With beauty credentials like helping to revamp the iconic CoverGirl brand and shepherding companies like Suave and Dove, Esi Eggleston Bracey has already had a huge influence on your beauty and skin care routines (probably without you even realizing it). As the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer North America for Beauty and Personal Care at the multinational consumer goods company Unilever, she is the literal definition of a beauty boss, with previous (and equally powerful) stints at Coty and Procter & Gamble. Not to mention she is also the co-founder of MELÉ Skincare, and she takes pride in being a champion of Black and brown women within beauty: a role she started over thirty years ago when she broke into brand management and marketing.
She is continuing her mission to support Black women in beauty as a member of this year’s TRESemmé’s Future Stylists Fund Selection Committee. For the second year in a row, the legendary hair brand is giving ten Black hairstylists the chance to receive $10,000 to help offset the high costs of cosmetology school tuition, along with mentorship and opportunities. “It’s important to me that we are truly representative in our depiction of and work in the beauty industry, and this isn’t possible without bringing diverse talent into the industry, increasing representation both in front of and behind the camera and the styling chair and doing what we can, using our influence to achieve equity for Black women,” Eggleston Bracy tells TZR.
While TRESemmé isn’t the only brand doing this pivotal work, it is one of the most influential, and is now a leader in the ongoing (and vital) evolution in the requirements for brands to earn consumer trust. “Today, people want products to go beyond just working,” Eggleston Bracey says. “People want to be valued for being more than consumers, before they put their trust in that brand. In fact, people want brands to extend beyond their own needs and focus on the ‘we.’”
Here, Eggleston Bracey shares why supporting Black hairstylists is good for the beauty industry, her personal beauty and wellness routine, what’s keeping her hopeful in beauty right now, and more.
How does your day-to-day look as you balance your executive role at Unilever with your position as the co-founder of MELĒ Skincare?
Our mission at Unilever is to be the beauty and personal care company that makes the most positive impact on people, communities, and the planet. We call this Positive Beauty and we are focused on this at both the corporate and brand level. It drives our work every day and it’s embedded in our brand strategies from the start.
I’m proud of our work on MELĒ that is designed to give melanin-rich skin the attention it deserves by providing more equity in skin care, as so many products don’t have melanin in mind. I balance my time across my portfolio of beauty brands like TRESemmé, Dove, Vaseline and Shea Moisture, along with MELĒ. I’m thrilled to be able to bring my decades of experience in the industry to address inequities and make a positive impact.
Why is science-based knowledge about Black and brown women’s skin crucial for the beauty industry, the products it delivers, and how it evolves?
The demographic shifts in the U.S. are unequivocal, and in many places and age groups Black and brown communities are the majority. At Unilever, we believe in the shift from “consumer-centricity” — or being mostly concerned with how people consume products and services — to “human-centricity,” or caring and being concerned about the whole person, our humanity, our lives, our communities, our planet. That includes understanding the personalized needs of melanin-rich skin and textured hair, and how women of color want to show up in the world.
What triumphs and achievements have you both seen and accomplished over the last year that have made you more hopeful about beauty’s future?
Unilever is deeply committed to putting an end to discrimination in beauty and championing inclusion. We are making tangible progress every day, and Dove’s work to eliminate race-based hair discrimination is a clear example of this. Dove co-founded the CROWN Coalition (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) in 2019 in support of the CROWN Act legislation. Thanks to our efforts, the CROWN Act (or legislation inspired by it) has passed in 14 states, making it illegal to deny children access to school or anyone employment based on their textured hair style like braid, locs, bantu knots, and more.
I’m proud of this progress and I was grateful to have been present for its signings in California and Colorado. But we still have more work to do to get the CROWN Act passed nationwide. You can support this by signing the CROWN Act petition at thecrownact.com. We have over 325K signatures and are striving for 500K this year to advance our efforts.
What do you think the implications are for Black hair stylists if they are better supported monetarily, as well as with mentorship?
We know that Black women are underrepresented and receive fewer tools, resources, and support to advance their professional ambitions. The Future Stylists Fund is just one way that TRESemmé can provide a long-term solution that specifically and intentionally supports Black women by not only helping offset cosmetology school tuition costs that may be holding them back from pursuing their ambitions, but also by providing them with experiences and exposure that lead to career-advancing and networking opportunities, especially by connecting them with other Black women in the industry.
While the monetary reward helps these women overcome socioeconomic barriers, mentorship allows them to foster long-term relationships and meaningful career growth. This past September, we brought our inaugural class of Future Stylists to New York Fashion Week to see behind-the-scenes how hairstyling works in the fashion industry, and to receive valuable master classes and business guidance from our TRESemmé hairstylists, Lacy Redway and Nai’vasha.
Tell me about your personal beauty routine, the products you love, and how you are approaching self-care lately.
I practice Japanese water therapy, which involves starting your day by drinking one liter of room temperature water before eating anything. I love the lather and care of Dove Body Washes. I use a range of them depending on my mood, but my latest fave is the Care & Protect Antibacterial version. It’s so nourishing and I love that it’s anti-bacterial. I also focus on taking care of my scalp with oil and deep conditioning my hair. I adore Shea Moisture’s Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil Intensive Hydration Shampoo and Conditioner and I like to switch it up with the TRESemmé Pro Pure Curl Define Sulfate-Free Shampoo and Conditioner.
For me, self care is about keeping my energy up, and taking time-outs for physical and mental recovery and reflection. I like to practice breathing, deep inhaling and exhaling, if even for two minutes between meetings. I recently took an amazing two week vacation where I fully disconnected from work and spent time with close friends. I did yoga every other day, went diving, enjoyed snorkeling, and took some amazing hikes. The theme was retreat, release, restore, and renew. This is my self-care.
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