Two black Harvard grads have redefined ‘nude’ by launching a makeup line for all complexions

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Amanda E. Johnson (COO) and KJ Miller (CEO), founders of Mented Cosmetics.
Amanda E. Johnson (COO) and KJ Miller (CEO), founders of Mented Cosmetics. (Photo: Mented)

Have you ever looked for the perfect nude lipstick? Amanda E. Johnson had been searching for three years when she finally vented her frustration to K.J. Miller, a friend and fellow Harvard Business School graduate.

Zeroing in on the right neutral is a notoriously tricky task, but for Johnson and Miller, both black women, ‘nude’ meant something different than the makeup shades typically marketed to Caucasian customers.

“That was an ‘aha’ moment for both of us,” Miller told Yahoo Life. “We realized the opportunity was much bigger than just lipstick. Ultimately neither of us felt that there was a premium brand really speaking to our beauty needs as women of color.”

The pair’s business proposition seems simple: Every woman should be able to see herself in the world of beauty, no matter her skin tone. Yet black women have been woefully underserved by the cosmetics industry, despite the fact that more black, Hispanic and Asian women buy cosmetics than white women do. Johnson and Miller realized if they wanted the industry to address women of color, they had to take matters into their own hands.

$12 to $40 at HSN

Mented makes premium cosmetics that speak to the beauty needs of women of color

Black woman with hair in a high half ponytail with Mented Cosmetics product that matches her skin tone nearby.
Skin by Mented foundation in shade M40 is K.J. Miller's go-to. (Photo: Mented/Getty)

That’s how Mented was born. Short for ‘pigmented,’ the cosmetics brand includes everything from eyeshadow and blush to foundation and setting powder — and lipstick, of course — for skin tones in various shades of tan, brown, red, and pink. There’s certainly no shortage of shades in the quest for your perfect match, either. Skin by Mented foundation stick, for example, is available in 13 options — many are shades of medium and dark brown with various undertones, like warm, cool and even red.

Shop it: Skin by Mented foundation stick, $30,

The founders are so passionate about making sure each and every customer identifies the most precise shade that they’ve developed a 60-second online quiz to steer you in the right direction. If that’s not enough, you can always use the Shade Comparison Guide, which compares Mented shades to those by other leading cosmetics lines that cater to women of color, like Fenty and NARS.

In fact, Mented’s inclusive mission was originally created for women of color, but the business has grown to serve anyone who wears makeup. “We’ve evolved beyond ‘women’ to really all people searching for a makeup line that celebrates and prioritizes diversity,” Miller explained.

Four Mented lip gloss shades shown with applicator wand.
Mented lip gloss comes in a variety of rich neutrals. (Photo: HSN/Getty)

Make no mistake, though: Mented owns a very specific niche in the beauty category. If you’re looking for lip gloss in a funky color or jewel-toned eyeshadow to make your peepers pop, you’ve come to the wrong place. “Our focus on nudes and neutrals for a broad range of skin tones is what truly sets us apart," Miller told Yahoo Life.

The brand is determined to be the go-to for women of color looking for makeup that blends — without having to physically blend shades to get there.

A wide range of nude cosmetics, ethically made and expertly formulated by Mented

Mented products aren’t just genius, they’re also kind and gentle. All Mented cosmetics are cruelty-free, vegan, paraben-free and non-toxic. So you can feel good about investing in a line of neutrals that will become the foundation of your makeup routine...quite literally.

Don’t be surprised if Mented cosmetics become an addiction, too. Miller and Johnson may be Mented’s founders, but they’re also two of the brand’s biggest fans. They truly get it.

Also: Keep in mind that, as great as HSN's prices are, it also offers the option of Flex Pay–ing for them in interest-free installments.

Black woman wearing her perfect neutral lipstick shade and that lipstick tube shown nearby.
Johnson couldn't find her perfect nude lipstick shade, so she created it: Dope Taupe. (Photo: Mented/Getty)

Shop it: Mented Semi Matte Lipstick, $16.50,

“I cannot live without our High Brow pencil in Brow Down, our Send Nudes gloss and Skin by Mented foundation in shade M40,” Miller told Yahoo Life. More than 1,400 five-star reviewers are on board with the CEO’s beloved lipstick, which comes in seven different ‘nudes,’ from mauve to brown.

“Finally a shade that I don’t have to blend with other colors to get ‘just the right look,’ one shopper wrote about ‘Mauve Over.’ Another said the gloss “adds shine without feeling sticky.”

For Johnson, the search for the perfect nude lipstick is over; she’s developed it herself. “Dope Taupe is my perfect nude,” the COO said of the shade that’s defined as a “unique blend of brown and pink to enhance your multi-hued lips.”

Mented Skin Silk Loose Setting Powder (Photo: HSN)
Mented's Skin Silk Loose Setting Powder is a steal at $25. (Photo: HSN)

Shop it: Skin Silk Loose Setting Powder, $25,

The reviews quoted above reflect the most recent versions at the time of publication.

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