All around the world, women are reclaiming beauty culture, not only to nurture their own beauty, but to empower their communities. Globalization has caused Western ideals of beauty to proliferate across the globe, threatening traditional beauty cultures. Across the globe, you’ll find ads that don’t reflect the local women, but rather a glamorized ideal of Western beauty influences. Straight hair, lighter hair, lighter skin, blue eyes, delicate noses, heart-shaped faces – the pressure of these ubiquitous stereotypes has squashed vibrant beauty cultures worldwide.
Women are increasingly standing up to these generic beauty standards, and in doing so are fighting for their history and traditions. Today, we’re spotlighting four female entrepreneurs who are empowering women and changing the world, one destination at a time.
- Tanzania: Flaviana Matata
Tanzanian beauty queen and fashion model Flaviana Matata is taking beauty back in her own hands, literally! Matata is empowering her home community by teaching women in East Africa nail care skills, along with the business education to open and run a nail care business. Matata started off as a technician and soon opened nail salons that offered newer services that previously were only found abroad. With the nail business booming, she created the Flaviana Matata Foundation, which enriches the lives of Tanzanian girls through education, and she also created her own nail care line, Lavy. Her line is cruelty-free, non toxic, and supports part of her non-profit mission. The Foundation provides girls with the skills, resources, and opportunities to complete their educations, find employment, start their own businesses, and ultimately fulfill their dreams. It provides solid building blocks for women to establish themselves as business owners, which gives the next generation of daughters a boost up. That’s some pretty amazing change to come from a humble manicure!
- Morocco: Lori Gordon
Marrakech Henna Art Café, founded by Lori Gordon, is a traditional Moroccan café with a progressive flair. Gordon is an American artist who travelled to Marrakesh and fell in love with the culture, eventually moving there permanently. She looked for outlets for both her creative, artistic side, and her charitable, giving sign, but couldn’t quite find what she was looking for. So, Henna Art Café was born. Centrally located in the Marrakech medina, the café has a permanent collection of incredible artifacts on display, including an exhibition of hand colored historic photos of Morocco’s artistic traditions, including henna. The henna artists have been trained not only in traditional henna art design, but in translating the art of henna to a canvas. These unique henna paintings are displayed throughout the café and sold, benefitting the female artists with additional income. The henna artists use only organic henna, and create unique designs for travelers who want to adorn themselves with Moroccan artistry. An amazing beauty ritual, supporting local women, and coffee – what’s not to like?
- Dominican Republic: Carolina Conteras
Carolina Conteras, one of my friends from the Dartmouth Community Commerce Fellowship Program, is empowering girls to embrace their roots and stand up for their heritage, one curl at a time. US native Contreras grew up feeling judged for her curly Dominican hair, especially in a society that is straight-hair crazed. As she grew, she started to embrace her Afro-Latina heritage, and eventually opened up the first natural hair salon in the Dominican Republic, dedicated to teaching girls how to take care of and embrace their curly hair. Right now, we’re in a dynamic cultural moment for Latinas, where we’re embracing the African roots that many of us have. For so long, embracing curly hair and being proud of your darker skin was almost taboo, since lighter skin and straighter hair were the beauty norms. With Latina women reclaiming their heritage, “Miss Rizos,” as Carolina is known, is showing a new generation how to be proud of and rock their texture. Carolina’s first US hair salon in NYC is opening soon, and we’re so excited for her to bring this amazing vision stateside!
- Pakistan: Khalida Brohi
Khalida Brohi, co-founder of the Chai Spot, knows something about the transformative power of a good cup of chai. Originally skeptical of her marriage to an American, after several meetings – always over cups of chai – the couple was able to create new understanding and tackle their family’s fears. This inspired Khalida and her new husband to found the Chai Spot, a peaceful space dedicated to discussion, understanding, and the enrichment of life. This magical tea lounge is dedicated to building bridges between East and West, aiming to be a spot where cultural and religious differences are left at the door. Full of color, light, and love, this is a boho haven that features chai tea and bites, discussion, education, dance sessions, movie nights, and art. 50% of their profits economic and educational opportunities for women and children in Pakistan, and Brodi’s additional foundation, the Sughar Foundation, assists tribal and rural Pakistani women with skills and leadership development. If you’re not able to visit their flagship store in Tlaqupaque, Arizona, they just opened their East Coast outpost in Manhattan, so be sure to pop in and embrace the atmosphere of love and understanding.
Written by: Stephanie Flor
Edited by: Mallory Huron