When I asked Jasmine Lawrence to describe herself in one word, she paused to think, but a few short seconds later she said, without a flinch, "Amazing."
Up until that point, I'd been trying to find the words to describe how this fiercely confident Black woman was able to accomplish so much by the age of 28. She launched her first company EDEN BodyWorks at just thirteen after experiencing a personal hair loss crisis and then attending NFTE BizCamp, a student entrepreneurship program, where she was equipped with the tools that would help her find a way to create and sell a product that solved a hair problem she knew many like her needed. EDEN is now celebrating its 15th anniversary, with a repertoire of accomplishments, retail partners like Target, CVS, and Sally Beauty Supply, a loyal beauty community, and global experiences supporting the journey.
But, more interestingly, Jasmine is not only a beauty entrepreneur. After graduating from Georgia Institute of Technology with a degree in Computer Science, she's gone on to build a thriving career in tech at powerhouse companies like Microsoft and most currently, Facebook.
To top it off, she's not looking to quit either anytime soon.
What's the road to amazing look like? How has Jasmine been able to boldly and unapologetically float between two worlds - without sacrificing who she is and how her natural passion for solution-seeking shows up in the world? For Jasmine, this is important because she doesn't "always want to be the first or the only person that are doing things that are impressive." The word "amazing" comes with the desire to show other women that look like her that they, too, can do great things.
xoNecole spoke to Jasmine about her road to flourishing in two careers, the powers of being entrepreneurially fluid, when being multi passionate can be advantageous in the workplace, why more Black women should consider STEM careers, and whether "having it all" is ever really possible.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
What has contributed the most to your business success?
Consistency. It doesn't mean you never change. It means you have a foundational understanding of who you are. At EDEN, we know our vision, mission, what we want to be known for, and what kind of impact we want to have in people's lives. That remains consistent no matter who is on my team. If you don't align with our mission and values, this isn't the brand you want to be part of.
It was also about choosing wisely what we were going to invest our time in. You can get quickly burned out emotionally or financially [by] going to every single hair/trade show and accepting every distribution deal for every mom and pop shop and everyone who wants to carry your products. It's very draining. Strategic growth and saying no to the opportunities that are not going to give you the return on investment that you really need with your limited time and other resources is important.
Courtesy of Jasmine Lawrence
"Strategic growth and saying no to the opportunities that are not going to give you the return on investment that you really need with your limited time and other resources is important."
How did you manage going to college and running a beauty company?
The work that I do with EDEN and the work I do in tech are very similar. They require the same set of strengths. I wanted to be an engineer before I lost my hair. I always wanted to be a builder, creator, and inventor of things and solve people's problems. When I lost my own hair and needed something for myself, I used my knowledge of science and the scientific method to create different formulas. All of those things I learned from my passion for science and creating things.
I knew college was going to be a challenge. I took preventative measures before officially moving to Atlanta. Building the team that I have today was part of that exercise. We took a time out for a year in the late 2000s to reassess who was going to be on our board and who's going to be on our team and run day-to-day operations. We had to automate some things that we were previously doing manually. I find a way to have the best of both worlds and make sacrifices I'm comfortable with.
In our world, we’re told you can’t have it all. Your story shows that it is possible to have your foot in different industries. How do you do it?
Having a computer degree helped me understand how stuff is being built and my role in making sure that it's built ethically and that it is accessible. It opened my mind to an entire career path that is sometimes intimidating and challenging. I love to be that bridge between people and tech. Even in the Black community or women's community - I like to let [people] know this is something you can strive towards. I'm not some crazy unicorn that just has a genius mind. It's something I've worked hard for and sought to understand and have been able to make an impact by pursuing although it may be nontraditional for someone with my background.
I'm super hesitant to say we can have it all. It gives an unrealistic expectation that you are going to be 100% fulfilled in every area that you invest your time in. It's not an accurate description. It wanes and waxes. You're in seasons of pouring more and more into your business, job, self, or family - it takes a while for you to settle into a balance that makes sense. It's hard to want more than one thing.
There's a conscious focus on "Does this matter to me? Is this worth my time?" You can have a lot - but it will be to varying degrees of satisfaction and investment based on what works for you personally. If you like doing your full-time job every day, it's okay. It's okay to not have a side hustle. If you're drawn in a different direction, you should pursue it.
Courtesy of Jasmine Lawrence
"I like to let [people] know this is something you can strive towards. I'm not some crazy unicorn that just has a genius mind. It's something I've worked hard for and sought to understand and have been able to make an impact by pursuing although it may be nontraditional for someone with my background."
What key roles do you outsource?
Operational leadership. My Vice President drives day-to-day and leads our team. That is the core role. We are two opposite heartbeats. We have to stay in sync and connected. Public relations and design are the other two roles where I am so busy doing the work, it's hard for me to tell the story of what's happening as well. Having a great PR team or point person who can find the right opportunities and have the brand show up in ways that make sense for us and create innovative things that align with the brand identity is crucial. With design, it is incredible [to have] someone who can maintain continuity between your brand identity but also challenge you to grow and modernize.
What’s it like working in tech as an employee but also being a CEO?
The main challenges I've had are when my coworkers find out and there's that sense of envy. Or, they'll ask me rude questions like, "Why are you even here? Why would you show up every day when you're doing this and that with your own company? Why would you be a slave to the man when you have the freedom to be your own boss?" Or, they think if I do slip up on something or something is late that I'm distracted by this other thing I have going on.
On the light side, they like to brag on me as much as I like to brag on me. Microsoft loved that their top project manager was also a CEO and that I took that entrepreneurial mindset and applied that to my work. They love that I have those natural leadership tendencies. I know what it's like to lead something that personally matters to me. The opportunities that I'm trusted with are greater because of the assumptions about what my skills are. They'd love for me to bring that same excitement, passion, and drive to the mission and goals of their organization. There's a lot of recognition and opportunity for someone who has been able to do so much in such a little amount of time.
What does success look like for you?
It's so transient because there is always something more. From a brand perspective, we're growing the EDEN BodyWorks team. We're celebrating an amazing milestone - 15 years! Right now, we're in a period of gratefulness and thankfulness and really reflecting. We're really trying to take a moment to pause, reflect, and recenter and imagine what the next 15 years will be like - and how we'll change and how the industry will change. For EDEN, success will look like being able to publically share a plan of what the future looks like for us.
In tech, I'm making a pivot to working on my first non-hardware product. I've worked on Xbox, HoloLens, robots and artificial intelligence. Most recently, I've worked on Portal at Facebook. I just switched over to a team called Social Good, which is focused on making Facebook a positive force in the world. Our goal is to try to solve the problem to make sure the world has a safe and sustainable supply of blood. It's an interesting space where probably if you looked at my background, you'd be like "Why is she working in the health space?"
I was drawn to that in the same way I was drawn to start EDEN BodyWorks to make shampoo to help women understand the way you look is not a limiting factor on your trajectory in life. You can awaken, empower and change who these people think they can be or are allowed to be by providing the solution.
To learn more about Jasmine and how she's paving the way in the technology and beauty sectors, connect with her on Instagram @edensjasmine.
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Rana Campbell is a Princeton University graduate, storyteller, content marketing strategist, and the founder and host of Dreams In Drive - a weekly podcast that teaches you how to take your dreams from PARK to DRIVE. She loves teaching others how to use their life stories to inspire action within oneself and others. Connect with her on Instagram @rainshineluv or @dreamsindrive.
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
What would you do if you just got laid off from your corporate job and you had a serendipitous encounter with someone who gave you the opportunity of a lifetime? Tamara Taylor was faced with that decision in 2013 after she was let go from her sales profit and operations coach job in the restaurant industry and met a then-up-and-coming stylist, Law Roach, on a flight to L.A. She and Roach struck up a conversation, and he shared how he was looking for someone to run his business and was impressed by her skills. While she took his business card, she was unsure if it would lead to anything. But, boy, was she wrong. Two weeks later, after packing up her home to move back to her hometown of Chicago, she called Roach; he asked if they could meet the following day, and the rest is herstory.
Taylor founded Mastermind MGMT, an agency that represents some of Hollywood’s best “image architects” like Roach, Kellon Deryck, and Kollin Carter, who are responsible for creating unforgettable style and beauty moments for celebrities like Zendaya, Megan Thee Stallion, Taraji P. Henson, and more. Taylor and her company possess an array of functions, but her biggest role is to be her client’s advocate. We hear endless stories about how creatives aren’t paid or underpaid in the entertainment industry, but Taylor ensures that her clients get their piece of the pie. The entrepreneur opened up about her company and her non-profit, Mastermind Matters, in an exclusive interview with xoNecole.
“I always say that I'm an artist advocate first, deal closer second. So my primary focus is to just make sure that the artist is getting everything that they deserve, whether it's compensation or, you know, certain accommodations, but just making sure that they have everything that they need to be able to show up and provide the best service that they're hired for,” she explained.
“So you know, in the beginning, it was hard because I didn't have any experience, and the artists who I was working with at the time–we were learning together, meaning neither of us had assisted anyone. We didn't have mentors in our specific fields. So every deal was like a new learning experience for us from the styling side and also from the business side, and so it took, you know, doing some research, using some very creative tactics, to find out information in the industry and just starting to request accommodations that I knew other artists were granted, who maybe didn't look like my artists.”
Photo courtesy of Tamara Taylor
Ten years later, there’s still not many people who are doing what Taylor is doing. However, things have gotten easier thanks to the research and connections she made in the beginning. During Mastermind MGMT’s ten-year anniversary celebration, she announced her non-profit, Mastermind Matters, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that focuses on helping young entrepreneurs through a 12-week program. The program is divided into “two routes.” The first route is for aspiring creative artists who want to start a business from their talent and all the things they need to learn about business, such as taxes, life insurance, etc. The second route is for practicing creative artists who are already in the industry but need resources such as how to plan for retirement or how to sustain themselves if they can’t work for a short amount of time, i.e., the pandemic.
“I just feel that I'm able to have a business and be successful because of their art as well. And so there are things that I know, I tried to teach it to them but understanding that I can only do so much because I'm not a subject matter expert in those fields,” she said. “So I at least want to be able to provide the resources, and then if they make their grown decision not to do it, then that's on them. But you know, I could be guilt-free and taking advantage of the resources that I'm also providing to them.”
Taylor continues to be an innovator in her industry by always pushing the boundaries of creativity and thinking one step ahead of everyone else. The Chicago-bred businesswoman is moving into the tech space thanks to a new invention created with her clients in mind, and she is looking forward to bigger collaborations in the future. Follow Mastermind MGMT on Instagram @mastermind_mgmt for more information.
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Feature image courtesy of Tamara Taylor