Picture this: A girl from the hood of Detroit who found herself pregnant at 17. No wealthy family. No business degree. She has a dream to create a brand for women like her. She starts building from the ground up—no celebrity endorsements, no paid ads. Just tapping into what she knows best: herself. She starts with a blog, branches out to hair and t-shirts. She finds that brand is growing slow and steadily.
Little by little, people are starting to recognize and trust her as a businesswoman. Fast forward a decade, and she’s able to move almost a million dollars in product in less than five minutes. She can drive hundreds of people to stand outside of a store in the middle of winter for hours just to be able to say they were able to buy from her directly. She is becoming an entrepreneur that brands and followers alike emulate for success.
It seems like the storyline of a fairytale, right?
It doesn’t read as the blueprint of one of the most successful millennial women in the game right now. But it is. That woman is Detroit’s own Mia Ray. The thing about Mia is that you come for the story, and you stay for the genius. You stay for the familiarity. You stay for the authenticity. You stay for the commitment she has to making sure we all know it’s possible for us too. Because when you root for Mia Ray, you feel like you’re rooting for the women in your life who, despite all odds, have managed to create something legendary. You know her; she’s you. And you want to see her win.
Thankfully, the way she’s cemented herself into the hearts of her G-Hive, it doesn’t seem like the Mia Ray reign will be ending any time soon.
Iman Milner: Some of us are OG Mia Ray supporters, going back to the Same Girl Different Hair days but so much has happened for you since then. Who are you now?
MR: I’m still the same person, at the core, that I was ten years ago. Of course, I’ve grown so much in every aspect: emotionally, physically (laughs), financially, but I’ve definitely birthed the woman I’ve always wanted to be.
IM: What would you say was the turning point for your business, and how did you get there?
MR: For years, I’ve done what I’m doing now, but, definitely, I created something that I always wanted. I always wanted to be on QVC or the Home Shopping Network—once I took advantage of doing that myself on Instagram live, that’s when it flipped and became something bigger. Realizing, I didn’t have to wait for someone to invite me to their show when I could do it myself—my audience saw that and really responded to it.
IM: You’ve revolutionized the art of selling on Instagram. How do you keep building on that?
MR: My customers love the experience, and I love to bring them into it. Every time I have a drop, they like to see the behind-the-scenes. They like to go from point A to “oh my God, it’s in my cart.” From seeing the sample to watching it come into my warehouse, watching me prepare it, and then shipping it out to them—that’s what keeps the connection. Every time I try something new, they like it. Because of that, it’s like a breath of fresh air every time. It feels new to me.
IM: You’ve built a brand loyalty that not even some larger corporations can. How important is it for you to stay true to that core audience?
MR: My audience is me. When I started my blog, I went into it knowing that it was for the everyday woman. The 9-5 worker. The mother. The woman who loves to dress up and look good but stay inside her budget. It was me.
What a lot of people miss, even the bigger brands, is that they don’t know who they’re talking to. When you don’t know who you’re talking to, you miss that genuine connection from the source to the product. I’ve always focused on my customer. I’m not for everybody. But I know who I am for. That’s why I’m so good at what I do. I’m not talking to y’all over there. I’m talking to her. And the her that I am talking to likes to enjoy the things I enjoy, wear the things I wear, do what I do. She’s the everyday round-the-way girl, and I stay connected to her because I talk to her like she’s my good girlfriend.
IM: Now, Mia Ray keeps it real. We all know that. You’re not afraid to gather someone if need be.
MR: I do. My whole thing is don’t say or do to me what I can’t say or do to you. I’m still a human at the end of the day.
IM: A big part of your influence centers around financial literacy. That’s such a scary and important topic to champion as a Black woman who doesn’t come from a wealthy background and had to learn on her own. Why did you decide to take that on?
MR: For all the reasons you just said: we were raised to fear money. We were raised to feel like we couldn’t save and that wealth wasn’t for us. Not coming from money and not knowing anything about it, I was terrified of it. But once I started to learn more about it, I loved it. I love talking about money. I love unlocking people’s mindsets and watching them get on the other side of financial goals. No one broke it down for us to understand it. They made it seem like it wasn’t tangible for us.
But then I step in, and I’m breaking it down to you like 1-2-3-4. For me, someone has to chew it up in order for me to digest it. And there are a lot of people just like me. People get to talking about stocks and bonds, and that scares people. If they don’t even know how to save $200, how can they even begin to speak about investments? I wanted Black women to understand how possible it is for us to have good money management [skills], do things for our children that our parents weren’t able to do for us, and actually save. That was important to me.
IM: So many Black women don’t realize how much their mental health is affected by their financial health.
MR: Right. It’s scary. That’s why you’re constantly stressed. Or even angry. I was that mother because I was so stressed financially, I was in a bad mood. When you got money in your pocket, you’re laughing. You’re joking. You’re having a good time, and that can be your everyday.
IM: In the hardest parts of your journey, what has kept you going?
MR: There was always something in my gut that just said, ‘keep going. I just really wanted to see how this story would end. So on the days when I was on my knees crying like ‘God, what am I doing wrong? Why isn’t this working out for me the way I envisioned it?’—I didn’t quit. Here I am, ten years later, and what I envisioned is now happening. What I told myself then was, ‘No, come on, girl, we gotta figure this out.’
What I told myself then is the same thing I tell myself now, ‘get up, let’s keep going because I want to see how this story ends.’ I needed all of that; I needed to figure it out; I needed to be crying. If you’re not trying to figure it out, what are you doing? You don’t know everything. I know a lot of entrepreneurs go through what I went through, and that’s my number one tip: keep going when it’s ugly. When you only ship three orders. When you don’t have a car and have to walk to the post office or take the bus, keep going.
IM: I want to switch gears and talk motherhood the Mia Ray way. Your children are 11 years apart. What can you say you learned about mothering that you’re applying to your second son?
MR: When I had my first son, I was 17, and I was very scared. I was scared of raising a Black boy in the hood, and I was scared of being a single mom. I was very hard and overprotective. Very on him. What I learned through having my younger one was just let them do their thing. I give them the freedom to be who they want to be instead of don’t do this or don’t do that.
When my oldest was about ten years old, I started to really listen to him. No one listened to me when I was a kid. I started to allow him to have his own voice. So, with my youngest son, I came into it that way. I let them be free spirits. I’ve seen the outcome of adults not knowing how to be themselves, not having their own minds, and faking their personalities. I didn’t want that for my children. I am the listening ear. I allow them to speak. I give them advice. I want them to grow into themselves, not who I want them to be.
IM: You are an open supporter of other Black women entrepreneurs, but you have a select group who you’ve brought to the table with you. Why are you committed to that?
MR: I wish I had a me. Not that I didn’t have support, but someone who was really hands-on with showing me something or explaining things to me—I didn’t have that. All of these women are individually themselves. I didn’t cultivate or create them. But when I see people who are on it, if I can help you in any way possible to surpass me, I am going to give you this platform. Everybody go buy everything she sells, she deserves it, and it’s a great product—it’s that simple. I wanted a me. If God put me on this platform, he didn’t put me here just for myself. He put me here to help others, to support others—it’s not just for me. So, if in any way I can take these women who love and support me and share them back with other women who are like me, I am down to do that. I want to see everybody win.
IM: Can you tell us what’s coming next in the Glamaholic Lifestyle drop?
MR: In the next coming weeks, I have the mommy and me collection of bucket bags for mommies and their daughters. I have a hot pink collection with toiletry, travel, and cosmetic wallet sets. Then we have the mesh fanny packs and beach bags coming. But the suitcases are the number one thing that everyone is excited about; the roller bags. It’s going to be a few months for those, but they are definitely coming.
IM: Lastly, what do you want the Mia Ray legacy to be?
MR: I want my legacy to be that this girl from the ghettos of Detroit made it happen. She fought hard. She went hard. And she wanted other women to look at her and say, “if she can do it, I can do it too.”
Well done, Mia Ray, well done.