It’s so refreshing to find black women leading in the beauty industry. Tumi Soyinka is currently the Assistant Vice president at L’Oreal and the founder of The Texture Lounge – a platform that tells the stories of women of color with textured hair. Hailing from London, UK, Tumi Soyinka is the Assistant Vice President of Marketing for MIZANI USA at L’ORÉAL. Tumi’s Marketing career began in the music industry eleven years ago at Universal Music Group; home to Rihanna, Kanye West and the late Amy Winehouse. Here is where she first developed the affinity of building love brands and leveraging the consumers’ ‘reason to believe’ for campaign success Now an entrepreneurial advocate for cross-cultural beauty, with a penchant for brand storytelling.
Tumi champions the message of inclusive beauty by the empowerment of women of color through her online digizine and podcast series, The Texture Lounge; a space that elevates women globe-wide by spotlighting the transformation and successes of entrepreneurial women with textured hair.
Travel, creative writing and photography are among her greatest loves.
She shared some career tips with L.F.E!
What inspired the vision of “The Texture Lounge”? How do you balance it with being an Assistant Vice president at a leading beauty organization?
Being surrounded by the ongoing conversations of young women of colour second guessing their ability to kill a job interview because they think that wearing their hair the way it grows from their head, will prevent them from getting that “yes”. That’s what urged me to create The Texture Lounge. I recently re-discovered that being a creative is in my DNA. Sometimes, role dependent, working in corporate can ‘help’ you forget about the things that get you excited. Storytelling – whether through writing, partnering with dope black creatives for my podcast series, photography, branding – these are the things that tickle me; and The Texture Lounge serves as an outlet for me, when I need to decorporatize myself and get that balance going again. Did I just make up a new word? *Runs to online dictionary* No, decorporatize exists!
What is the most exciting project you have worked on in the history of you career?
Most recently, our team at MIZANI hosted what we fondly called a #TextureLove brunch for almost 20 runway models of colour just before Fashion Week last month. It is a sad story when we are seeing the number of models of colour at Fashion Week growing +30% versus Spring 2015 (great news!) but the level of texture expertise backstage of the hairstylists who have to style them is just dismal, poor, sloppy; I could think of more adjectives but you get the point. So this year, our team has been taking care of these beauties through our Fashion Week hair survival kits, VIP haircare appointments before their shows and this brunch was just a nod from us to them; to show them we see them, we know what needs to change and we are here to bring visibility to the issue as well as be a part of the solution.
A proud and meaningful moment!
The black beauty industry is unfortunately not run by women of color, how did you go about finding mentors in the industry and focusing on area that you are passionate about?
I do think mentorship is important and there are many ways to get connected. My advice is, do your research on your ideal mentor, and when it’s time to meet, know that you are leading the conversation and be prepared with your questions and conversation points. Use your time with them resourcefully. But honestly, I didn’t seek out mentors. Being an introvert, it doesn’t come naturally to me to put myself out there. So I let my work and passion for storytelling black beauty speak for me. I always knew that whatever I ended up doing will be to serve people of colour. So when I got the call from L’Oreal 8 years ago about a Marketing role at MIZANI back when I was in the UK, it felt like a good fit. Had it not been a brand that serviced people of colour, I may not have been as excited. Although I do not have a mentor, I do want to build my Voltron (if you don’t know, listen to episode 8 of Jesus & Jollof podcast; created by Yvonne Orji and Luvvie Ajayi); a collective crew of like-minded creatives/business owners or leaders who want to lift, empower and push our narratives forward, together. I’m working on that. A monster group of mentor-peers!
What Career advice can you give to aspiring professionals in the beauty industry?
I want to speak to all the introverted aspiring professionals out there. Beauty industry or not.
Typically, there is a preconception in corporate that in order for women to get to the top, they have to be just as boisterous as some of the men. Loud, brash and feared. Urgh. Not me, thank you. It might take us a little longer to climb the ranks but my advice to you is:
- Be authentically you. You have no energy to waste trying to be someone else.
- Work your a** off. Your work will speak for yourself.
- Learn to PR yourself better. Not cantankerously, but find your own way. Don’t expect that tiara to fall on your head, or that promotion to fall on your lap just because you’ve been in that role for however long. It takes more than that.
Introverts have great positives that they should take advantage of. We:
- Make thoughtful and empathetic leaders
- Are the best listeners
- Make considered decisions
- When we decide to speak, people listen to what we have to say.
- So, Dear Introverted Professional, when in doubt remember all of these natural tools you have in your toolbox.
What does being an executive woman mean to you?
It sure is a corporate label, however she is someone who understands what grit and graft means in the world of Leadership. She understands the impact she has in making decisions in the boardroom and the effect they can have outside. But for me, being a woman of colour exec, means taking my seat and pulling it right up to the table. Front and center; even as an introvert.