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Diarrha N'Diaye-Mbaye didn't see makeup for melanin-rich skin — so she made her own

Ami Colé is the trailblazing beauty brand you should know about.
Alexandra Genova / Tim Boul

During February, TODAY is celebrating Black history through a series called Together We Rise. Throughout 31 days, we're highlighting amazing Black people, experiences, allies and communities that shape America and make it what it is today. Today, Hoda & Jenna are highlighting Diarrha N’Diaye-Mbaye, founder and CEO of Ami Colé.

Beauty has played a role in Diarrha N'Diaye-Mbaye's life from as early as she can remember. She can recall the days spent in her bassinet by her mother's side, or even on her back as she was braiding hair in her Harlem salon. So, it only made sense that she would go on to found her own award-winning beauty brand — and name it after her own mother.

Courtesy Alexandra Genova

N'Diaye-Mbaye set out to create a brand that catered directly — not just extended product offerings — to those with melanin-rich skin. She accomplished that with the official launch of Ami Colé in 2021, "a clean beauty brand made to celebrate melanin-rich skin."

"My mother was my first touch point to beauty," N'Diaye-Mbaye said. "So when it came to creating a beauty line, it made sense to name it after my mother."

After graduating from Syracuse University and working with brands such as Glossier and L'Oreal, N'Diaye-Mbaye felt that she had what it takes to build a company and a brand of her own.

"So, in 2019 I put the pencils down, and I am like, am I gonna do the crazy thing and start a company?" she said.

Even when you get your package it says, 'Your beauty is deep.' It really feels steeped in this embrace of Black women, of Black people, and that intentionality that this makeup was created for you and with you in mind, at the very forefront.

With both a lack of representation and products for people with darker skin tones, she set out to create a line of makeup that would enhance that natural beauty, rather than paint over it. To determine what products would most benefit her community, she surveyed over 400 women and asked them what they have in their beauty cabinets.

N'Diaye said she felt it was important that her makeup didn't just feel like makeup.

"For me, it's that no-makeup makeup look and that like very intentional celebration of melanin-rich skin," she said. "Even when you get your package it says, 'Your beauty is deep.' It really feels steeped in this embrace of Black women, of Black people, and that intentionality that this makeup was created for you and with you in mind, at the very forefront."

As a first-generation Senegalese American, her roots have heavily influenced Ami Colé and can be seen down to the product ingredient level.

"We are ... deeply inspired by our Senegalese roots, we have key ingredients like baobab seed extract, to really nourish the skin and treat it almost as a treat to skin, versus just makeup," she said.

Courtesy Ackime Snow

The brand also promises that all of the ingredients used in its formulas are at a 4 or below on the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep scale and avoids parabens, phthalates, sulfates SLS and SLES, among other harmful ingredients.

With natural ingredients in mind, Ami Colé sets out to make products that make its consumers both look and feel good.

"We're thinking about the 16-year-old girl who happens to be a darker skin tone not seeing herself represented," N'Diaye-Mbaye said. "And we literally created that — we grabbed that girl, you know, a lot of people that I grew up with are in our campaigns — and we plastered all over Harlem in New York City to show that you are beautiful as is. And we're just here to provide you the tools to do just that."

Ami Colé bestsellers

The Crew Starter Pack

This three-piece set includes the brand's skin-enhancing tint, lip treatment oil and light-catching highlighter, all in a neat pouch.

Lip Treatment Oil

This lip oil gives a shine, helps to protect your pout and also adds color with a little bit of a tint.

Skin-Enhancing Tint

The brand's Skin-Enhancing Tint is a 2021 InStyle's Readers' Choice Beauty Award Winner and Byrdie's Beauty Award Winner. It's not a cover-up, but it creates a blur effect while hydrating and nourishing the skin in six different shades.

Lash-Amplifying Mascara

Ami Colé's buildable mascara is made from 87% naturally derived ingredients such as shea butter and jojoba oil and comes in one rich black shade.

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