Pound Cake makeup brand focuses on diverse skin tones

A 2015 alumna co-founded a makeup brand for diverse skin and lip tones.

Camille Bell, a 2015 public relations and advertising alumna, applies Red Velvet, one of the five shades in Pound Cake’s Hot Cakes Collection, on the rooftop of The Yard: Midtown Village, where Pound Cake's office is. | KHANYA BRANN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Camille Bell wasn’t allowed to wear makeup until she got to college.

“In ninth grade, my friend Renae bought me this big eyeshadow kit for Christmas,” said Bell, a 2015 public relations and advertising alumna. “I remember putting one of them on and it made me look so vibrant. I fell in love with makeup just from that one experience.”

Her parents weren’t as thrilled. They wanted her to love her natural self and not become dependent on makeup to feel beautiful, she said. For the next few years, she was only allowed to use the kit on special occasions.

Once she got to Temple, Bell was free to experiment with makeup. During her junior year, she took a makeup class in the theater department and was exposed to its transformative power.

Right after graduation, she came up with the idea for Pound Cake, a makeup company that caters specifically to Black women by creating products that flatter a range of skin and lip tones.

Bell and Pound Cake’s co-founder and creative director, Johnny Velazquez, a senior media studies and production major, have raised more than $9,000 in their IndieGoGo campaign to help fund the production costs for their first line of products.

The goal is to reach $20,000 by Oct. 25 and couple the funds with the $10,000 the two won during an exclusive pitch presentation in the Fox School of Business in August. The prize came from the university’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute, which promotes entrepreneurial collaborations between students, mentors, faculty and alumni.

Their upcoming line, the Hot Cakes Collection, will be released in May 2018 and features five vegan matte red lipsticks. The different shades are intended to challenge the stigma that Black women can’t wear red lipstick by complementing the multitude of skin and lip tones in Black women.

Pound Cake founders Camille Bell, a 2015 public relations and advertising alumna, and Johnny Velazquez, a senior media studies and production major, meet on the roof of Center City coworking space, Yard: Midtown Village on Friday. | KHANYA BRANN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Aize Asowata, Pound Cake’s brand consultant, said the lack of representation in the beauty industry can shape Black women’s relationship with buying makeup. Asowata recalls playing with makeup one day as a child, when a friend of hers came up to her and said, “I didn’t know Black people had makeup.”

“It’s more than just not finding your shade,” Asowata said. “It’s extremely frustrating when you don’t see yourself represented in the beauty industry, because brands are very bluntly saying, ‘Our products aren’t for you.’”

Bell and Velazquez said their products are coming onto the market at an important time. Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty makeup brand — which has been praised for featuring a comprehensive range of foundation shades — launched last month.

Bell noticed that other big beauty brands, like Make Up Forever and Marc Jacobs Beauty, are catching on to the power of marketing products to more diverse groups of people.*

Velazquez said he’s unimpressed by the sudden interest.

“Now that companies see diversity as something they can capitalize off of, they’re going to start spinning this inclusive rhetoric in their campaigns,” he said. “I’m hoping people see through it and remember they didn’t care about us at all before we showed them how profitable marketing to us can be.”

The support team at BlackStone LaunchPad, a campus-based entrepreneurship program, was influential in helping Bell and Velazquez take their idea to new heights, he said.

“In addition to providing us with information on pitching opportunities, growth strategies and operating agreements, they continue to give us emotional support when we need it,” Velazquez said.

Julie Stapleton Carroll, Blackstone’s program director, said Blackstone often sees entrepreneurs come in at varying stages of their business development process.

“What stands out about her and Johnny is their persistence,” Stapleton Carroll said. “They’ve been in here once a week for the past two years. They’ve been really diligent in terms of listening to our advice and actually following up and doing it. It’s clear that they’re dedicated to the idea and passionate about the company.”

Asowata wants to see Pound Cake grow as a brand and disrupt current beauty industry standards, she said.

“I want it not to be abnormal to see my face on a billboard, and I want all of the people who have been overlooked and ignored to feel seen and welcomed with Pound Cake,” Asowata said.

The Pound Cake team wants to specifically serve people who are often left out of advertising in the makeup industry.

“We are a pro-black, pro-fat, and pro-trans feminist company and will continue to act in a manner that reflects as such,” its mission statement reads.

There will also be an educational section on Pound Cake’s website to inform site visitors on social justice issues pertaining to the brand’s target audiences, Bell said.

“I always knew I was going to own a business one day,” she added. “I’ve had an entrepreneurial spirit for as long as I can remember. … It’s great I can use my passion to cater to marginalized communities.”

UPDATE: *This story has been updated to reflect additional information.

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