Two Black Harvard grads have redefined ‘nude’ by launching a makeup line for all complexions

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Amanda E. Johnson (COO) and KJ Miller (CEO), founders of Mented Cosmetics. (Photo: Mented)
Amanda E. Johnson (COO) and KJ Miller (CEO), founders of Mented Cosmetics. (Photo: Mented)

It’s Independence Day! Let’s celebrate small U.S. businesses. This article supports American entrepreneurs.

Have you ever looked for the perfect nude lipstick? Amanda E. Johnson had been searching for three years when she finally vented her frustration to K.J. Miller, a friend and fellow Harvard Business School graduate.

Zeroing in on the right neutral is a notoriously tricky task—but for Johnson and Miller, both Black women, ‘nude’ meant something different than the makeup shades typically marketed to Caucasian customers.

“That was an ‘aha’ moment for both of us,” Miller told Yahoo Life. “We realized the opportunity was much bigger than just lipstick. Ultimately neither of us felt that there was a premium brand really speaking to our beauty needs as women of color.”

The pair’s business proposition seems simple: Every woman should be able to see herself in the world of beauty, no matter her skin tone. Yet Black women have been woefully underserved by the cosmetics industry, despite the fact that more Black, Hispanic and Asian women buy cosmetics than white women do. Johnson and Miller realized if they wanted the industry to address women of color, they had to take matters into their own hands. 

Shop it: Mented Cosmetics, $12 to $30,

Mented makes premium cosmetics that speak to the beauty needs of women of color

Skin by Mented foundation in shade M40 is K.J. Miller's go-to. (Photo: Mented/Getty)
Skin by Mented foundation in shade M40 is K.J. Miller’s go-to. (Photo: Mented/Getty)

Shop it: Mented Foundation Stick and Brush Set (available in 16 shades) $30,

That’s how Mented was born. Short for ‘pigmented,’ the cosmetics brand includes everything from eyeshadow and blush to foundation and setting powder—and lipstick, of course—for skin tones in various shades of tan, brown, red and pink. There’s certainly no shortage of shades in the quest for your perfect match, either. Skin by Mented foundation stick, for example, is available in 16 options—many are shades of medium and dark brown with various undertones, like warm, cool and even red.

The founders are so passionate about making sure each and every customer identifies the most precise shade that they’ve developed a 60-second online quiz to steer you in the right direction. If that’s not enough, you can always use the Shade Comparison Guide, which compares Mented shades to those by other leading cosmetics lines that cater to women of color, like Fenty and NARS.

In fact, Mented’s inclusive mission was originally created for women of color, but the business has grown to serve anyone who wears makeup. “We’ve evolved beyond ‘women’ to really all people searching for a makeup line that celebrates and prioritizes diversity,” Miller explained.

Mented lip gloss comes in seven rich neutrals. (Photo: HSN/Getty)
Mented lip gloss comes in seven rich neutrals. (Photo: HSN/Getty)

Shop it: Mented Lip Gloss (available in seven colors), $15,

Make no mistake, though: Mented owns a very specific niche in the beauty category. If you’re looking for lipstick in a funky color or jewel-toned eyeshadow to make your peepers pop, you’ve come to the wrong place. “Our focus on nudes and neutrals for a broad range of skin tones is what truly sets us apart,” Miller told Yahoo Life.

The brand is determined to be the go-to for women of color looking for makeup that blends—without having to physically blend shades to get there. 

A wide range of nude cosmetics, ethically made and expertly formulated by Mented

Mented products aren’t just genius, they’re also kind and gentle. All Mented cosmetics are cruelty-free, vegan, paraben-free and non-toxic. So you can feel good about investing in a line of neutrals that will become the foundation of your makeup routine…quite literally. 

Don’t be surprised if Mented cosmetics become an addiction, too. Miller and Johnson may be Mented’s founders, but they’re also two of the brand’s biggest fans. They truly get it.

Johnson couldn't find her perfect nude lipstick shade, so she created it: Dope Taupe. (Photo: Mented/Getty)
Johnson couldn’t find her perfect nude lipstick shade, so she created it: Dope Taupe. (Photo: Mented/Getty)

Shop it: Mented 3-pack Semi-Matte Lipstick, $34,

“I cannot live without our High Brow pencil in Brow Down, our Send Nudes gloss and Skin by Mented foundation in shade M40,” Miller told Yahoo Life. More than 1,000 five-star reviewers are on board with the CEO’s beloved lip gloss, which comes in seven different ‘nudes,’ from mauve to brown. 

“Finally a shade that I don’t have to blend with other colors to get ‘just the right look,’ one shopper wrote about ‘Mauve Over.’ Another said the gloss “adds shine without feeling sticky.”

For Johnson, the search for the perfect nude lipstick is over; she’s developed it herself. “Dope Taupe is my perfect nude,” the COO said of the shade that’s defined as a “unique blend of brown and pink to enhance your multi-hued lips.”

Mented Skin Silk Loose Setting Powder (Photo: HSN)
Mented Skin Silk Loose Setting Powder (Photo: HSN)

Shop it: Mented Skin Silk Loose Setting Powder (available in three shades), $25,

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