Ami Cole isn’t your traditional beauty brand. It’s a brand with community at its center; a brand created for Black people and Black women; a brand that aims to highlight Black joy. And unlike most other beauty brands, it’s also a brand with roots in the culture and aesthetic of Harlem.
“I grew up in Harlem, and the first thing I knew was everything I learned at my mom’s beauty salon,” says Diarrha N’Diaye-Mbaye, CEO and founder of Ami Cole. “Food, music, hairstyles, even the shows we were watching–all of that stuff was all based in Afrocentric beauty.”
As she began to explore the world outside of Harlem, she knew wanted to forge a bridge between her world and the world that was being presented via magazines and brands, showcasing where she grew up and creating a multicultural experience. N’Diaye-Mbaye says she quickly realized that no matter how hard she tried to reshape the narrative around product launches, while working at major beauty brands, her efforts weren’t being welcomed with open arms. “It honestly wasn’t until Fenty that people were like, ‘Wait a minute. They have something there,’” she says. This was when she realized that she ultimately wanted to start a beauty brand for people who pride themselves on celebrating their skin. “I think we, especially Black American women and Black diasporic women, need something to be able to celebrate not only our skin, but our stories,” she says.
It took three years of hard work to launch Ami Cole, a collection of makeup for melanin-rich skin that performs as skin care. “I was looking for this minimal, multi-functional, fuss-free approach to makeup and beauty, and I couldn’t find it,” N’Diaye-Mbaye says. In developing the products, she wanted to provide luminosity to the skin. “I don’t think we see that in Black beauty as much,” she notes. Using that as the brand’s launching point, the Skin-Enhancing Tint ($32), Lip Treatment Oil ($20), and Light-Catching Highlighter ($22) were born.
Showing up and being joyful and looking like yourself is just so powerful to me.
The Skin-Enhancing Tint comes in six shades that work with the vast undertones of melanin-rich skin, she says. She surveyed over 400 people to find out more about their shades, specifically their undertones, which is what makes the skin tint so special. It’s also formulated with the brand’s hero ingredient, baobab seed oil, in addition to hibiscus extract and pumpkin seed oil that nourish the skin.
“The highlighter balm was something that was very important to add to the launch portfolio, just to showcase that as is, we look good,” she says. It comes in one universally flattering shade, Glaze. It’s lightweight, doesn’t have heavy pigment, can be used on top of bare skin or over makeup, and moisturizes the skin on contact.
And the lip oil, well, it’s a staple item. It’s formulated with camellia oil, passionfruit seed oil, and baobab seed oil. “It’s an oil, balm, and gloss in one, so you’re getting hydration in addition to a rosy-taupe universally flattering color,” she says. “Plus, it’s long-lasting and stick-free.”
When people come to Ami Cole and implement the products into their skin-care routine, N’Diaye-Mbaye wants people to feel joy. “I feel like the Black joy narrative has not been one in beauty,” she says. “I feel like we got fierce, we got extraordinary, but you have to be Rihanna, Pat McGrath, or Serena Williams to even exist in this space.
“The women that are invited to the Fashion Week shows or were invited to the table have to be ‘extraordinary’ examples,” she continues. “But to me, especially growing up in Harlem, the extraordinary people that I know are literally my neighbors. Black women and Black people, in general, showing up joyful is just a revolution in itself. Showing up and being joyful and looking like yourself is just so powerful to me.”
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