How Kristen Noel Crawley Builds a Black Beauty Empire In the Making

How Kristen Noel Crawley Builds a Black Beauty Empire In the Making

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How Kristen Noel Crawley Builds a Black Beauty Empire In the Making

The beauty moguel speaks about the origins of KNC Beauty, starting a business school for young entrepreneurs and the future of beauty brands.

The beauty moguel speaks about the origins of KNC Beauty, starting a business school for young entrepreneurs and the future of beauty brands.

Photography: RaysCorruptedMind

Styling: Yael Quint

Text: Kevin Ponce

Even if you’ve never heard of Mrs. Kristen Noel Crawley, you’ve definitely seen her millennial-pink lip masks plastered over the mouths of some of the world’s most beautiful people. As the woman behind those viral masks (which is a major beauty must-have, might I add!), the brains behind the brand that is KNC Beauty is more than just the face of the mega-company. Kristen is truly a hands-on, philanthropic, creative force to be reckoned with. V spoke with the entrepreneur one blissful, quarantine afternoon to discuss what she’s been up to, her thoughts on the current #BlackLivesMatter movement, and how her brand has been holding up in the midst of the pandemic.

Photographed by RAYSCORRUPTEDMIND // Kristen wears all clothing and accessories Burberry

Starting off the conversation, I wanted to know a little bit more about Kristen’s own self-care routine and what her top 5 beauty must-haves are.

KNC Beauty Star Eye Patches

“I tend to show my tiredness under my eyes a lot. So I use those very regularly and I’ve noticed a big change in my under-eye area and makes me look more refreshed and awake!”

U Beauty Resurfacing Compound

“That is a miracle product because you really just need that and only that after you wash your face. It’s like an all in one!”

KNC Beauty Supa Balm

“It’s like the best lip balm and I’m OBSESSED.”

La Prairie Cellular Radiance Cream Blush in Rose Glow

“I’ve been using this blush for two years but it’s such an amazing product. You only need one little finger swipe and it instantly brightens your face and makes you look more youthful and more awake.”

Revlon Colorstay Brow pencil

“I just recently dyed my hair a week ago, and my eyebrows too! Before when I had dark eyebrows, I could get away with not using a pencil but now I have to use one and I use the natural brown color in the Revlon pencil.”

Photographed by RAYSCORRUPTEDMIND // Kristen wears swimsuit VEM

“That’s the hardest part; just getting people to listen to you.”

Being a beauty connoisseur, Kristen often experiments with other lines apart from her own. Some of her favorites include brands like Summer Fridays (for their Jet Lag Mask and Super Amino Gel Cleanser), Clé de Peau (for their Radiant Fluid Foundation) and Sisley (for their Velvet and Black Rose Face Masks). Not to mention, the beauty hacks she’s discovered from her global jet-setting experiences such as vegetable glycerin-based brow soap to replace your crunchy, flaky eyebrow gel (Trust me, I was intrigued!)

KNC Beauty is simply one of those brands you just can’t help but admire.  The label quickly became an industry game-changer, providing a fun, effective, and honestly just super cute way to hydrate and plump your lips. After discovering a new world of lip-care inside department store Don Quixote on a trip to Tokyo, the idea for KNC Beauty was born and coincidentally filled a niche in the lip market that was lagging: the first all-natural, collagen-infused lip mask. Kristen says, “I started researching and it took me quite a while to find a factory that would customize the formula. A lot of them kind of don’t want to deal with it, especially when you’re dealing with low minimums. It took me about three years to get it together and put it out there, but I’m happy I did!” And the consumers are happy as well, as some notable celebs have been spotted rocking a lip mask such as Emma Stone, Kim Kardashian West, and Lara Worthington just to name a few.

As for the future of the namesake brand, she says, ” I see us having a complete skincare lineup. I want to develop some really innovative products that I have ideas for. It’s just hard finding a factory or a lab that will execute your vision the way you want. That’s the hardest part; just getting people to listen to you. But steadily growing and I’d love to have some type of brick and mortar, kind of experience or situation. Not necessarily a store, but more of an experience.”

She spoke about business with KNC and the ever-evolving landscape of digital entrepreneurialism especially considering whether it helps or hurts standalone shops. “I think the only way it could hurt a brand is if you can’t really afford it. Brick-and-mortar stores are very, very expensive [but] I sense that they help greatly because they kind of take you to the next level. Anybody can have an online shop. Literally you can go on Etsy and make a shop right now, so it kind of can solidify your brand.”

As pop-up shops become increasingly more popular and have been known to create an experience of the brand as a whole, KNC was already one step ahead of the game when launching a one-of-a-kind shop at the first-ever ComplexCon. “That was my small scale interpretation of [KNC Beauty], which is nice because I can have a 20 by 20 booth and really bring my vision to life. People can come and meet me and learn about the brand. I see a huge boost in support. I meet a lot of people that are fans of me or the brand, so then that in turn gives them a personal connection.”

Photographed by RAYSCORRUPTEDMIND // Kristen wears bags Telfar / earrings Lucid by Sarah Noor

“When I started my brand, I [wanted] something that is safe for everybody.”

In light of the recent global health crisis, it was only fitting that I ask how KNC Beauty is keeping up and how the brand has tapped into their philanthropic side. “We’ve been making donations to a lot of different charities from providing prisoners with face masks to [helping] frontline healthcare workers with Meals On Wheels and also giving away a lot of [KNC Beauty] product to healthcare workers,” says Kristen. When asked if there is any advice for brands navigating their way through consumer demands and charitable contributions to society, Crawley suggests, “Try to find something that you can do to help the situation, through your business. If you can’t donate, as a lot of us can’t, just sending those healthcare workers [product] makes me feel good. Try to think of how you can connect with your consumer during this time.”

As a cruelty-free beauty brand with a concentration on minimal ingredients, KNC is all in favor of the global shift towards consumers becoming knowledgeable about what’s inside their favorite products.”I think it’s great because people are finally looking at the ingredient lists on their products. I really never looked at ingredient lists [before], but when I got pregnant. I wasn’t putting anything on my face that I thought could affect my baby. So when I started my brand, I [wanted] something that is safe for everybody,” says Crawley.

With the ever-changing consumer mind, KNC recognizes the demand from all over the world, she continues, “I feel like now consumers are becoming more educated on the subject and they’re kind of demanding that. Once the customer demands that, you have to give it to them.” As the saying goes, the customer is king.

Photographed by RAYSCORRUPTEDMIND // Kristen wears Richard Quinn / rings Lara Heems / earrings Lucid by Sarah Noor

As one to champion the creativity and initiative that exists within young businesspeople came the launch of the KNC School Of Beauty, inspired by Crawley’s own struggles as a small business owner. The school will operate through Zoom and include four semesters of free lessons on entrepreneurship, learning from adversity, lessons on media marketing, branding, and investments. Black beauty entrepreneurs such as Nancy Twine (Founder of Briogeo), Melissa Butler (Founder of The Lip Bar), and Trinity Mouzon (Founder of Golde) have all joined in to help teach those who are willing to learn. In addition to the incredible initiative, KNC is partnering with mega beauty brand Revlon, who will be covering the “cost” of the tuition, by donating $25,000 to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. As the first edition of KNC School of Beauty launched on July 14th, rest assured that the remainder of the semesters is arriving soon!

When the Black Lives Matter movement reignited this past month, Black beauty and fashion brands took center stage, demanding the recognition and support that they deserve. As part of the Black beauty realm lies Crawley’s company. Navigating the industry as a Black female entrepreneur, Kristen tells V how, “There are definitely challenges – sometimes I can’t distinguish if it’s typical small business problems or Black-owned business problems. There’s always a lot of no’s but I try to not get discouraged and keep pushing. I ask friends for advice, I do a lot of research and I’m just learning as I go.” Doing her part, Crawley partakes in the BLM movement by utilizing her platforms to spread information by “[O]ffering support to fellow black women and donating to causes and charities that support the betterment of the black community,” she says. “It’s a long game, this is really just the beginning.”

Aside from school, for those looking to build a business of their own, KNC has a few pieces of vital advice: find a mentor, do your research, cultivate relationships. “They will be an invaluable resource for you. Learn from other’s mistakes and stay true to your brand voice and identity. There will be people who tell you that your brand is too this or that don’t listen, trust yourself,” says Crawley.

And as the 15% pledge reigns on—which is a call on major retailers to pledge 15% of their shelf space to black-owned businesses— the possibilities for beauty brands like Kristen’s are endless. As a supporter of fellow beauty brands, Kristen was kind enough to share with V a list of Black-owned companies that she would like to highlight.

Below, you’ll find a list of 10 of the beauty mogul’s favorite companies!

Kingdom Crown 

Golde 

Pat McGrath Labs

Sunday II Sunday 

Beneath Your Mask 

Black Girl Sunscreen 

Oui The People

Bomba Curls

Anita Grant

Uoma Beauty 

Photographed by RAYSCORRUPTEDMIND // Kristen wears all clothing and accessories Burberry

Credits: Production: Sun-ny Side Up // Styling Assistant: Case Little // Makeup: Sean Harris // Hair: Ricardo Roberts

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