The founder of Ami Colé on breaking through, the importance of mentorship, and the game-changing product she recommends most.
- Written By:
- Lena Raff
In celebration of Black excellence, VIOLET GREY spotlights the creatives, brand founders, and entrepreneurs making an immeasurable impact on The Industry.
The first thing you notice upon meeting Diarrha N’Diaye-Mbaye is her glow, which is, in more ways the one, of her own making. After years spent in The Industry, the entrepreneur created, secured funding for, and brought to market Ami Colé—a first-of-its-kind brand that celebrates and enhances melanin-rich skin with nourishing formulas and breathable, natural finishes. Here, the self-admitted product junkie and tenacious founder answers VIOLET GREY’s burning questions.
Violet Grey: What do you love most about your job?
Diarrha N’Diaye-Mbaye: There’s so many things. I would say, the top is the products. I’m a product junkie, we could talk about products all day. Trying on new things, trying to understand what innovation means for us. How do we make the ritual of beauty feel better and more inclusive? I also love my community, being able to connect with people. The internet has made everyone your best friend. So, being able to reach across the pond or through the internet or your iPhone and connect with people and create your own little world. Whether that’s virtual or in person, I love, love, love, talking to my people.
VG: What role has mentorship played in your career?
DNM: Mentorship was really important for me. I’m a first generation Senegalese American and I didn’t have all the connections growing up. So, I turned to my left and my right. As Issa Rae says it, you look across and you work up together and you grind up together. So a lot of my mentors were people my age. Being able to prep for interviews, fundraising, whatever it is, with people who have been in the trenches with you. A lot of my mentors are still my aunties, my mother who I named the brand after, my older sister. Going to them and understanding how do we do this thing? As women, as Black women, how do we continue to rise against the status quo? Mentorship is so important for us as a people, as entrepreneurs. Also, everything is changing. The change we’ve been through in the last couple of years, my god. So mentorship makes everything feel a little bit more normal and a little bit more achievable.
VG: What is the product you recommend most often?
DNM: Honestly, it’s our Skin-Enhancing Tint. I worked retail, I have been the person constantly going to the beauty counters to try to figure out the best solution to have that my-skin-but-better look where I could still see myself. I was always looking for a tinted moisturizer. And of course, the breadth of shades were very far and few when I was growing up. And also the actual finish, how natural it looks, how skin-like it looks. I always suggest our Skin-Enhancing Tint and people are very excited. It’s super flexible, super breathable, made with skin nourishing ingredients like baobab seed extract and pumpkin seed extract. Really packing in those antioxidants to protect the skin while still looking like your best self.
VG: YOU'VE HAD AN INCREDIBLE CAREER. ARE THERE ANY MILESTONES YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
DNM: Honestly, my first internship ever just felt so validating. You know, walking in and Teen Vogue being on my vision board, and finally being able to land that opportunity. That was a really big milestone even though it feels so small now in this career journey. But I felt very proud to break through. The other one was securing funding for Ami Colé. At that time there were less than 20 Black women that raised over a million dollars to support their dream. Especially as a solo founder with a pre-market idea, I was very proud to break through once again. And honestly, the day that our brand launched on our dot com, I still get chills thinking about it because, wow, it was a long journey there.