Interview by Hayley Barnes
What inspired you to start Uoma?
Sharon Chuter: “It was a sign of the times, even now in 2019 we’re still having conversations around this monolithic existence and definition of beauty and cultural relevance. Although the industry is now more conscious of it, not a lot has changed.
We live in an [increasingly] globalised society and unfortunately the cost of globalisation is that the right to play as a global citizen has really been set by Anglo-centric, western standards.
[So] my brand is a form of social activism, if I was a musician I would’ve written a song about it, but I’m not, all I can do is sell lipsticks. This was me using the platform, and something that I knew how to actually fight to move to a world one step closer to one that is more inclusive, and when I say inclusive, I don’t mean just more shades of foundation, I mean a world that is more cognisant of people’s stories, of people’s origin. That’s what I try doing with my brand, that’s the fantasy we take you through with the brand - an Afro-politan beauty brand that is inclusive.”
Being a woman of internationality, as you were born in Nigeria, and lived in both LA and London, how have the different nations inspired your brand?
“For me it has really been the heart of [my brand] - experiencing different culture, and the beauty of different cultures, shaped me. They say travel is fatal to prejudice, [it shows] you are a small part of a very large world. I actually spent a lot of my adult life in Australia, in and around Asia. Australia is so laid-back, [they] pride themselves on mediocrity, it’s reverse bragging in Australia, the number one focus in life is to be happy - I take that through everything I do.”
What is a main concern that you think many beauty brands miss out on?
“We’re now in the age of ‘diversity’ and political correctness, but most beauty brands do not get it. It’s now all so formulaic in terms of just ‘answering [a problem]’. The true meaning of inclusivity is not only being invited into the room but it’s getting a seat at the table. And right now I think the beauty industry is just inviting everybody into the room. Even when you were making this ‘table’ what is the table made of? Can you even fit me? There’s [also] such a huge lack of diversity within these teams - how are you going to get a person you never met?”
Finally, as Uoma means beautiful, what makes you feel most beautiful?
“Superficially, when my skin is on point! It makes me feel like a million- dollars when my skin is looking good, and glowing. But mostly when I feel free, powerful, and when I am at peace with myself. The concept of beauty and freedom goes hand in hand personally. I feel beautiful when I’m free to be me, when I’m not over-thinking things. If I’m empowered, I walk into any space feeling beautiful regardless how I or others feel I look. And ultimately that’s completely what Uoma beauty is about feeling powerful, and recognised.”