CTZN Cosmetics: Redefining Beauty with Passion, Diversity, and Authenticity
IN CONVERSATION WITH ALEENA, ALEEZEH AND NASEEHA KHAN OF CTZN
Naseeha: I’ve been obsessed with makeup since I was a teenager! I can finally confess that all I could think about while I was sitting in class was which new YouTube tutorial can I mimic once I’m home! I eventually got my certification in makeup artistry and worked with private clients during my time in university, through a beauty concierge app. It still blows my mind that I have been able to turn that early passion into a career!
Aleezeh: As sisters, we genuinely all have such different skill sets and personalities that we knew we could make a great team as co-founders. Naseeha had the makeup certification and interest in pursuing a career path in beauty, but she needed the storytelling, the marketing, the operations, the logistics – the infrastructure behind the passion to turn this into something real.
Aleena: We challenged ourselves for two years until we truly felt that we were able to create something that beauty consumers had neither seen nor felt before CTZN Cosmetics. We are here to equalize the beauty experience for all makeup enthusiasts, no matter who you are, or what you look like, because that is what we never got to experience as consumers growing up.
Aleena: Diversity, to us, is representation of different communities and demographics – but as a beauty brand, we are passionate about mentioning that it is not enough to just focus on women of color and call that ‘diverse’. True diversity is understanding that there are people from multiple genders, races, sexualities, ethnicities, ages, skin types, personalities and beyond who shop color cosmetics. So the most authentic approach to diversity, in our perspective, is to approach it as an ongoing goal. You will never tick a box in being ‘perfectly diverse’ – our reflection point is: how can we make even more people feel represented by our brand? There is no end date, only curiosity that fuels this goal to evolve authentically.
Naseeha: Diversity means equal consideration. We’ve discussed diversity in great detail at CTZN, and the word we constantly land back at is being ‘considered’. At the end of the day, you want to feel that a brand or a person thought of you. Feeling considered is the prerequisite to then belonging. You will never truly feel you belong if you don’t feel you’re your wants and needs were considered within a group or community. As women, it is imperative for us to have a seat at the table where the decision-making happens, so that our voices and perspectives are not only considered, but also influencing change.
Aleezeh: Honestly, cancel culture is why we are only now seeing change in the beauty industry. Post George-Floyd Black Lives Matter protests in the US, we have seen organizations call out brands who have not focused enough on inclusivity and we have seen them demand retailers to allocate shelf space to BIPOC-owned brands. Calling out a brand publicly can lead to customers boycotting a brand entirely, even driving a brand into potential closure. The stakes are extremely high with cancel culture, so we feel most brands operate out of fear. However, we believe that brands championing inclusivity because of authentic care will gain the trust of consumers more than brands operating out of fear of cancel culture, because eventually, the intention can be felt.
Aleena: The challenges are that you can never equally represent every single voice, or even identify every single sub-culture that exists, because our world is so beautifully nuanced. There are over 3,000 cultures that exist in the world and countless races, religions, demographics, skin types and beyond. What matters is that you deeply care and aspire everyday to be one step closer in your goal of being more diverse and representative. The deep care is what a consumer can feel, which is often lacking in this industry where actions often feel like tokenism.
Naseeha: As a certified makeup artist, I lead product innovation and am a perfectionist with formulations and shade-matching. With her previous experience working in content at Snapchat, Aleena’s passion for storytelling and marketing to millennials has led her to lead branding and marketing. Aleezeh’s love for philanthropy and activism has led her to creating a brand new title as ‚Chief Cultural Officer, allowing our brand to focus even more on the deeper values beyond the product.
Aleezeh: Self-discipline is the biggest challenge! When you are setting your own schedule and your own daily goals, you are accountable to yourself, which can be risky if you are not regimented. Furthermore, as founders we are constantly traveling to grow the business and spread our message, however in those moments it is challenging to be both the face of the brand and still have time to manage the back-end work that piles up throughout the day. We’re lucky there are 3 of us, so that we all hold each other accountable.
Aleena: I would love to feel more authenticity in the beauty landscape. I would love to feel that brands truly care to understand the wants and needs of consumers from all backgrounds and walks of life, rather than what they assume the consumer wants. There is such an opportunity in reaching a wider community in a deeper way if a company chooses to take the time to engage in deeper outreach and community building.
Images courtesy of CTZN