Nas’ Twin Cousins, Denise and Janice Tunnell: The Brains Behind Illusions Cosmetics

For centuries, the standard of beauty that women in the Western world have been held to universally has been decidedly Eurocentric. In the cosmetics industry, that standard has led to a lack of products for darker-hued beauties and, as such, the little girls of African, Latin and Asian ancestry are short of the options or the variety that their white counterparts enjoy. They also lack a bevy of products available that complement their particular natural beauty. But black female entrepreneurs are working to address these disproportions. Twin sisters Janice & Denise Tunnell, co-owners of Illusions Cosmetics, want their cosmetic line to provide women of color with a multitude of makeup options. “A lot of the cosmetic lines didn’t offer a great range especially when it came to foundations and powders that women of color fall into,” says Denise, creative coordinator for Illusions. “These women often find problems in finding their shades–whether they be light or dark–in some of your major cosmetic brands that are out right now.” Janice adds, “We’re makeup artists. We understand skin and we understand skin tone. We understand what foundations need to look like.”

Janice believes that the key to effectively serve your market is a strong grasp in knowing who that market is. “Even though we’re [working] to make sure women of color have options and we have to make sure have the colors for them, we want to also know how these groups of women spend and what products they spend most of their money on,” she shares. “Know who you are serving [and get] a great understanding of the groups…purchasing habits.”

Though sisters Denise, the risk-taker and Janice, the cautious planner have disparate but complimentary personalities, they were able to syncopate when the idea was presented to do something for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Their aunt, Ann Jones—mother of rap superstar Nasir “Nas” Jones—died in 2002 from breast cancer. “We wanted to let the world know that we stand behind this effort and we wanted to do something in her memory. We want to introduce a new shade every year to support breast cancer awareness.”

– todd williams

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