Tisha Thompson earned her education in accounting, but the Atlanta-based entrepreneur always had a passion for beauty. "Makeup was my side job," Thompson tells Refinery29 of her time as a makeup artist for MAC Cosmetics. "I used it to earn extra money to put myself through school, but it also became a creative outlet for me."
After graduating from college, Thompson moved from artistry to the corporate world, where she worked her way up the ranks at PÜR Cosmetics. Ascending to her eventual role as Vice President of Marketing and Innovation didn't happen overnight, but it earned Thompson seats at critical tables in her career. "I started to notice that there wasn't a lot of representation and accessibility at the time in the clean beauty space, and it was reflective of the industry as a whole," she says. "It motivated me to try to diversify the space and develop products that could work for everyone."
When Thompson says "everyone," she isn't exaggerating: Under her leadership, PÜR launched a massive 100-shade foundation range in 2019. "I was in the shower one day, and the idea of doing something transformative and shocking in the space hit me," Thompson recalls. "I'd had enough of unacceptable shade ranges." The epiphany led to a widely successful, industry-changing launch that further solidified Thompson's personal mission — to make the beauty industry a more consciously inclusive place. "It wasn't my brand, but I knew it was a step in the right direction," she says. "But I still wanted more."
That desire motivated Thompson to leave the company and start LYS Beauty, which launched earlier this year as the first Black-owned clean cosmetics line at Sephora. "We deserve to have clean products that work, and I think there's an opportunity for us to get the shelf space we deserve," she says. From her own experience as an avid user of clean cosmetics (and after 15 years working in the industry), Thompson knew firsthand of the limited options for safe, brown skin-friendly foundations at affordable price points, so she spent months fine-tuning a formula before building the rest of her brand around it.
LYS Beauty launched with 35 shades of Triple Fix Foundation and a matte bronzer, primer, cream-to-powder blush, setting powder, and lip oil. "I wanted to have all of the items you would need to achieve a quick, flawless face," says Thompson, "so I started with six items as the foundation of the collection." Each product is currently rated over four stars at the beauty mega-retailer.
Beyond diversifying the clean beauty market, Thompson wants to be a voice of empowerment in the makeup aisle, where so many people leave feeling unheard and excluded. Her products are intentionally named with self-love affirmations to serve as a reminder of how badass and beautiful you are every time you flip open a compact; the name of the brand is actually an acronym for Love Your Self. "I wanted LYS to have gentle reminders that make you feel seen and accepted," Thompson says. "The beauty industry can feel so negative sometimes, but it's supposed to make you feel better, not bad about yourself in the end."
LYS Beauty is poised to be one of the buzziest new brands at Sephora, and the positive reception is proof that there are still many gaps to be filled in the beauty world, and founders on a mission to close them should be celebrated. "I know that a lot of things aren't easily handed to many Black founders," Thompson says, "but don't be afraid to step out and ask for what you want."
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