dying to try it, but you couldn’t find it. Number one excuse would be like, “Sweetie, oh you’re already pretty, you don’t need makeup and also your people don’t buy. Whenever we do stock it, it doesn’t, you know, well, or there’s no space in the end cap.”
All these [fake] numbers so they’re able to skew them to create their story.
So when you see success like the Fenty Beautys of the world and you see them selling out, it’s, well actually, she hit it on the nail. She did the right research or KENDO at least, no shade.
I think they see it though. It’s interesting, especially with these corporate environments, because you do have the Lancomes of the world, you have Giorgio Armani and you have them providing these shades that are selling out. Women love that freaking foundation.
When you tell me you were Senegalese I was like, “Oh, okay.” I don’t know what that means, but that sounds fabulous and I want to know more about it. What is the culture, especially when it comes to beauty?
Yes, absolutely. So, Senegal, West Africa. First of all, West Africa’s huge, like I’m going to Ghana for the first time in December and I’m so excited because I feel like I’m going to a whole new world, even though it’s a sheer couple countries over. Senegal, in particular, is very interesting. So my relationship with Senegal has been different as well. My first time going to Senegal, I think I was seven years old, so it’s like first grade
I went to Senegal and I’m like, “What the hell is this!” I’m like, “Mom, where is my shop?” You know, very stupid and young and like, “Why are you doing this to me? I don’t understand anything.” I didn’t speak the language. I just could not understand why my parents were doing this to me.
What’s the language?
We speak Wolof there.
So my first experience was not that great. I was young and delinquent. It wasn’t until I was growing up and I was able to see me in my cousins, I was able to see me in the language or the small nuances. You know how people say, when you grow older, you become your mother, or you become your auntie?
That is happening to me right now.
It wasn’t until I went back and I saw these mirrors everywhere. I would see the way my aunt was acting or the way she would move, I was like, “That’s my mother, oh my god. And that’s also me.”
We gonna get into beauty in Senegal, but listen… home in Senegal is just filled with women. I soon would always go with my sister and then later on, especially after college, I started going by myself, just going to Senegal, exploring everything.
Mm, do you think would end up with a Senegalese man?
I would love to, I would love to, but the thing is, again, being born and raised here, there are just certain nuances that are completely different. You know, I’m very outgoing, I’m ambitious, I want to freaking travel the world and it’s not really common for women in Senegal to want to do that or to be able to do both of that and have a family and be able to be the ideal mother or wife.
I want to talk about beauty because I’m always obsessed with cultural beauty rituals
So, beauty. I’ve always been around beauty, someway, somehow. My mom literally has an African hair braiding shop, like how African can it get? On 125th street, you know what I mean? She’s not the one that haggles and tries to get you in the chair.
She’s been there for 27 years now. I spent a lot of time in the salon, just seeing people transform and all this stuff. But the women there are just so interesting, it’s like, they pride themselves … Senegalese culture is very peacock-y.
We call it peacock-y. You have these grand Boubous that are so big and so extravagant and one is like an event you have gold dripping everywhere, your face is beat to the gods. A ceremony is so serious and it’s so funny because my mom is so simple. If you see her in the shop and you see her at these events, you’re like, “Who are you?” My father would walk in sometimes and not even recognize her.
They just transform and they take it very seriously Even in Islam culture, being very cleanly and godly and men that are very profound or religious, they all wear white. They’re just walking with their white … it’s beautiful. The women, in particular, it’s so funny we’re such a religious place and it’s so funny because the women are so central.
We have these things- I don’t even know how to say it. It’s like the ‘woman of the house’. You walk in, the incense is slowly burning, she has these beads on her waist, it’s beautiful.
So I want you to wrap us up with your skincare routine.
I love makeup, don’t get me wrong, but I love skincare first. So I’ve always been into French beauty. I use either a Caudelie, like micellar water, or I would do a Neutrogena wipe, just to wipe off my face. In the shower, steam is going, pores are a little bit more open; I wash with the Milky Jelly from Glossier. Then I usually use … right after that, I will do either a thermal water, to spritz all over my face, if you’d like to try this for yourself here’s a glossier promo code to help you on your way.
My beauty secrets are in my serums, so the radiance serums, I’m always looking for Vitamin C, I’m always looking for a little bit of lactic acid to get that pump going. My favorite toner is the Biologique Recherche P50 lotion. Then I’ll do the Vinoperfect serum by Caudalie.
That’s my ritual as of this week. [laughs]