Nexus Cook, Founder of 25th and June Nail Polish

My name is Nexus Cook and my dad is Italian and Irish and my mom is Black.

I’m a copywriter at DDB New York and I own 25th and June Nail Elixir. I started it in 2013. My idea to start the line came from just being a complete nail junkie and having too many colors to even choose from. And then I got to a point where I kind of wanted to make my own and see how I could mix and match different colors. Every time I got paid, I would buy nail polish. It was just really, really bad. I could start a salon with how many nail polishes I owned. Then I started mixing different pigments in my living room and it was a joke! Nothing came out and the quality was terrible. I did make one that was really good. It was this purple matte color and then I thought, ‘Okay, I think I can do this’.

I started doing my research, trying to reach out to different people in the cosmetic industry and then finally, I found a distributor and a manufacturer.

All of my polish is five-free, which means that it doesn’t have the five main harmful toxins that a lot of brands have. We don’t think about it because our nails are hard, but our cuticles absorb everything.

What I try to do to really differentiate my brand from the others is to follow the trends, but never put out the exact same colors that say, Essie has. We see the same six colors that are going to be in every store, every season. It’s like, what’s the point? I want to pick colors where it could be any time of the year and if you need a specific color, you can get it. You don’t have to wait until it’s “in season”.

I put out a chocolate color this summer and it sold so much. I don’t know why. But I almost sold out of it.

I’m a writer, so I write a story about all of my polishes, too. When you read the descriptions, you see that there’s a reason why I picked the [name of the] color.

~

My grandmother influenced me, beauty wise. 100 percent. I told you, my dad’s white and my mom’s Black, but I was raised by my mom and her side. That’s my family. I don’t really have a relationship at all with my father’s side.

My family is from Louisiana and everybody is every single color under the sun. I’ve always known that I’m mixed. My grandmother would talk to me about everything, especially when it came to my heritage. My mother would get mad and she’d be like, “You can’t talk to her about that stuff –she’s six! You can’t talk to her about these things”. My grandmother talked to me about politics and racism and everything. That’s just how it’s always been. She always would tell me, “Don’t let anybody ever tell you who you are or tell you who you’re not. Your aunt is light skinned. I’m brown. Your mother’s darker than me. Your uncle’s dark skinned. Our family comes in every color and you just happen to be this color”. That’s how it’s always been. So I’ve never had that complex of feeling different in my family.

It wasn’t until maybe middle school that I realized that I was “different.” They’d be like “You’re not Black”, and I’d be like “Yes I am”. And they’d say, “No, you’re white”.

I started to look at myself differently just because kids are mean. So I’d be like, ‘I don’t want my hair. I want straight hair’. It was just weird. I was never Black enough to be Black. And I damn sure wasn’t White enough to be White.

I guess middle school was the hardest. I’d wonder, ‘Do I like my hair? Do I not like my hair? Do I want to be darker? Do I not want to?’ It was just a very weird time. But it was external. I wasn’t raised like that at all. You know how some people grow up and their families are like, “Oh, they have nice hair?” Or they portray colorism? That’s such a big thing in the Black community. I didn’t grow up like that at all. It was never a conversation. I never questioned my blackness. It was always everyone else.

~

I do consider myself a brown girl, but a very, very light one! I remember I used to just be like, ‘I’m Black’, but then I feel like I’m shortchanging who I am because I’m both and I’m proud of it.

The one thing I’d tell a lot of mixed women is to never let anybody define who they are. Don’t let your identity be shaped by other people’s opinions because you’ll crumble. There’s no stability in that.