Photo Credit: Ace Amir
Hi, I’m Maya, and I’m the creator and talent director for Every Skin Has A Story: Creatives Of Color Take On Beauty presented by Retrouvé. Every Skin Has A Story was designed to amplify the voices of creatives of color and to provide a platform for the entire Retrouvé community to speak openly about issues of social and racial justice. The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and so many others was heartbreaking and inspired me to do this show. I took my anger and put it into something positive in my sister Lyric’s honor who was extremely passionate about fighting for social and racial justice. It started off in collaboration with the Lyric McHenry fellowship, a scholarship that my family and Lyric’s close friends started in her honor. The fellowship provides financial support to students at Stanford to pursue internships focused on racial and social justice in order to achieve their dreams. Additionally, the director of the Institute for Diversity In The Arts (IDA) at Stanford who oversees the fellowship also agreed to my request to host the show and to be an active blogger for Retrouvé. A-lan is a dream come true and THE ideal host! She is brilliant, and she is family. She has been featured in Forbes and has spoken on many different panels. As the director of IDA, A-lan helps train undergraduates in how to use art as a tool for organizing and bringing about social change. A-lan is also a filmmaker and a long-time advocate for social justice. Every Skin focuses on different topics like police brutality, inclusivity and social and racial justice. Even though there are set questions for the show, the conversation is very organic and goes even deeper than expected the majority of the time. I organize a call between A-lan and the guest beforehand so that they can get to know each other authentically and informally rather than talking for the first time on the live, which is what I wanted to present on screen. Each episode is followed by a blog written by A-lan featuring a deeper dive into the guest. We also provide Q&A’s called “Get To Know Our Guest” so our viewers can learn more about who the guest is as a person.
As a creative, I enjoy fostering visually and emotionally engaging narratives and content. Throughout my professional development, I have cast, shot and produced various editorials, and have helped brands find their social media voices. I have also connected brands with a host of diverse talent in order to execute different print, digital and social media projects. Professionally, I have created images for Teen Vogue, CR Fashion Book, Nylon, Galore, WXYZ Jewelry and more! I have also consulted for brands that I believe in and love. Early on in my career, I enjoyed giving talks at elementary and middle schools and participating in mentorship programs for young, underserved girls. I’ve always been attracted to people who are usually ignored and especially like to cast people who usually aren’t highlighted in order to change the way society views and understands beauty.
I met Jami Heidegger, the founder of Retrouvé, during the most painful moment in my life. She and my mother had many mutual friends. When I first saw her, she was at my house after my sister’s passing and I thought she looked like Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady. She wore these beautiful white gloves and elegant hat. Her entire outfit was white with accents of black throughout. Jami was gracious and supportive and has continued to be ever since. She has a heart of gold, and I feel incredibly grateful to know her.
Every Skin Has a Story first debuted on July 24, 2020, with first guest Trae Bodge, the accomplished lifestyle journalist and TV commentator. It was so exciting to have the show come to life and very fulfilling to have realized the concept that I had conceived on behalf of Retrouvé. I feel so proud to be involved with a company who is supporting work toward racial justice and centering the ingenuity of people of all backgrounds. Our audience has grown so much from the show, and it makes my heart tingle when I hear and see all the beautiful support and attention the show has gotten from the Retrouvé community.
When casting talent for Every Skin Has a Story, I wanted to make sure that each episode had diverse perspectives on a range of important topics. I cast all sexualities and people of color not only to educate, but to amplify their amazing talents to do our part in helping to change the landscape of the beauty industry. Our second episode featured Peyton Dix, Special Projects Editor for InStyle who is continuously fierce, bold and outspoken on her instagram and I love it. She’s so confident in her words and beliefs! For this particular episode, we focused on being Black and queer in the media space, what it’s like to work for a white-owned major publication and more! She covered and educated so many viewers, and I was overjoyed to hear that Jami received great feedback from people who were tuning in, enjoying, learning and growing from the show. When I asked Peyton to come on, I knew she would be the perfect guest to educate and speak boldly about lack of representation for people of color in beauty as a racial and social justice issue. I knew she wouldn’t be afraid to discuss these important and pressing issues, that otherwise might be uncomfortable to share openly.
Next we had Lindsey Farrar, co-founder of CRWNMAG, the world’s first natural hair magazine. The publication celebrates and addresses the whole Black woman: speaking to identity, purpose and power. The discussion around Black women’s hair is such a profound and important topic. Feeling pressure to conform by changing our appearance and ourselves to fit society’s expectations and to make others feel more comfortable is an experience many Black women face. It was such an honor to have Lindsey Farrar on as a guest. She spoke with so much grace and elegance. Lindsey is intelligent, resilient and strong. I wanted this Live to keep going and never end. I learned a lot from her in such little time and appreciated how openly she spoke about the issues surrounding our hair as Black women and how colorism can also play a role. The way she spoke about such hard topics was amazing to watch because she presented them in a direct and educational way. She made the conversation feel lighter and brought love and joy to the episode.
Raisa Flowers, makeup artist, muse and model is redefining the way we look at beauty. She was recently named the most innovative makeup artist of the year by Refinery 29, Unbothered. Raisa has always had the sweetest soul, and everything she dreamed about doing as a child she is now achieving professionally. It’s beautiful to see friends do what they’ve always dreamed of doing. Raisa opened for Rihanna’s SavagexFenty show, and she looked as confident as ever. It was very inspiring to see a plus-size Black woman walk the runway in lingerie and show off her beautiful and elegant dance moves. She has been in two of Rihanna’s fashion shows, and Raisa continues her rise in both the fashion and beauty industries. When she came on the show, she showed up as 100% herself, which is one of the many things I love and respect about her. She is unapologetic.
To have Sam Fine, celebrity makeup artist and author who has done the faces of some of the most influential Black supermodels of our time was a dream come true. Sam really honed in on the importance of community and relationships in his episode. Throughout his career, Sam has made lifelong friendships and beautiful relationships that have led to meaningful opportunities. You need community and connections in order for any of the work to last. He also touched on something that Raisa mentioned in her episode about how Black makeup artists often only get called on to do Black models, and that most of the time they can do models of all ethnicities, yet they rarely are called into the room for those jobs. This is something that makeup artists of color deal with throughout their career. Sam is a true fan of Retrouvé. He talks about the richness of the products and how great it is for melanated skin.
Mikki Taylor, Author, Speaker, Executive Producer, and Editor-at-Large at ESSENCE Magazine has been a friend of my family for many years. She and my mom have formed a very close bond. Mikki featured my mom in her first book, “Self-Seduction: Your Ultimate Path to Inner and Outer Beauty,” which highlighted many influential women of color like former supermodel Karen Alexander, Oprah Winfrey, Halle Berry, Vanessa Williams, Erykah Badu, Patti LaBelle and more. She has been a mentor throughout my career and is helping with the book that I am currently developing. Mikki is also a longtime friend of Jami’s and a big supporter of the Retrouvé family. When Jami was running Kiehl’s, she and Mikki worked very closely together to develop inclusive products for all people and skin types. Every time Mikki speaks I think to myself, she was born to be of influence. She is the leading authority on inner and outer beauty for women of color. A compelling empowerment speaker, Mikki emboldens women to own their lives, celebrate their beauty, and master their purpose with distinction. As the former Beauty & Cover Director at ESSENCE magazine, she cast and produced over 500 covers as well as its signature beauty pages to affirm and inspire the culture’s definition of beauty. Today she serves as the publication’s ambassador (Editor-at-Large), hosting its audience at live events such as the ESSENCE Festival’s PowerStage and Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey. I was honored when Mikki agreed to come on the show, and it gave me chills to hear her speak! She brings a smile to my face every time she talks; she has such a beautiful spirit and her presence is extremely infectious. I could feel her uplifting and positive energy through the screen. Mikki exudes joy and love.
Leah Pump is a mentor and friend to me. She is yet another amazing and beautiful person whom my mom brought into my life. Leah is a living angel. She is the founder of the LadyLike Foundation, a non-profit organization whose purpose is to educate, empower and inspire young women living in underprivileged inner-city communities. Along with being the president of the LadyLike Foundation, Leah is also an educator. She has taught elementary school for nine years and was a principal for two years. Recently, she developed a “LadyLike Class” curriculum for Middle and High School girls and has been asked to teach weekly classes to students within the inner cities of Los Angeles. Leah graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology and received her Master’s Degree in Education from Pepperdine University. This woman is the very definition of beauty and brains! I was very excited when she was more than happy to come on the show. She is a long-time friend to Jami and my mother. My sister’s godmother and others organized something special, and The Lyric McHenry Fellowship was lucky enough to partner with Leah’s foundation to grant the scholarship to some of her fellows! It was a wonderful way to honor my sister by continuing the work she was so passionate about. She spoke with such grace on her episode like she always does. Leah is a class act, and I’m constantly learning from her. She is an excellent role model, and it was a privilege to have her as a guest.
Working on Every Skin Has a Story has helped me process the grief of this moment by doing meaningful work in service to making this world a better place. It continues to be important to cultivate a diverse community in order to create change. We need to continue to have bold conversations in order to move forward and create a world that is inclusive for all.