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  • Writer's pictureHeather Price-Jones

Cheekbone Beauty is Unapologetically Indigenous

From its sustainable packaging to its striking advertising campaigns, Cheekbone Beauty is unapologetically Indigenous.

Starting a cosmetics company wasn’t intentional. Jenn Harper, Cheekbone Beauty’s Founder, was inspired to create her brand after dreaming of Native girls covered in lipgloss.

“I woke up and thought ‘this is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life”, Harper said. “This is the moment I’ve been waiting for.”

For years, Harper had wanted to do something that helped her reconnect to my indigenous roots, her culture, and her family. Cheekbone Beauty became that avenue to help do that.

Like many Canadians, she was overwhelmed by the amount of media and the negative stories that we would hear about First Nations, Metis, and Inuit Canadians. This caused her to research the Indigenous experience in Canada. In 2015, her eyes were opened by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.

“I had this a-ha moment,” Harper said. “My grandparents were residential school survivors, and that explained so many things. Generational and transgenerational trauma affected my family.”

Residential schools were operated by churches and the Canadian government with the purpose of assimilating Indigenous children into European-Canadian life. An estimated 150,00 Indigenous children were taken from their families and placed into residential schools. Many faced abuse and a still unknown amount of lives were lost.

Though the last residential school closed in 1996, the damage from these schools still affects the day-to-day lives of many indigenous people. They lost their cultures, languages, friends, and family members. Most survivors suffered traumas that were then passed on to their own children.

Jenn Harper wanted to change the perception of Indigenous people in Canada. As someone who was focused on reclaiming her culture, she wanted to help others to do the same.

“How can I be a part of changing this narrative?”, Harper asked herself. “ I wanted to empower Indigenous kids, instead of making them feel bad about themselves, about who they are, and where they come from.”

Cheekbone Beauty was founded in 2016 and has seen huge growth since then. Not only is the brand now carried in Sephora stores, but they are constantly challenging the idea of what an indigenous person looks like.

As an indigenous Entrepreneur, Harper is incredibly aware of the responsibility she carries.

“I want to give indigenous youth the ability to see what their potential is through examples of other successful indigenous entrepreneurs”, Harper told Botree inc.

According to a 2020 study, Indigenous women are now starting businesses at twice the rate of non-indigenous women.

“For Indigenous women, self-employment is a way to increase their financial independence and stability. Indigenous women see entrepreneurship as a way to raise their family’s quality of life and improve their community’s socio-economic circumstances. The ability to govern your own schedule as an entrepreneur is also a significant advantage, as it makes it easier to balance work and family time.” (RBC, 2020)

Harper uses Cheekbone Beauty to give back to her community. As a company, they have donated over $150,000 to Indigenous charities. Though she is focused on bringing awareness and representation to the Indigenous community in the cosmetics industry, Harper also focuses on closing the education and funding gaps that currently exist.

“If you followed our brand from early on, we talked about this funding gap that exists”, Harper said. “it was really important for us to note that a level playing field does not exist for many Indigenous kids.”

Though she is focused on getting her messages across and bringing equity to Indigenous peoples, Harper is very cautious about how her brand is used by others.

“I’m not letting companies use my Indigenous brand to fulfil a corporate agenda”, Harper said.

Supporting small, Indigenous, and female lead brands helps other diverse voices find their inspiration. Cheekbone Beauty products can be found on their website, or in Sephora. Their products are cruelty-free, environmentally friendly, and bold.

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