Lauren Napier Created a Beauty Empire, Now She's Helping Other Black Female Entrepreneurs Start Their Own Businesses

Rico Kinnard/Courtesy Lauren Napier

The New York City-based beauty entrepreneur talks about creating a distinctive style, a lasting beauty brand, and how she is working to empower creative black female entrepreneurs.

Lauren Napier’s beauty resume is roughly a mile long—she’s done makeup for Lady Gaga, John Legend, Gloria Steinem, Zoe Kravitz, Bill Clinton, and Harry Belafonte. And that’s not an exhaustive list by any means—really, you name the actor or performer, and chances are she’s made them camera-ready at some point in the last 15 years. 

Napier launched Lauren Napier Beauty in 2014 to distribute super-luxe facial cleansing wipes, and is continually expanding her product line. In addition to growing Lauren Napier Beauty—now in 20 countries and sold in the U.S. on Net-a-Porter—the beauty guru just co-founded Consider Something Better, as a way to “empower black women-led businesses, because we are underfunded and underrepresented.”

Suffice it to say, Napier has had a jam-packed schedule since she came onto the beauty scene in the early 2000s. She started out working for MAC Cosmetics around the time they were acquired by Estée Lauder. Her style of makeup artistry set her apart almost immediately.

“I had a specific point of view when it came to makeup and that’s how I found success in that field,” says Napier. 

As anyone familiar with the Spears-Timberlake all-denim years knows, makeup trends looked a little different in the early 2000s. Cosmetic styling unabashedly played more with vibrant hues.

“During that era, everything was monochromatic, everything was bold—think: green eyeshadow, blue eyeshadow, monochromatic colors,” Napier says, immediately conjuring up an image of the cringeworthy 2005 blue eyeshadow trend forever etched in our minds.

Napier saw the opportunity to pare down makeup instead of further emphasizing it. “While there was this opportunity to express yourself with color, I was able to use different forms of color to enhance what was already there and what was natural,” she explained.

Her minimalist macquillage tendencies didn’t go unnoticed. Working to enhance natural beauty is how she moved into doing makeup for editorial—namely, Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Essence shoots. She then moved into TV and film, and found her way to doing makeup for Saturday Night Live.

She seeks to “enhance without altering”—and that’s why her style resonates with photographers, TV and film directors, models, actors, and other talent.

That philosophy of enhancing natural beauty set the scene for her platform, Lauren Napier Beauty. She’d already grown in the luxury fashion and beauty world, worked with big names in film and TV, and honed her signature minimalist makeup style.

It was time for the next big idea. An avid traveler—both for work and pleasure—it’s not surprising that Napier came up with her now cult-followed, celebrity-touted product somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. She knew she wanted to make an impact in beauty, but was the first to admit that “beauty is so saturated,” it’s hard to land on a niche product that can develop a following and create a lasting impact. 

“I was coming back from Australia, going on to Dubai, and then back to New York,” says Napier. She really credits travel—new foods, different cultures, and museums (“I just live for a museum!”)—with creatively inspiring her beauty career.  “I was at the window seat with my little cosmetic bag—my airplane bag, I call it—that I packed, and my makeup wipes dried out,” says Napier. “And in that moment, it all just came together.”


Nina Robinson/Courtesy Lauren Napier 

A luxe cleansing wipe was the perfect culmination of her minimalist beauty practices and interest in an impactful, niche product that could appeal to the entire skin care market—including men, women, and consumers of any skin color. 

Three months later, she had a prototype for her CLEANSE wipes. A gender-neutral, ethically made, high-end cleansing wipe. It’s cruelty-free, manufactured with solar energy, the packaging is recyclable, and the wipes are “biodegradable and constantly improved.” The single-use packaging actually reduces waste—because 30% of beauty wipes are discarded when they dry out before use—and makes the cleansing experience more sanitary.

“The brand philosophy for Lauren Napier Beauty is: there’s beauty in taking it off,” says Napier. “Because of the ceremony that comes with putting on makeup, I also thought we should be encouraging and empowering people to feel just as beautiful without makeup.”

It’s clear from talking to Napier that she isn’t just the founder, creator, and makeup guru behind her brand—she’s also the creative director.

That level of drive and creativity is what Napier is currently channeling into her newly launched organization, Consider Something Better, which she started with Whitney Brown, CEO of Black business-focused digital platform Meet The Owner. The two women are raising $5 million to help black female founders get their businesses off the ground and on the road to success. They consider it a crucial matter of racial equity to give black women access to capital needed to fund their startups.

“We are underfunded by [venture capitalists], we receive less than 2% of the billions of dollars that are deployed annually,” relays Napier. “One percent of black-owned businesses receive any type of loan in the first year of their business. One percent.”


Nina Robinson/Courtesy Lauren Napier 

Napier’s business was entirely self-funded. As she puts it, “I started my brand with a tax refund and an American Express.” She says it’s not for lack of people starting businesses—in fact, black women are the fastest growing entrepreneur demographic. But with less access to capital, it’s that much harder for black business owners to scale up. That’s why Napier and Brown are working to raise millions of capital for black female entrepreneurs with Consider Something Better.

Simultaneously, like the best tastemakers, artists, and entrepreneurs, Napier is using this time at home to connect with her audience to better shape Lauren Napier Beauty’s growth, as the brand moves into markets in Asia and expands its reach in Europe. And what she's hearing from consumers is a need for more diversity in beauty products associated with high-end travel. And she couldn't agree more. 

When she travels on business, Napier wants to walk into a hotel or onto an airplane and see products—soaps, lotions, shampoos, and the like—that cater to the variety of people occupying the luxury travel space. Because, as she put it, “When you have diversity, everything is better, because it’s inclusive. It’s not just a single narrative.”