Dorion Renaud was first introduced to us in 2008 on BET’s College Hill: Atlanta. Soon after, the Beaumont, Texas native saw great success as a model, gracing the pages of Vogue magazine, and as an actor, starring in Bounce TV’s hit sitcom, In The Cut. Recently, Dorion has added the title of 'entrepreneur' to his ever-growing list of accomplishments and successes over his decade-plus-long career. With the launch of his skincare line, Buttah, he has taken the beauty and skincare industry by storm, providing Black men and women with attainable solutions to their pressing skincare concerns and resulting in an all-around even skin tone.
From embarking on a quest to address his own skincare challenges to being a successful Black skincare founder with products in Macy’s, it’s safe to say that Dorion Renaud’s foray into the beauty space has left and will continue to leave a lasting legacy.
The Buttah founder sat down with xoNecole to discuss what made him go into the beauty industry, common challenges Black people have with skincare, and what inspired him to pivot from the entertainment industry into the entrepreneurial realm.
xoNecole: When did you realize that you wanted to create a skincare line?
Dorion Renaud: In high school. For one, I suffered from hyperpigmentation. I would pick at my skin if I had a pimple or something. But it wasn't the pimple so much that bothered me, it was the dark spots that it left. So I began looking for resources in my small town of Beaumont, TX and getting procedures in places where I shouldn’t have gone to get these dark spots off of my skin.
I realized there were many young people around me with those same issues. And when I got in front of the camera at about 18 or 19, I realized how much makeup was needed to cover the dark spots. It was an insecurity that I had. When they took the makeup off me, whether it be for TV or modeling, I wished that I either had makeup to cover the spots or a skincare solution.
When I was in Harlem, I found some shea butter and I started using it all over my body and my face and saw that my skin was clearing up. I thought it would have broken me out due to the fats in it, but it actually worked with my skin. And so as I started matriculating in Hollywood and doing more work on camera, it had always been a goal of mine to perfect my skin or try to keep it as clear as possible.
Soon after, everybody started asking what I was doing, and it was really just a gentle cleanser, a vitamin C serum, and the shea butter from Harlem. When I learned that there were so many people who were embarrassed to ask–especially men–what I was doing for my skin, I realized that skincare in our community wasn’t something that we were educated on properly. We were somewhat ashamed to ask for help in that area. So I wanted to create a line that was easy and efficient and that people could feel proud of. And at the top of 2018, the idea for Buttah came to me, with it launching later that year.
xoN: What was the process like creating the products?
DR: It was pretty strenuous, but for a very short amount of time. I had to learn a lot and educate myself on different ingredients. So I worked with a chemist and we got our shea butter directly from Ghana. There was a lot of trying the products and testing them to make sure they had a shelf life. Just so many things that I had no idea about before getting into beauty and skincare because I never thought I would have my own skincare line.
I always knew that I was going to be an entrepreneur. But I never thought I'd have to focus on formulas and ingredients and what they could do to your skin. So I had to dive deep into the problems that we as Black people had with our skin and the most common problems. As I learned more, I began addressing them first so that we could be a solution-based brand. Then we added other things that people can use to enhance their skincare routine.
xoN: What are some common issues that you found when it came to Black people and skincare?
DR: Hyperpigmentation is definitely one of them. The dark spots and unevenness on the skin as well as sun damage. I think a lot of Black people overlook what sun damage can do to your skin, so we developed a Mineral Tinted Sunscreen for that. But in general, breakouts and cystic acne, and discoloration were what most people complained about.
We're not an acne-based company. I was an adult dealing with adult acne and the after-effects of it. I [also] had a hard time finding products that kept me moisturized all day and used shea butter on my body because lotions were drying out 30 minutes after applying it. So I think finding moisture and ingredients that give us that even tone was important because that's where a lot of people were struggling.
They say, “Black don't crack,” but we can crack if we don’t take care of our skin.
xoN: So, what is your current skincare routine?
DR: I love to use our Tea Tree and Aloe Scrub. It's both a mask and a foam cleanser. I like to use that because I like to work out and I'm active during the day. A lot of times, you think you can’t scrub your face every day, but ours is so gentle, I tend to use that most of the time. Then I follow it up with the Vitamin C Serum which regenerates the skin and helps with fine lines and wrinkles, and my CoCoShea Revitalizing Cream. At night, I'll put the toner on just to get my face clean and fresh, and let my skin breathe.
But all of our products are used differently, depending on the climate, where I'm going, and what my skincare needs are. Every part of our system at Buttah is for something. So I even use our Charcoal Mask at least once a week to get all that gunk out of my skin and renew it.
xoN: Your line is in Macy's, JCPenney, and Ulta. How was the process of getting into retail?
DR: We're also in Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom, and we're getting ready to launch in Saks Fifth Avenue, which I'm very excited about. It was a process. Fortunately for me, it started taking off during the pandemic. I was at home with a lot of time on my hands to think about the creativity of it, how to make it look and feel a certain way, and be specific to certain retailers. Once we got on HSN and QVC–which was amazing–it allowed me to not only talk about the products but educate people on how to use them. Then retailers started reaching out to us.
Getting into retail is a bit of a process. You have to first have to have the finances to get into these stores. I know a lot of people have dreams of being in retail but they often don't have the money to fulfill their orders. So we had to dive in and restructure as a company because it was costing a lot to go into these retailers. And also make sure that each retailer had the right products and campaigns because every retailer had separate campaigns. Along with going in and training the employees in each store, which is something that I do, I go in and educate them so that they give people the proper education when they come into the stores.
Retail was a totally different game. Once I got the art of direct-to-consumer down, then we went into retail. But I tell people all the time that I'm learning as I go. Because this has been such a fast process, I'm learning the dos and don'ts. A lot of times, a brand will be successful online but won’t do as well in retail, so you have to transition how you promote it and transition how you market it specifically for retailers.
xoN: You said that you always wanted to be an entrepreneur. Did being in the spotlight after 'College Hill' inspire you to pivot from TV to business?
DR: I think it inspired me to understand that I could use my TV presence as a way to grow an audience in different arenas. I was also tired of relying on the entertainment industry to pay my bills. I was looking for something that was for me. In doing television shows and acting, I was always waiting for a “yes” from someone, or always waiting for somebody to tell me what lines to say and what to do. I mean, I'm 34 now and shot College Hill at 20, so I kind of felt like a puppet. I was just doing whatever the industry told me to do to stay successful.
I wanted something that I was in control of and how successful it was, and that it wasn't in somebody else's hands. I think having fame at a young age allowed me to see it and not get too excited about it because I've had it, I've lost it, and I've had it again. And you tend to place value on things that are more purposeful outside of just being in front of the camera. I realized after every season of In The Cut ended, I felt empty. I felt like I needed to find another gig or was hoping that we would get picked up again, and I didn't want to put all my value into that anymore.
Now I still do it. But I'm able to do it through Buttah. I’m able to model through Buttah, act through Buttah, and host through Buttah. And it's so much more fulfilling to not have to have someone telling you what you're doing wrong, or what you can do better to make a show better. It feels more organic this way.
I felt like some of the things that I had done, although they were entertaining, weren't reflective of who I was as a man, as a human, and as a businessman. And I wanted to do something that really showed the world that I mean business. I'm not just here to make people laugh or go on a reality show or take good pictures, but I have purpose behind my name.
"I wanted something that I was in control of and how successful it was, and that it wasn't in somebody else's hands. I think having fame at a young age allowed me to see it and not get too excited about it because I've had it, I've lost it, and I've had it again... I wanted to do something that really showed the world that I mean business. I'm not just here to make people laugh or go on a reality show or take good pictures, but I have purpose behind my name."
Courtesy of Dorion Renaud
xoN: Looking back over your career, what have been some of your greatest lessons?
DR: Wow. You know, stay patient, stay in it. You have to have perseverance and really know what you want out of this. And also listen to the audience. Don't focus so much on your peers and the people around you because the audience will stand by you and support you. They will also let you know when they don't like something. Sometimes your peers can give you a false identity of who you are because they see you as somebody that they're in proximity with. So listen to the supporters, listen to those people out there, and do your education.
Do your research and get educated on whatever field that you're going into and really know your stuff. Because when it starts to happen for you and you’re successful, if you don't know what you're talking about, you're going to instantly be exed out.
For more of Dorion, follow him on Instagram.
Featured image by Manuel Hernandez
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
The face of tennis is changing, and it’s about time. Over the years, if you were asked to name any Black tennis player, two would come to mind: Serena and Venus Williams — and rightfully so. But as new tennis sensations like Coco Gauff and Naomi Osaka rise to fame for their athleticism and tenacity, it’s clear that there’s a new era of tennis taking shape to bring forth a fresh take on representation and reclamation on the courts.
For that reason alone, there’s no better time than now for Black Girl Tennis Club co-founders Virginia Thornton and Kimberly Selden to lead the charge of making tennis more accessible to Black women and girls so the next Serena and Coco can emerge.
What began as your everyday lunch chat between friends to discuss their mutual dream of owning a boutique hotel turned into a proposition to start a tennis club together. With Virginia being a tennis player since adolescence and Kimberly entering the sport as a hobby in her adult life, the two jumped at the idea of making a space where Black women could discover a new hobby and not feel like the “only one” on the tennis court.
“The club kind of started for selfish reasons, but not in a bad way,” Virginia tells xoNecole. “We realized that there was actually a need for this.”
Kimberly adds, “Now we're literally disrupting a whole industry. We didn't plan it, but it felt divine; like we were called to do this. Black Girls Tennis Club has been a catalyst for personal growth in all areas of life, and we would have never anticipated that.”
Since establishing the Black Girl Tennis Club in 2022, the two have made it their mission to cultivate a space for “Joy Equity and Radical Wellness.” Their platform serves as a means to inform, inspire, motivate, and reshape the narrative around Black women and girls in the tennis world while highlighting the transformative power of sports and play for liberation.
With approximately 78% of tennis players being white and only 6.8% being Black, and the average cost of a private tennis lesson being $60 per hour, racial and economic disparities within the sport are vast. To help close this gap, the two founders have banded together to develop free tennis instruction clinics for girls aged 8-18 and local tennis events that bring adult offerings through programs like the Self Love Tennis Club and Cardio Tennis Classes to HBCU campuses in Virginia.
Both Virginia and Kimberly understand the power of their mission and believe that they were brought on each other’s path to execute it together. “It’s the power of alignment,” Kimberly says. “I think when you're doing the right thing and you're obedient, and answer the call, that’s when things start to happen, and the universe conspires to make them happen.”
We caught up with the founders to discuss their mission, the importance of representation, and how they plan to disrupt the tennis industry one court at a time.
xoNecole: Could you talk a little more about your CARE pillars with change, access, representation and exposure?
Kimberly Selden: As we started to do the work, we saw that there were so many equity issues. Although we knew from our own personal experiences that there are barriers to tennis being an expensive sport, we just acknowledged it as the culture of tennis. Because it's predominantly white, that transfers over to the fashion, the dynamics on the court, the attitudes, and the mindset. And so we knew this required a culture shift for us to ever really feel comfortable.
We were exposing kids to tennis, and then after the clinics, they're like, "Okay, now what?" It's still expensive, and they still may or may not have had access to it if they're not with us. We don't want to just pop in like, "Hey, here's a clinic, bye!" So, the culture change is just a reflection of what our existence looks like. Access is about being able to access the sport through courts, programs, or a coach. Representation is that we can't believe it until we see it.
Granted, there are a lot of pro Black women tennis players taking off, and we love that. But we think about media representation as well [as] representation within the USCA, in the boardrooms, and the people that are making the rules around the game.
xoN: Why do you all think it’s important for Black women and girls to reclaim their space on the tennis court?
Virginia Thornton: It's rare, at least in my world, where you're in a space and see nothing but women who look like you. But it makes me feel great when I can be my authentic self, especially on a tennis court. Just shedding all the weight of pretending to be anything else. You feel at home when you're around nothing but Black women. Even small things like seeing a young Black girl being okay with how God made them is amazing.
KS: [In] the Atlanta clinics we did, everyone was crying. It's just clear how desperately we need it. Connection is the key to a long life. So many of us — especially from the pandemic and working from home — are isolated. With every clinic, it's just fun to be there, and it just fills you up. I think people need hobbies. I think a lot of people, especially people in big cities, feel that way and were confronted with that during the pandemic.
xoN: How did sports play a role in helping you two find your voice and confidence both on and off the court?
VT: I think what people don't realize is that tennis is such a mental sport. You could be a 4.0 player and have a bad mental day, and you will play like you've never picked up a racquet before. So, the mental piece is super important. For me, it's like ‘you against you,’ even though you are playing somebody.
If you're able to work through those mental pieces with yourself on the court, that will translate off the court. I had an issue on the court where I have a habit of saying, "Sorry," — I think a lot of Black women do, honestly. Then I realized that they wouldn't say sorry or they’d use my kindness as weakness. I've learned a lesson in that because everything translates on and off the court.
"If you're able to work through those mental pieces with yourself on the court, that will translate off the court."
KS: It's easy for me to do things that I'm good at, but it's not easy for me to do things that I'm not good at. Tennis is still challenging for me, but it pushes me. It’s a reality check for me; I know when things are aligned, and when they're not. It feels like a big metaphor for me because it's pushing me to do something that's uncomfortable and makes me work for myself more.
xoN: What do you hope the long-term impact of Black Girl Tennis Club will be?
VS: We want to have a space for people who might be workaholics or might be going through depression. It's always great to have a hobby, whether that's knitting, sewing, or what have you. For me and Kimberly, it’s about creating hobbies for Black women and girls but also knowing that it’s okay to not be amazing at it. You don't have to be amazing at tennis; you could hit around the court, and that's okay.
The next Serena or Venus might come from Black Girls Tennis Club.
Featured image by LumiNola/Getty Images