Ulta Beauty recently launched the MUSE 100, a celebration of 100 inspirational Black voices in and around beauty, from entrepreneurs and creators to visionary leaders, and more. These individuals are creating impact and driving change in the industry and beyond, to help make beauty in our world possible. Each MUSE honoree will be awarded a $10,000 grant to help accelerate their impact, totaling over a $1M commitment from Ulta Beauty.
The MUSE 100 honorees embody the commitment of Magnifying, Uplifting, Supporting and Empowering Black voices – and, Maya Penn is someone who totally reflects this commitment. She has been named an honoree of the Next Gen category, “the emerging young Black leaders shaking up our world.”
Maya is doing anything and everything she can to make a positive impact on the world - and has been since age 8 when she founded her first company, the eco-friendly clothing line, “Maya’s Ideas.”
Now at age 21, she not only owns her sustainable fashion business but also owns the non-profit, “Maya’s Ideas 4 the Planet,” and continues to be a trailblazer for slow fashion. She can also be found fighting against climate change and equality in STEM while being a part of this next generation of young Black leaders.
We got the chance to sit down with Maya, and learn about her thoughts on being an environmentalist, how she’s fighting for sustainable fashion, her definition of success and so much more. Read below to hear what she had to say, and help us celebrate her as an honoree of MUSE 100!
Her Campus: What does fashion mean to you?
Maya Penn: Fashion is a universal medium to educate and communicate, to showcase our culture and vision for the future. When fashion is done right, it’s part of a movement and not a moment. I always say that Mother Nature is my favorite designer because I pull so much of my inspiration from the natural world and I love using nature-inspired and biomimetic designs across all of my work as an interdisciplinary artist.
Her Campus: How are you using your platform to educate and empower others through your brand?
Maya: I’ve been an environmental and social activist for 13 years, starting at 8 years old, and my activism is woven throughout all of my passions: My environmental justice and humanitarian nonprofit Maya’s Ideas 4 The Planet, my artwork and animation, my educational work, and more.
Through sustainable fashion, I’m speaking out for the wellbeing of the planet, and the rights of garment workers, who are majority women of color, and bringing to the forefront the importance of supporting sustainable Black-owned brands. Every day I receive emails, comments, DMs, and more from people of all ages around the world who have been inspired and have started their own initiatives to make a positive impact within their communities and the world. I’m so honored my journey can contribute to the power of collectivism and the ripple effect.
Her Campus: How do you define success?
Maya: My definition of success is not only meeting your goals but also helping others to achieve theirs. It’s always been crucial to me to use my journey and experience to lift up, educate, and inspire others that are on their journey to success. That is how I measure it -- by how it can help others.
Her Campus: What goal are you currently chasing?
Maya: I don’t chase goals, they chase me!
Okay, real answer: I am expanding nonprofit initiatives to provide more resources to young women and girls in the entrepreneurship and nonprofit spaces, and I’m continuing to bring the connection between the fashion industry and climate justice into the forefront and consulting small startups, Fortune 500 brands and everything in between on how they can make sustainability a priority in their pipelines. I am also writing, directing, storyboarding, and leading animation on an environmentally focused short film I’m producing through my animation studio.
Her Campus: What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self?
Maya: Never doubt the power of your unique voice. Your passion and authenticity resonates and reshapes reality.
Her Campus: The Muse 100 mission is to amplify and uplift Black voices and individuals. How are you personally aligned with this mission?
Maya: As a young Black woman, I’ve been an anomaly in every room I’ve entered, because I’ve been unafraid to enter very non-traditional spaces, and more so spaces that have been whitewashed within the mainstream over the years, such as sustainability. I've experienced firsthand how difficult it can be to build your own table within these fields, but I've been doing exactly that, and that's enabled me to always support, mentor, and empower other Black youth.
Here’s to Maya, and all of the other MUSE 100 winners!
Click here to learn more about Maya and the other MUSE 100 honorees!
This is a sponsored feature. All opinions are 100% from Her Campus.