She may be young, but Diarrha N’diaye is surprisingly forthright and clear about her purpose. Her social media ‘ voice’ is low key and relatable; she immediately draws you in and is well, just plain likeable. Stunning, with unbelievable skin and a bubbly personality, her career has seen her move from fashion to beauty, relatively seamlessly – with stints at The Daily Front Row, Cece Feinberg PR, Rebecca Minkoff , Teen Vogue, L’Oreal and most recently celebrated DTC beauty brand Glossier.
Harlem-born and bred, the Senegalese-American beauty is working on new projects (which we can’t wait to hear about). The beauty enthusiast talks to BellaNaija Style Editor At Large Isoken Ogiemwonyi about her work, purpose, personal style and future plans. Learn all about Diarrha and why we think she is definitely one to watch.
I love to work with integrity. When my gut is nauseous every morning before work, I know this isn’t for me. When I am doing a disservice to the brown and black women coming after me, I know this isn’t for me. When I am suddenly no longer scared to walk away anymore, I know God got me.
BNS: Tell us a little about your background
For the past eight years, I’ve been using my passion for story-telling and brand building at brands like Rebecca Minkoff, VIBE, L’Oreal Paris, and most recently, Glossier where I was a product development and marketing manager. I have since been consulting in the beauty space and using my makeshift “seat at the table” to help illuminate the issues of “otherness” and unconscious biases that plague the industry. I am focused on using my experience (both the good and bad) to shatter stereotypes, demystify glass ceilings and redefine the often-tainted perception of black beauty.
BNS: How did you get your start in the beauty industry? How did you decide that was the industry you were interested in?
My first foray into beauty was actually working in Sephora. I was a fragrance consultant the entire last year of college and a little into my post-grad summer. I never got tired of learning more about what new products were hitting the shelves and, more importantly, why people were gravitating towards those products. It was both philosophy and marketing, mixed–in with beauty. I love it!
BNS:What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned working at both Glossier and L’Oreal Paris?
I learned a lot during my time at Glossier and L’Oreal. At L’Oreal I learned the importance of data. You have to build a compelling business case charged with compelling data points to implement any change – be it small (why a larger budget is necessary for a project) or large (why employee resource groups are important to work culture). At Glossier, I learned so much I don’t even know where to begin; mostly, I gained a deeper understanding of consumer research. I had to conduct thorough research (both digitally and in-person focus groups) to create and execute product concepts.
BNS: Switching career lanes is something millennials in particular are known for doing. Can you tell us how and why you moved from social media at L’Oreal and Temptu to product development at Glossier? What transferable skills did you bring from one role to the next?
Switching my career from social media marketing to product development was a classic example of chance met with pure passion and preparation. I always had a passion and curiosity for product development, but zero expertise in it. Instead, I used my social media platforms to talk about products I loved and usually described why. This passion attracted recruiters who reached out to me with a challenge: a 180 degree career switch. But being a social media professional most of my career, I was formulating and ideating from a consumer point of view. I had to ask: “Hmm…what would the comment be on this product? How would they describe the texture of this product in a caption?” This helped me create stories and products that would resonate with the audience.
In that moment, I was reminded what’s for you will be yours. If it’s not time for said thing to happen, it simply won’t. Finding peace in that is so crucial. I try to keep that same energy throughout my journey.
BNS: What’s the most significant “I’ve made it” moment to date?
There are many. I mean I am first-generation girl from the West Side of Harlem. But the one that comes fresh to mind was the moment I was sitting in the interview room, right before interviewing with Emily Weiss. Not because I had “made it” in any way, but how far I’ve come. Her devotion to disrupting such an antiquated industry had been a long time inspiration for me. That very moment reminded me that you truly can do anything you put your mind, energy and heart into.
BNS: Leaving established brands can be scary, the access and cachet can be particularly difficult to let go of – what gave you the courage to make the leap?
So true! It was scary jumping from the safety net. Let’s be real, people react differently a “powerful” email address (not to mention the health benefits – haha!). But, I love to work with integrity. When my gut is nauseous every morning before work, I know this isn’t for me. When I am doing a disservice to the brown and black women coming after me, I know this isn’t for me. When I am suddenly no longer scared to walk away anymore, I know God got me.
BNS: Tell us about your new projects
I am currently consulting, still in the beauty space. Outside of this, I am working on a very special project that’s so near and dear to my heart, but too early to share details with the world. Let’s just say it’s in the beauty world and for us!
BNS: What would you like to change about the beauty industry globally? What would you want to do differently?
If it were up to me skin bleaching would be illegal- worldwide. It hurts us deeper than the surface. Somewhere along the way it had been normalized, especially in Asia and Africa, and it makes me so sad. I want young brown girls (and their moms and aunties) to embrace their beautiful, melaninated hue. I think it all starts with education, re-writing the “beauty” narrative and gaining more allies to help support the cause.
BNS: Share a major setback that taught you something?
There was one year – right before I joined L’Oreal- I interviewed for a total of 20 different jobs in my field; I got none of them. I heard every excuse in the book – under qualified, too qualified, budget changes, new marketing structure, etc. I was devastated, but never discouraged. When I finally let go and let God I got a random email from a L’Oreal recruiter. It’s amazing what happens when you use those setbacks to step it up. In that moment, I was reminded what’s for you will be yours. If it’s not time for said thing to happen, it simply won’t. Finding peace in that is so crucial. I try to keep that same energy throughout my journey.
BNS: Where do you see yourself in five or ten years?
I never know how to answer this question because I wouldn’t have guessed I’d be here 5 years ago. One thing I know I’d like to accomplish: setting up an enrichment program for women in Senegal to learn how generate income and build sustainable businesses. There has been some traction in recent years but there’s still a lot of work to do to empower young women. We are not just staying home anymore – we are contributing, we are vocal and we are deserving.
In beauty, I love the clean skin with a pop of color. The bright Fenty liners are so cool!
BNS: Can you speak to a few summer fashion and beauty trends you’re loving right now?
Summer hasn’t kicked in full swing yet but I am all about the dressy, gown-like dresses paired down with dad sneakers. Super cliché, but I do love the idea of being a modest – sexy (yes, both) and comfortable at the same time. In beauty, I love the clean skin with a pop of color. The bright Fenty liners are so cool!
BNS: Any trends you’re hating? Why?
I hate the sudden “clean” phase in beauty. Not to be a debby-downer but there has been little to no science to substantiate “clean beauty”. I understand that marketing is often misleading for consumers. I do believe in creating beauty that is safe for your skin and better for the environment, but a lot brands are just jumping on the band wagon to join the new marketing wave vs. finding the best sustainable solutions for the customer.
BNS: What is one trend we can always expect you to wear in the summer?
Comfortable shoes that can go from meeting to day party to night time kick-back.
BNS: What would you like to see improving on the continent?
I’d love to see us grow a better e-commerce infrastructure to allow direct-to-consumer businesses to grow. It’s time to take our talents back home! There’s a lot to learn about the market on the continent; I am hoping to use the next few years to learn.
BNS: What are your three favourite destinations?
My favorite places to visit are Senegal and Thailand. I have been going back home (Senegal) every year or two since my college years. I made it my duty to speak Wolof fluently despite growing up in Harlem. Going back, helped so much with that. The authentic food, the street bustle, the calmness by the water, my entire extended family — I am truly my best when I am back there. Recently, I took the 23-hour trek to Thailand, Bangkok and Phuket to be exact. I would recommend everyone take that trip once in their lives: the most expensive part is getting there. But, my God, what a beautiful country. It reminds you how majestic God is, creating these beautiful, sandy islands all the way on the other side of the world. The people were so friendly and let’s not even talk about the amazing foods!
Do you enjoy your work? What challenges have you found along the way? Share your story with us in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!