TooD Founder Shari Siadat On Breaking the Beauty Mold

TooD (short for attitude) is about embracing every color. With the motto “makeup for every body,” the clean cosmetics line boasts a kaleidoscopic lineup of ten multi-use Brow Color Creams, with product names inspired by dichotomies like Known/Unknown, Inner/Outer, and Real/Fake. “It’s a playful nod to the ways in which we don’t always fit a binary and are in a state of constant discovery, honoring our own complex journey of contradictions that live within ourselves,” according to founder Shari Siadat, a first-generation Iranian-American, mother of three, and proud unibrow wearer.

Every aspect of the range is produced with sustainability in mind, from recycled and recyclable packaging to nontoxic formulas. The initial launch also comprises the Turn It On Soap Brows, a recycled bamboo TooD brush, an all-natural Turn It Off makeup remover, and TooD Magic Swab (a dual-sided silicone application tool). Amidst the launch, Siadat talked to BeautyMatter about messaging beyond the makeup, turning shame into superpower, and the beauty of defying stereotypes.

What was the impetus for launching the brand now?

I was raised in a very small town where I stood out with my features. Having a unibrow, a mustache, and being hairy and darker than the rest of my classmates was tough. Growing up with that, I dealt with that pain by burying it, needing to overachieve and aiming to be perfect in order to feel good about myself. It was my way of compensating. That was my self-protection mechanism for the majority of my life.

In my culture, hair removal is tied to family honor. I was caught between my American life where I wanted to look like my peers and my Persian heritage where tweezing would bring shame to my family if done too soon. Before entering 8th grade and a new school, those hairs finally were tweezed. It was the start of an era where I was addicted to stripping away any sense of my cultural and ethnic identity—whether that was from dyeing my hair, thinning my brows, waxing, bleaching, or lasering—you name it. I had tried it all and I was on a constant search to fit into a mold that didn’t honor or resemble me.

Fast-forward to motherhood. I was getting involved in the art and fashion scene in New York City and playing around with my appearance. I would put hair extensions in, play with makeup looks, or dress with a more masculine style. I was experimenting with how I felt in the moment and gained confidence by playing around and shape-shifting. When my youngest daughter was born, she was a photocopy of my younger self. That was a pivotal turning point for me—to face my younger self. She was so effervescent, fly, and amazing. I realized that I don’t feel that way about myself. Knowing that children absorb everything we do and not what we say, I decided they wouldn’t have any chance in valuing themselves if their mother didn’t. So I grew my unibrow back.

That opened a lot of doors for me creatively. One of those was writing a children’s book. I wanted to create a complementary product to bundle with it—a colorful, glittery eyebrow product that could highlight the brow in a completely new way. Something that could show that what we’re ashamed of might be our superpower. That’s how TooD started. The beauty industry is so polluted, literally and figuratively. There’s so much noise. If only I could create a product that was made with clean, nontoxic ingredients that didn’t disrupt hormones, something that me and my children could wear. If only I had packaging that didn’t harm the earth and there was a way to have sustainability and accountability. Was there a way that I could inject the fun color of color cosmetics into a clean line? I felt like there wasn’t a marriage of the two, and I wanted to see if I could do it using ethically sourced ingredients.

There was no grandiose plan. Then quarantine hit. I didn’t know if I would get my products out. I think the labs didn’t understand the urgency I had to solve these issues when others wanted a quick formula. It was not easy to push for what we needed, but it got done and now it is such a relief to know that it was possible. What was so amazing about this journey is how many people now feel like they are part of TooD.

What do you mean by the statement “Curated diversity is over”?

I made this statement because tokenism is still a problem in the industry. Instead of saying, “How can we include more people?” businesses are saying, “Uh oh—if we don’t show diverse faces, we’ll get canceled and lose business. Sometimes people don’t believe something can happen until they see it. So we did push to amplify voices and faces and experiences that aren’t at the forefront of media. You can’t be what you don’t see. We need to normalize these things and make people feel seen and heard. In our inaugural campaign, we let our models tell their own stories. Sometimes authentic diversity is about taking a step back from controlling the narrative and allowing individuals to speak their truths.

How has your own upbringing and culture informed your views on beauty and brow/body hair?

In my culture, beautification and de-hairing yourself is a rite of passage. It’s something that you only do when you’re ready for marriage. I appreciate the communal nature of how we think about beauty (it’s a rite of passage, something shared among the women), but I also acknowledge that it didn’t make me feel empowered to decide what I love about myself outside of the perspective of pleasing a man. I grew up with those messages while feeling a need to make myself conform to Eurocentric views of beauty.

In what ways is TooD further redressing the harms done by those beauty standards?

It’s really getting at mental health. I’m using my own life experience to say: I have bullied myself, criticized myself, and been my worst enemy over my appearance and other aspects of myself. If we know people are going to great lengths for plastic surgery because they feel like the face they are born with is not good enough, can you imagine psychologically what they must feel? Can you imagine the pain that we’re all in?

TooD seeks to create an environment where you can strip away negative feelings that we internalize. My hope is that the brand will inspire people to question the beauty standard and ask themselves, “Did I choose to do this?” “Was I told to do this?” “Did a family member teach this to me?” “Or am I really just feeling this look?”

From my unibrow to letting my gray hair grow out, I acknowledge that feeling good about yourself is an evolving process and an endless journey. There’s no destination. It’s more about continuously asking yourselves, “What made me do this?” When we hold ourselves accountable, but also dig down into honoring ourselves, valuing ourselves, and investing in self-love, who knows what would happen to the world? And I think the world needs some healing right now.

It also brings up the idea of agency. Does the anti-influencer and anti-tutorial also tie into that concept of doing what feels right to you instead of what someone else is suggesting?

I want to change that whole mentality that only some people are creators with influence. We have been putting too much emotional attachment to the idea that influencers matter more than we do when it comes to deciding what’s beautiful. What happened if we all have that same amount of agency? It would be so exciting to see what would be created.

How many makeup artists are out there—living dormant inside—because we don’t believe in ourselves when we see only a few successful faces? I want to invite people to play around with whatever they are feeling inside. TooD has the tools and says, “Give yourself permission to play. Let’s play, let’s have fun. The shame game is over.”

Bringing it back to beauty being a tool of empowerment rather than control.

I had read Glennon Doyle’s Untamed and was thinking, “Yes, we’re on the same page. I felt seen and heard. We’ve been indoctrinated and tamed to feel like we need to do all these grooming things, to pay all this money, to hurt ourselves emotionally, to be something that we’re not.” What happens if we all go untamed? The world may just be filled with love because we’re not hating on ourselves and each other for the top rank.

How do you hope to “celebrate the underrepresented parts of our bodies through photography and storytelling” in the future?

My statement for TooD is “makeup for every body everywhere.” I don’t know if a beauty brand had ever shown color on unconventional parts of the face or body. Who said blush goes on cheeks and lipstick goes on lips? Who says we can’t put makeup on our shoulders, on our thighs? We’re in this moment of exploration right now. I hope to be part of a conversation that helps us feel free to be ourselves.

Maybe someone has a scar that they always try to hide. What if instead they could add a dab of our Push/Pull turquoise color and choose to accentuate it? We can celebrate what once held shame if we want to. TooD will do this through our photography, videography, and interviews. We are ready to create a space where people can talk about their individual journeys. On our Instagram account, we are highlighting each one of our inaugural campaign ambassadors. One of them talked about his skull being oversized and getting teased as a kid. Now he’s like, “That’s what got me on the set today! Hello, haters.” I love that line because it bothered him growing up and he has overcome that. I want to spread that feeling, and the only way we can is by sharing stories. You share your own vulnerability, and invite others to ask themselves: What is my unibrow story? What is my big-skull story? That is very much in the spirit of TooD.

The whole subject matter of body hair is also really interesting.

I realize that my kids are absorbing everything we are doing. I want them to make their own decision about body hair. Body hair or any beauty thing is a choice. I have made a point to not shave around them, yet sometimes I’ll choose to shave because I feel like it that day. TooD is about being free to be whoever you are—non-binary, genderless, fluid, whatever you choose to call it or be. If you don’t like labels, that’s great, too. It’s just about honoring your body and self in that moment. That’s an important message for people to understand—that they don’t have to put themselves in a box.

What is your distribution strategy?

Right now we are DTC. Part of the reason I chose to do that is because I care so much about the customer experience. I want to invest in this business and grow it in a way where I can ensure a level of integrity through all aspects, from product creation to distribution. I’m open to expanding with certain key distributors as things grow, but I’m in no rush to do that. The partnership has to make sense and that partner has to be aligned with our mission. We are sold in the US and shipping in the US only, but are going to go international for sure. What’s been amazing for me is how many people have reached out from all over to say I want TooD. That’s exciting to me, that this is a global message that is hitting the mark across the world.

What has the feedback for the brand been?

On the day of our first campaign shoot, there was a party vibe and positive energy in the air. Everyone was excited and even those who are industry veterans were saying, “This feels so different.” I kept hearing that over and over again—how much fun it was. It felt like a family affair and a community. There was a flexibility, freedom, and beautiful imperfection on that day. That translated into our campaign images. One of our models, Ana, is an indigenous immigrant from Mexico City; she proudly showed her unibrow and underarm hair while breastfeeding her child. Marcus and Cruz, a queer interracial couple who work together on artistic projects, from photography to styling, wanted to show what true love and partnership is in these photos and videos. These are stories that are never told from the perspective of the model in beauty campaigns. We’re getting a lot of positive comments around these visual narratives.

That authenticity of the images, bringing the fun back into color cosmetics, was striking as well. A lot of times it’s about this perfectly manicured image, and that’s not realistic.

Not at all. That’s also why I didn’t create tutorials. Although going forward I will have an educational series, because people may want to learn about how they can experiment with TooD. If I can bring some inspiration, I am happy to do that, but I didn’t want this to feel perfect and like something you had to do “just right” to be successful. The way you are is the success. I want TooD to feel like a one-swipe vibe, one that gives you this freedom of expression and an editorial look without needing a glam squad to apply it. All the products that we’re going to be launching—and we have a pipeline out till ’23—really have to do with giving agency back to the consumer. You no longer need to follow the rules, watch YouTube tutorials, and feel insecure about drawing the perfect cat eye.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s