Ask a Client - Jenn Harper of Cheekbone Beauty - Do good, feel good, look good

Jenn Harper knows what it means to create what matters. Since Cheekbone’s 2016 launch, the Anishinaabe beauty founder is not rising alone: she’s committed to advocating for Indigenous youth, of which 2% of Cheekbone’s profits directly support, and to challenging the standards of the industry with cruelty-free and lower-waste products.

By unveiling their new Right the Story campaign, Cheekbone aims to reclaim the narratives surrounding Indigenous peoples in the media carve out the visual space that is rightfully theirs.

The essence of Cheekbone—and of Jenn—is a commitment to true authenticity. We were curious about Jenn’s nature in relation to Cheekbone’s success, so we asked her a few questions.

Here’s what she had to say.
Representation is one of Cheekbone Beauty’s core values. What do you dream that this company can do for the Indigenous youth who come across it?

When I was young, not seeing my kind of people in mass media and pop culture settings made me feel like my culture wasn’t valued, and raised a lot of questions about my identity and a lack of belonging. I want Indigenous youth to see Cheekbone Beauty and know that it is a space for them; for them to feel valued and for them to know that they have the capability to achieve great things.

What has surprised you about the beauty industry, since immersing yourself in it?

The most surprising thing has been that the barrier to entry is very low. Anyone can buy a lip gloss or lipstick and slap their logo on it.

We’ve read that Cheekbone Beauty came to you as a dream. Would you mind telling us what you saw?

In my dream, I saw young native girls dancing around covered in lip gloss. They were giggling and exuding joy. The dream came to me after learning about my grandmother’s experience in a residential school and overcoming my struggles with alcoholism.
How does your business model reflect and embody the Anishinaabe worldview?

For generations, Indigenous people have looked to nature and mimic it in so many ways. Nature is absolutely perfect and recycles itself—like when leaves fall on the ground and are compostable, the water cycle, and all of these systems and cycles that happen around us naturally that we don’t think about much in urban centers. We know that Indigenous people have always watched that. So, we are looking for how we can incorporate those concepts when we are creating and making products, and also how we can use another Indigenous teaching about considering the next generations. How is what we are doing going to impact our children, our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren? It’s about thinking that far ahead and not impacting them in a negative way.

The cosmetic and skincare industry is not known for its sustainability practices. Do you think that your success could have an impact on larger brands on the shelves of Sephora?

This brand wasn’t started because the world needed another beauty brand. We didn’t need that. What we did need was a brand and platform to represent Indigenous youth and was pushing new ideas and concepts about sustainability, and getting real and raw about that. It’s so hard to manage the greenwashing that happens, so we needed a brand that would call itself out and say, “this is why we did this, and this is how we are going to do things differently.” The more brands like this that are in this space doing this, the more it pushes the giant conglomerates to make changes because they pay attention to the money and the money comes from the people. When the indie brands and smaller brands like us have a little bit of power in the community, and people are asking for better, it does force the big guys to make changes. We don’t need to say publicly that we did this big huge thing, we’re humble—but if we are pushing small changes in our way and that forces the bigger companies to make changes then I think we have done our job.

What do you hope Cheekbone Beauty grows into over the next few years?

Over the next few years, we hope to see Cheekbone Beauty become a global brand. The further Cheekbone Beauty’s mission is broadcasted, the more impact it has on Indigenous youth.