As we continue to honor and highlight the boss women in the game, it’s only right that we give tribute to those that are changing the lives of others through their respective industries. For the Head of Global Communications at Cantu Beauty, Melissa Carnegie, it all started with a dream of leaving a lasting mark on the world through the world of blogging, which later led to her working the opportunity of a lifetime as a C-suite boss for Cantu Beauty. 

Melissa’s journey as a boss woman not only impacted her own life but the lives of others as well. Her voyage from influencer to executive led her to spearhead some of Cantu’s many partnerships with Black and Latinx organizations such as Gyrl Wonder, 25 Black Women in Beauty, United Negro College Fund, and Women Empowering Nations to name a few. Every Cantu Beauty partnership Melissa has worked with and continues to work with is geared towards cultivating community, bridging gaps, and cultivating the next generation of Black and Brown leaders on the rise. 

In addition to Melissa’s community-building contributions, she has also helped women to take their power back from limiting societal beliefs that often diminish Black women and women of color from feeling and looking their best selves. In an effort to help women around the world connect to their inner power through the lens of beauty empowerment, Carnegie isn’t letting up when it comes to leaving her lasting mark on the world- And here’s how she’s doing it. 

Gabrielle Tazewell: Tell me more about your background! How did you first get started within the beauty industry?

Melissa Carnegie:  As a blogger after I graduated from college, I graduated in 2008 and I wasn’t able to find a job in my career field so I decided to go natural after moving to North Carolina. During that time I started receiving an influx of Facebook DMs about my journey, about my haircare journey, and what products I use. I spent so much time answering DMS on Facebook and one of my best friends at the time said that I should probably just start up a blog. She saw how many people looked up to me as a natural hair resource, so I said you know what? I should look into it. So I researched a little bit and I thought it would be a cool way to kind of keep my writing sharp as well and that’s when I created with a focus on natural hair and fashion. This wasn’t just a movement, It became a lifestyle in my name, and photos started getting circulated on publications and different platforms. And then the rest was kinda history. A few years later, I became an influencer for Cantu. And then after about a year or two of that, I became their national ambassador where in 2016, around 2016, I attended beauty shows and I would educate black and brown women on the products on how they work for their hair on regimens with these products. So when the Cantu team saw how knowledgeable I was, they were like, you should come work for us.

GT: Can you tell me more about how your voyage from influencer to executive is helping to push the culture forward? As we continue to highlight Black women and Women of Color in honor of Women’s History Month, Why is your work so pivotal when it comes to representation? 

MC: I feel it is my responsibility to make sure that our community feels seen. They feel heard, they feel supported and genuinely cared for, as people first, you know, then the consumers. So I always try to make sure we connect with the needs of the community before we’re asking for a single dollar. I love that I get to work with a team that looks like me, and that we get to work for a community we’re also a part of.  It’s so special to me, and it’s also important that our agency partners reflect that community too. We have so many talented creative agencies that help us with social media as we’re developing new items and new products. I felt like, you know, there needed to be women and men who look like us in those spaces as well. Making Cantu magic and pouring back into community research is my top priority,  period.

GT: How is Cantù changing the way we not only see ourselves physically, but, internally? Why is our hair such a vital part of our self-expression/identity? 

MC: The beauty industry kind of tends to believe that Black consumers are one-dimensional, when in reality we come in all different shapes and hair types. The expression of beauty through our hairstyles has been a cultural kind of shape. You know, since the beginning, it’s all been about our hair since growing up with hot Combs in our grandparent’s and our parent’s kitchens too, which kind of created a platform for women of color, men, and kids as well to just embrace their journeys and to embrace their hair.

We don’t like to leave anybody behind. We like to bring everyone on their journey so they can feel more like themselves as well. I feel like when I get dressed in the morning, my hair is a part of like who I am, outfit, and everything in between. If our hair isn’t right nothing’s right. Our products are created to help consumers, feel that confidence every step of the way. So just being with the consumer and being a part of their journey and every step of their routine, while also helping them embrace that beauty and showing up as they are, who they are, and feeling like their authentic selves every day is the most important part when it comes to what we do and how Cantù is helping to change the narrative

GT: Can you tell me more about your partnerships with Black and Latinx organizations? How are these partnerships helping to bridge gaps and bring forth community? 

MC: This is probably like my favorite question. Cause it’s all about like pulling up the next generation after us. We’re very very passionate about that and passionate about the ongoing commitment of our community service and the community service that we do. Our latest organization that we are in partnership with is like a global cohort. So we’re able to support women, young girls coming up, and expose them to different things, while also helping them with their development. We’re also really big on mentorship for women of color and young girls of color in those underserved communities, from our executive leadership, all of us are kind of going to be working with these young girls and we’re so excited to hone in on this mission. We’re going to be hosting hundreds of girls at an in-person summit by the end of this year. So we’re, we’re very excited. The summit will include a series of different workshops, and it’s very grand, I mean, it’s groundbreaking. It’s like changing the leadership and the minds of these young girls and the directions that they want to go in. They get to speak and hear from a lot of dynamic black and brown women from different stages of life. So I’m just excited to see where this partnership continues to go. So we provided resources to these young girls to just to help them build more self-confidence,  mental health, and mental wellness. That’s very important. They deal with so many different things so we just really wanted to build their resilience, help them with their confidence, with their mental wellness, and help them embark on their next stages of life personally and professionally. We are a part of a lot of events, we support a lot of small businesses, and when it comes to the Latinx community, we did a lot of research. I noticed that a lot of women haven’t gone on the multicultural hair care route, so we’re making sure that we’re educating them on the products and making sure we’re letting them know that we have products and solutions for them as well. 

GT: Your work is helping women to redefine themselves by taking their power back from limiting beliefs that often tell us we’re either not worthy or deserving of luxury within our lives. How do you feel about this? And how do you believe Cantù is helping to change this narrative within the scope of beauty and Haircare. 

MC: So, you know, black and brown women deserve luxury in all aspects of our lives. So self-care and wellness are kind of the core parts of Cantu and our brand, and it shows not only in the products we’re developing and creating but the partners that we’re working with during that process. We recently launched a new superfood collection called Guava and Ginger,  and to celebrate that launch, we had this idea of taking 10 influencers that we’ve worked with, that we have supported, that we’ve worked with for years, and some newer women that we’ve worked with as well on an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii. While we were there, we learned about the new collection, of course, and the ingredients that went into creating them. The ladies had a chance to see touch, feel, and taste the main ingredients of this new collection, so like the goal of this trip was to show the content creators and special guests that they deserve luxury. I feel like influencers create every day, they show up for brands, create their best work, and it gets hard. A lot of us have experienced burnout and, you know, try to push through that because it’s our job. As the head of community and communications, I feel like it was important to me to help plan this trip for the creators to feel a luxurious experience and to actually feel that relief. Our slogan of the trip was to feel the relief by connecting with nature and networking with other like-minded women in the industry.

GT: How can we begin to break the cycles of negative stereotypes that claim the “good hair vs bad hair narrative.” What are some ways Cantu is helping to reshape those misconceptions surrounding how we take care of our hair? 

MC: I totally get you. And I know that many of these may come up as it’s always that good versus bad narrative. I feel like it’s gotten better over the years, but it’s still there. And, as far as I’m concerned, there is no good or bad hair. Choosing products that really kind of cater to all hair types, like I said before, is equally just as important to us that you see that representation through our campaigns. We want to celebrate those textures, and celebrate being different. The representation of a young woman and of a man seeing themselves is very key for us. To break through that narrative of good versus bad hair, you have to see yourself represented. Our creatives, our partners, our influencers, our ambassadors, our employees, our leadership team, and our communications kind of reflect that, you know, when young children see themselves and see that the hair textures that reflect them, it teaches them to love their own hair and to revel in that beauty. So that’s something that’s very important to us. By having that representation and showing that to our consumers, we can begin to transcend these stereotypes and to do the work that’s necessary.