“I started college at the University of Illinois on a pre-med track. I loved physics, biology, and anatomy, but I was on autopilot. My dad is a doctor, and I spent a lot of time in hospitals growing up, so I felt very comfortable in that world. You do what you know. Also, because my parents are African—anyone who’s reading this who has immigrant African parents will tell you—there are only so many professions that we are encouraged to have.
Looking back, it’s not that surprising that I ended up working in culture. I was always creative and I had a discerning eye. When I was in college, I read every fashion magazine from cover to cover. I thought, ‘I don’t just want to be the consumer. I want to know how to make clothes.’ I felt like having that skill would open so much more for me. That’s why I decided to transfer to the Savannah College of Arts and Design. When I told my parents, they were like, ‘What is your career going to look like?’ It was completely foreign to them.
What’s funny is that all the things that I learned in art school are the things that sustain the creator economy. I learned, yes, of course, sewing, draping, and garment creation, but also, the pre-reqs called for a lot of digital media skills like photography and knowing how to use Adobe Creative Suite. I mean, it seemed really alternative to do that then, but actually, it gave me a very good foundation for my future.
I moved to New York in 2012, and in the very beginning, I worked in luxury retail at Barneys. Then I got into design and started working for Kimberly Ovitz as a pattern maker. I ended up working in design at a bunch of different places, and the whole time, I was privately workshopping my own brand, OMONDI. OMONDI was more like a personal diary told through clothes. I was still working a job when I launched it in 2013.
I dissolved the brand in 2020. I think a lot of what I was doing when I first had my brand was a little too early for the industry. I really wanted to uplift Black women, not through talking, but through imagery and beauty. I don’t think people remember this, but 2013 was not 2023. Inclusivity was yet to be adopted. As a Black woman in fashion, I remember thinking I’d either need to be championed by the bourgeois fashion girlies or the misogynistic hip-hop men to succeed—neither of whom felt particularly welcoming.
I started my podcast, The Cutting Room Floor, in 2018, before I closed my apparel company. I was really frustrated, to be honest. The industry felt really fragmented, and a lot of people who worked in it didn’t understand other areas of the business, and because I come from design and understood factories and the back of the house, I saw a white space. Fashion media was changing, but there was no real forum for an industry that people are so heavily invested in—hip-hop, streetwear culture, and Virgil Abloh’s legacy brought so much attention to fashion in a mass way, whereas before it was a very insulated industry.
I say that The Cutting Room Floor is ‘fashion’s only fashion show.’ That was a tagline I came up with when I started the show, and I was like, ‘I’m going to keep repeating this until people get it.’ Sure, there are things like SHOWstudio with Nick McKnight and The BoF Show with Imran Amed, who I love and respect, but I still feel like there’s not really a mixture of fashion at a high level but also a humane perspective—like a Red Table Talk or an On Purpose with Jay Shetty. I also don’t feel like there’s anyone brave enough to truly ask challenging questions. There is an understanding just by the reputation that I’m trying to build: If you’re coming to my podcast, you should understand that you’re here to talk. If you want to be cagey and if you want a super polished PR segment, there’s a lot of fashion media for that. The Cutting Room Floor isn’t that.
Every single person that’s ever come on the podcast has stayed with me in some way. When you listen to Mara Hoffman’s episode, you’re so much more engaged with who she is as a person that it can almost convert you to a consumer. That’s why I like to talk to people in fashion. People are not their Instagram; they’re not their brands; there is so much more to these people.
My first beauty memories are related to dancing. We did makeup and hair to be on stage—lots of blush, lipstick, pulling hair back, bows, all of that for competition and recitals. I have older sisters, so they would help me, but I remember realizing as I got a little bit older that people did not know how to do Black makeup. I was always the only Black girl, and with an experience like that, you’re introduced to self-consciousness early.
I always say that my coming of age happened at 30. I had clear skin my whole life, and then all of a sudden, during the pandemic, I got crazy acne out of nowhere. At first I thought it was PCOS, which it was not. I got blood tests. I saw doctors. I tried different medications. I was trying to eat as clean as I possibly could. To this day I do not know what it was, but at the time, I was like, ‘I’m dying.’ I was so melodramatic, but you don’t feel confident—and when you’ve been testing so many different remedies and they’re not working, you think, ‘Is this who I am now?’
All of the things that happened to me during COVID were very humbling. I developed a lot more understanding and empathy for people in a way that I didn’t have before. I’ve always been very confident my whole life and had very little patience for people who were not. I used to have this attitude of ‘Keep up or get out of the way.’ But throughout those two years from 2020 to 2022, it felt like I lost a superpower.
Dr. Elena Jones eventually helped. She’s Pharrell’s dermatologist, and I’d been wanting to get an appointment with her for a long time before COVID, when I didn’t even really need her. Then it got dire, and through a job I did for Humanrace, I became a patient of hers. She gave me steroid shots at first. Then she gave me tretinoin at a pretty high dosage—0.1%—and hydroquinone, which can be frightening, especially for people of color because it does have bleaching agents in it. I use it very sparingly.
Dr. Jones also got rid of my entire skincare routine. She said, ‘Bring everything that you use.’ I did, and she was like, ‘No to all of this. This is the new rule: CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser, Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion, and the medication I’m giving you. That’s it.’ She told me that I don’t need anything clogging my pores, and to use a water-based lotion. The only other thing that I’ll use is Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant twice a week. Sometimes I want a glow, and my skin’s fucking amazing after I use it.
I don’t have a morning routine. I don’t even like to splash water on my face. I do everything at night—well, I’ll do a layer of Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40. It’s clear, and it’s really light. I think I learned about it from Brooke Devard. Then I’ll put a primer on and go to town with makeup, if I’m wearing some that day. You have to understand: After I got my skin clear, I was like, ‘If I can walk around with no makeup without being afraid, I will just be so grateful and so mindful.’
I use the Benefit POREfessional Face Primer just on my T-Zone. Then I use the Armani Luminous Silk foundation in shade 15. It’s the OG—can you get any better than that? It’s medium coverage but light, and I love the color. My skin has a red undertone and I’ve found that a lot of foundations are too yellow-brown, even when they are deep. My Armani shade is almost a deep red, which I like. In the winter, I use the Sephora Best Skin Ever Foundation more because it’s a bit more full-coverage. Depending on what kind of day I’m having, I can very easily be done there, but if I’m doing more, I’ll use a combo of Fenty Beauty Bronzer in Toffee Tease and Laura Mercier Translucent Powder in Medium Deep to contour—but I rarely do.
Sometimes, not always, I do a little bit of concealer under my eyes and in my smile lines. Right now, I’m using the Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Liquid Concealer in shade 440. I don’t know if I’ll buy it again, not because it’s not good but because I like to play. So far it’s been fine, but I also don’t really like using concealers in general to be honest. Although, the Glossier Stretch Concealer (in shade G2) [note: the shades have since expanded and have been renamed] will forever be my girl—it’s Glossier’s hero product for me. The only reason I haven’t been using it is because I ran out. It’s creamy, and I like how light it is. I use it literally to conceal; I use the Fenty for brightening.
I’m a mascara connoisseur. For years I wore a YSL mascara, but someone at Sephora convinced me to use Lancôme Idôle Mascara. It’s the one product that I’ve been using consistently for 20 years. I don’t wear false lashes, and I don’t think I ever will need to because I believe that if you apply your mascara correctly you just don’t need them. So I take a long time to apply it—and I love a clumpy mascara look. There’s an art form to it. You need an almost-empty bottle and a full bottle—that’s why one of mine has a piece of pink tape on it. The key is to have a curved wand. You have to come from the top of your lashes, not the bottom, and you swipe over and over and over and over. After a coat with the full bottle, you have to let it dry. Before you go back in for your second coat, go in with the wand from the almost-empty bottle and comb through your lashes. Then I do the bottom lashes with a thick, fully wet brush. You do this as many times as you need to until every lash has their shine.
For my brows, I don’t use gels, and I don’t use pencils because I feel like they make brows look too drawn. This is my own thing—I feel like other people should do this, and maybe they already do—I always use the tube of almost-empty mascara. I’ve never found a brush for brows that was thick enough or big enough, but the mascara brush is great. It has a little bit of product on it, but it’s dried up. It’s the best way to get a bushy texture.
To remove the mascara at night, I use the Neutrogena Makeup Remover Wipes if I’m being really lazy or if I’m on my phone—but that’s usually not enough so I’ll use the Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Removing Balm. It’s amazing. The mascara melts off.
Right now, I’m using the Fenty Beauty Killawatt Highlighter in Ruby Richez for blush. I love the way it applies. Part of that is my hand and how I’m putting it on, but it’s very light and shimmery. It’s just a kiss of blush. I tried to get a Rare Beauty Liquid Blush, but the girls are buying it. It’s sold out.
For eyeshadow, I like M.A.C.’s Powder Kiss Eyeshadow in Devoted to Chili for warmth. I’m not a makeup artist so I don’t really have a lot of looks to give. [Laughs]
If I’m using lip gloss, it’s the Ami Colé Lip Treatment Oil, and for chapstick, I use Taspen’s Mint & Shea Butter Lip Balm. The company makes all-organic products in Colorado, and my friend who worked there was like, ‘You have to try this product.’ I thought it was some granola hippie bullshit, but it is the best chapstick on the market. First of all, it’s the size of an Elmer’s glue stick—and the chunk is important here. It’s so hydrating. I have so many of them in every bag, every purse, every coat. It’s also partly why I don’t wear any other lip products. I’m so content with this. Every other chapstick I’ve tried dries out my lips and gives me that itchy, addicting feeling where you need more. Also, Laneige has the best Lip Sleeping Mask. I think it’s amazing, but I refuse to spend on it. I bought it once, and then I was like, ‘This is not sustainable.’
I’m very big on scent, but I don’t have a big collection of perfumes. I use one or two things at a time. I like woodsy, masculine scents. Right now, I’m mainly using Suede by Perfumer H, which is amazing. I have candles of it around my apartment. I discovered the brand at a luxury boutique in Atlanta, but when I was in Paris, I happened to run into the actual retail store. And I still love all of the Tom Ford scents. Every single last one of them.
My friends from LA gave me a Flamingo Estate candle recently—it’s the one with pink peppercorn and bergamot—but a classic candle that I’ll never, ever get rid of is Feu de Bois from Diptyque. In general, I like basil-y, earthy smells. Hate vanilla. Hate citrus. Hate florals. Honestly, the brands don’t matter to me because I’m always going just for that scent profile.”
— As told to Daise Bedolla
Photographed by Alexandra Genova in New York on May 26, 2023.