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Representation matters: MU senior creates makeup line specializing in women of color

Kamilah Dotson, a senior at Miami University, is using her passion for cosmetics to create a makeup line that women of color can afford and use on a daily basis.

Dotson's love for makeup developed during her teenage years. She recalls multiple study hall meet-ups with her friends where they all gathered around a screen and watched beauty gurus practice their techniques on YouTube. Dotson became fascinated with these skills and everything the makeup industry had to offer.

"I truly have a love for makeup," Dotson said. "I feel like, when I have a full face of makeup on, I can do anything. People can't really bother me. It gives me more confidence."

While at Miami, Dotson has pursued her passion by doing makeup for groups -- like Love You Like A Sister (LYLAS) and its annual fashion show -- and occasionally doing makeovers for friends.

Dotson's idea is reflective of today's market. In recent years, the makeup industry has begun to adapt to the increasingly diverse population, making inclusivity crucial for most major brands. Cosmetics companies are following in the footsteps of celebrities like Rihanna (Fenty Beauty) and Kylie Jenner (Kylie Cosmetics), who offer over 30 shades of foundation, ensuring that most women will be able to use their products.

Although these brands make it possible for many women, especially women of color, to see themselves represented in the industry, the prices of these high-end products can be costly for college students.

"The problem with things like Fenty Beauty and Huda Beauty - who have great shade offerings - is that they are $36 to $42 a bottle," Dotson said. "I'm a college student. I can't afford that."

So, Dotson tried to create an affordable solution. She reached out to multiple universities in search of a business partner who shared her same passion for makeup and had a background in cosmetic science. She eventually came across Selena Asgedom, who graduated from the University of Toledo in May 2018 and is now Dotson's co-owner.

"We first met over the phone and talked about what we wanted to accomplish," Asgedom said. "We were on the same page from the get-go."

Together, Dotson and Asgedom set out to create a line of makeup that women of color in their age group could afford.

The two said their company, KCD Cosmetics -- after Dotson's initials -- strives to be a combination of high quality and affordable products that women of color can depend on. Dotson and Asgedom hope to uplift women of color by creating products that cater to them in an industry that has vastly underserved their demographic for decades.

Although some major companies offer makeup shades that match darker skin tones, Asgedom questions the authenticity of the cosmetics industry's push to include women of color.

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"When these brands first started [offering darker shades for women of color], I feel like it was all about business, not so much about helping darker shade people get what they really deserve," Asgedom said. "We really do want to help darker shade people benefit from cosmetics as much as anyone else."

In addition to helping women of color, KCD Cosmetics also hopes to create products for women preparing for the professional world.

"Our target market is young women, young professionals or people in life transitions who don't have a disposable income," Dotson said. "We want women of color to have access to high-quality, affordable, everyday makeup that they can wear."

KCD Cosmetics will feature a wide range of cosmetic products that will be priced in what Dotson calls the "drugstore range," which is around $9 to $12 per product.

Dotson and Asgedom will begin promotions in the Oxford and Cincinnati area, but all sales will be conducted online. The company launches this spring.

KCD Cosmetics plans to use a portion of their proceeds to give back to black communities through donations to various foundations and organizations.

"Black uplifting and black pride is just as important to KCD Cosmetics as the cosmetics," Dotson said. "We want to make sure that is a staple of our business. We are a socially-driven cosmetic company."

More information about their line can be found on their Instagram account, @kcdcosmetics.