Have you ever met someone who is unapologetic in their pursuit of happiness? Or leaves you inspired after a quick chat and fully personifies the true meaning of #BlackGirlMagic? In short, that is Melissa Butler, CEO of The Lip Bar, a vegan cruelty-free makeup brand known to challenge the linear beauty standard. After leaving behind her career as a licensed stock broker on Wall Street, eight years ago, she embarked on her entrepreneurial journey and since has created one of the top Black-owned beauty brands to disrupt the status quo and change the game.
Advocating for the uniqueness and individuality of all women, the company ushered in a much-needed dialogue that was missing from the beauty industry’s broader scope. From Issa Rae to Taraji P. Henson, Angela Bassett, and many more, The Lip Bar is continually filling the beauty gap that has been missing for decades by providing a wide-range of quality products for women of various shades.
“I believe the beauty space is changing. Over the past few years, women of all races, shapes, and sizes have seen different levels of acceptance. We are fitting into this idea that you are good enough, and that is a brand mantra of ours. We are a company where you are enough, essentially like every first Sunday at church, when they call you to the pulpit and tell you to come as you are. While everyone is talking about diversity, I still think it’s a challenge for people to step into that. I believe we are also questioning how real and legitimate it is to be accepted by society, the way that society is claiming. I think Black women mainly are working hard to figure out where they fit in because while the world is saying it’s OK to be me, I don’t know if we necessarily feel that truly, deep down in our hearts.”
Since knowing Melissa from our days on the highest of seven hills while attending Florida A&M University (FAMU), I made life-long friends, and she is one of them. We both carry the pride of our HBCU, and one thing that is certain about Melissa, she has never been one to try and fit into a mold or a boxed-in version of what society deems acceptable.
A few weeks ago we had a candid conversation about her career commandments, dating to win, the notion of having it all, and how she’s living her best life according to her rules and game plan. I’m trying to win at this thing called life. But aren’t we all? So, I’m ready to take notes from Melissa’s playbook, and I hope you are too.
BlackLove.com: Years ago, we talked about your transition of moving back to your hometown, and you said something that has always stuck with me, “New York doesn’t need me, but Detroit does.” What did you mean by that?
MB: I think New York City (NYC) is an amazing place and has taught me a lot about the world and myself. But I grew up in Detroit, and I know what it’s like to not necessarily have exposure. New York is so magical and filled with so much energy because it’s culturally rich and diverse. You get exposure to many different walks of life and professions by literally just getting on the train.
Where I’m from a lot of people don’t necessarily leave their neighborhoods, or a lot of adults are getting passports for the first time. Many people haven’t been exposed to the world at large. I know because I was that person until I attended FAMU, studied abroad in China, and moved to New York. Going back home was a way to add value to my city and be that source of exposure for the next generation.
BL.com: While continuing to build your personal brand and business, what message do you want to instill in your hometown for the next generation?
MB: That’s a really great question! I believe the messaging is not to allow anyone, anything, or your circumstances to box you in. Be exactly who you are and show up as that person every single day because it is good enough. More than anything, don’t follow the trend. It’s about following your heart, whatever that looks like. It’s going to take some time to get there but go after it with all of your might. I’m an entrepreneur, and I own The Lip Bar because my heart told me that I could do something about inclusivity in the beauty space and tell the story of people who look like me.
BlackLove.com Related Articles:
How Jackie Rodgers of Greentop Gifts Decided to Bet on Herself and It Proved to Be the Best Investment
Are You Ready for Change? Here’s How to Design the Life of Your Dreams
From Employee to Entrepreneur: Charreah K. Jackson Talks Leaving Her 9-to-5 and Becoming the CEO of Her Life
BL.com: Since launching The Lip Bar, what have you learned about yourself when trying to balance dating and entrepreneurship?
MB: That I only want to date another entrepreneur because I think it’s challenging to understand if you’re not in it. I had a relationship, and I was angry and annoyed when things ended, but I’m appreciative of how it all worked out. He told me he wanted a woman who can be at home more, and I respect that he knew what he needed in a partner. It was disturbing for me at that moment, but once I took my ego out of it, I realized that was amazing of him because if we’re not aligned, then let’s stop wasting each other’s time.
I know I want someone who is ambitious and family-oriented, which is tough to come by. To find someone equally interested in both, I think it is a bit more complicated, but it’s driving me to consider that maybe I should be in business with my significant other. There are tons of good examples of co-working partners, and it works because when people talk about careers and the importance of liking what you do, they always mention you’re with your co-workers more than you’re with your family. I’m becoming more attracted to building with my partner than keeping them outside of what I have going on.
BL.com: In your eyes, what is the epitome of Black love?
MB: It extends into the Black family structure. My initial thought is support. I’ve dated outside of my race before, and it was beautiful. I love that man, but it was something missing, and I think it was that Black love concept. Unfortunately and oftentimes, what goes along with Black love is understanding the struggle. It is support, flexibility, and understanding that we all have trauma we’re dealing with. Black love is the Black experience in many ways, and it reminds you that you’re not alone in what a hard world it is. It’s hard to be an adult. There are all of these moving parts you have to do to be a productive person. And to put blackness on top of that. I’m seemingly wearing the weight of my entire race on my shoulders, and I’m having to watch my back and be mindful of my words and so forth.
I think the epitome of Black love is a structure for you to lean on without explaining. I feel that’s why Black grandmothers are always praying. It’s because of that known struggle and that opposition that you’re against in the world. It is that support, authenticity, and honesty.
BL.com: Do you ever get a “single stigma” attached for being a successful businesswoman?
MB: Absolutely, yes! All of the time. People say things like, “You don’t want children?” My response is always, “Of course, I want kids. Why wouldn’t I?” There’s this idea that we can’t have both things. Our mentalities have been limited to think we can only have one or the other. But I always tell people, “No, I want it all. I deserve everything, and I fully intend to have everything I desire.” I think part of it is a lack of mindset because some people aren’t necessarily living with abundance.
BL.com: How are we able to get to that point of self-acceptance and abundance?
MB: I think self-love and self-acceptance are very similar to happiness. It’s not something to be had, or you wake up with. It’s a constant effort by taking on each day as its own. You have to understand that you will have days where you don’t feel 100%, and that’s OK. It’s a lot of understanding of your body, mind, and stability. Knowing, “I feel my best when…” Every woman should understand when they feel their best and genuinely tap into that, whether it’s working out, journaling, having plants around you, or connecting with family or with nature. You have to know what keeps you balanced. It’s a daily challenge, and you have to be up for it by loving yourself first, every single day, and each step of the way, even when it’s hard.