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, Zandra Cunningham 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.”
Zandra is the twenty-one-year-old founder of ZANDRA BEAUTY, an eco-friendly, all-natural beauty brand.
We had the chance to chat with Zandra, and learn about her thoughts on all things beauty, success, and empowerment. Read below to hear what she had to say, and help us celebrate her as a MUSE 100 honoree!
Her Campus: What does beauty mean to you?
Zandra Cunningham: Real beauty to me is everything about a person, a place, a thing you can’t see with your eyes but rather feel. It’s an experience. Beauty is natural, innate, and pure kindness. Beauty is sincere, majestic, and love. Beauty is emotional, divine, hope, and faith. For all of these reasons, beauty is why I live and smile daily.
Her Campus: How are you using your platform to educate and empower others through beauty?
Zandra: My platform is about my self-expression and liberation. It’s not about likes, followers (which is why I hide them), and comments. I use my platform to create and share myself, my journey in hopes of inspiration to others; using my influence to develop deeper connections is what really matters.
Her Campus: How do you define success?
Zandra: Success is subjective and situational. Starting my business and surviving this long as a young Black female founder is a success. Maintaining and growing one of the few black-owned manufacturing facilities in Western New York is a success. Teaching classrooms of underprivileged 3rd-grade girls on how to develop and appreciate their own self-care beauty regime, with ingredients in their kitchen, is also a success.
However, my personal success is being able to do the things others wouldn’t or couldn’t do. Success is the honor of doing the right thing, for the right reason, the first time. Success is being able to move forward immediately after a major setback while understanding the difference between a tough decision and a dilemma.
Right now, for me, success is the freedom to be. Live and love on any given day as I choose.
Her Campus: What goal are you currently chasing?
Zandra: Expansion. I am working daily to expand the reach of my business, impact, and message of self-actualization, freedom, and expression. I want little girls worldwide to know that if I can build an empire starting at 9 years old, they can do the same and more. My expansion means greater opportunities to create pathways for those coming behind me and walking alongside me.
Her Campus: What’s one piece of advice you would give your younger self?
Zandra: Because I started my business at 9, I was reticent and embarrassed by my accomplishments. Building a brand so young was unpopular and rare. My friends couldn’t understand my day-to-day and the world wasn’t quite ready for the disruption. I had to learn quickly that creating my own normal was how I was to survive.
Now at 21, I look back at my success, failures and I would advise my younger self to audaciously receive wins and the losses equally versus being reticent about them; moreover, embrace my successes versus being embarrassed by them because my success isn’t solely about me, it’s about our success as a people.
Her Campus: The MUSE 100 mission is to amplify and uplift Black voices and individuals. How are you personally aligned with the mission?
Zandra: I believe I am personally aligned with The Muse 100 Mission of uplifting Black Voices and Individuals because I live the need for it. Although America is said to be the greatest country on earth, being a black woman is extremely difficult. I have used my platform to help uplift women, especially women of color, but our brothers of color are in desperate need of support.
Black voices should be heard from sea to shining sea because we are kind, thoughtful, and clearly the most forgiving people on earth. We are intelligent, enterprising, resourceful, and most importantly, beautiful people.
Although in America, Black voices in totality only represent about 12% of the population, we are better than 100% contributory to the success and growth of America. It’s ignominious it has been over 250 years and Black people are still seeking fairness, equality, and freedom after everything we have done to uplift America. It is time for America to stand up, take a step back and acknowledge Black people for our beauty.
Here’s to Zandra, and all of the other MUSE 100 HONOREES!
Click here to learn more about Zandra and the other MUSE 100 honorees!
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