Real Girl, Real Beauty: Zebi Williams

To say that Zebi Williams is accomplished is an understatement: She founded the Lil Raggamuffin Summer Camp in Jamaica and is also a designer. Her line, Born, began as fashion and quickly evolved into jewelry — the sales from which go directly to her camp. Not only did we grill Williams on all things beauty and design, but she let us tour her apartment, too. Ahead, she fills us in on her ongoing projects as well as favorite beauty buys and tips.
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Photographed by Julia Robbs.
We sat with Williams in her Tribeca apartment.
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Photographed by Julia Robbs.
Tell us about Born Jewelry.
"I’m a self-taught artisan. I first started designing clothing from recycled materials that I showcased in a few international fashion shows. These designs were sold through my boutique upstate and in NY street festivals. After a while I tired of clothing and became more engaged with making jewelry. I design pieces that utilize a mix of natural materials such as wood, bone, seed, and leather. I see fashion as a tool for raising awareness and resources for my non-profit organization in Jamaica, The Lil Raggamuffin Summer Camp; 100% of the proceeds from the line go towards funding this program. I also help teach others how to make jewelry and turn their passions into profit. I teach at my summer camp in Jamaica, at the Art Saves Lives Foundation in St. Maarten, and the Downtown Community Center in Tribeca."
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Photographed by Julia Robbs
Some items from the Born line.
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Photographed by Julia Robbs.
You've spent so much time traveling. What's in your travel beauty bag?
"Tea tree oil, Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap, coconut oil, my MAC Face & Body Foundation, red lipstick, mascara, hairpins, and a scarf."
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Photographed by Julia Robbs.
We almost "borrowed" these from Williams.
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Photographed by Julia Robbs.
What lip color are you most excited about for spring?
"I love the orange lip color. I haven’t yet found the tone that works for my face, but once I find it — that will be my go-to lipstick this summer."
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Photographed by Julia Robbs.
What are you favorite luxe beauty buys?
"I LOVE buying creamy, handmade body butters from craft festivals. It's always fun to meet an artisan who's passionate about a product...especially when it smells yummy and has all-homemade ingredients."
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Photographed by Julia Robbs.
What's the one beauty item you couldn't live without, and why?
"The thing that makes me feel most beautiful is the sun. But, with these long winters my skin tone changes, and my MAC foundation helps me cover up the dark circles...while still looking like my skin is bare and natural."
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Photographed by Julia Robbs.
What do you think about when you decorate your apartment? What guides your design?
"I’m a lover of art and culture. I love to surround myself with items that tell a story — items that inspire my imagination."
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Photographed by Julia Robbs.
A perfectly delicate Born necklace.
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Photographed by Julia Robbs.
Describe your morning and nighttime beauty routines.
"My morning routine is pretty simple. I take a shower and wet my hair to bring the curl back, then I put on a leave-in conditioner, my kinky cream, mousse, and seal it with argan oil... I put on moisturizer, then my MAC Face & Body Foundation and lipstick — usually red.

"My nighttime routine is all about relaxing. I take a hot bath and clean my face with a tea tree oil cleanser. When I'm wearing my hair straight I pin-curl it and wrap it up while I sleep."
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Photographed by Julia Robbs.
It's like a garden of beauty products.
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Photographed by Julia Robbs.
What are your favorite NYC haunts?
"AP Café (a coffee/art shop in Bushwick), Molly’s Cupcakes (mmm their peach cobbler cupcake), Brooklyn Moon (a culturally historic restaurant, delicious salads), Pier 25 Hudson River Park (for outdoor play), Miss Lily's Restaurant (Jamaican food and music in Soho), Pearl River Mart (great gifts and unexpected treasures), Buffalo Exchange (clothing), Wendy Nichol Soho (best window shopping), and Takahachi Bakery (they have green-tea everything!)."
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Photographed by Julia Robbs.
When did you start using coconut oil? Do you use it all over your body, or just for your face?
"Coconut oil is a throwback. I used to use it all the time when I was growing up in Jamaica, but for some reason I stopped. Then, a few months ago, I was at the grocery store and saw this beautiful bottle of coconut oil for $6. I bought it and loved it. I use it on everything. It's good for the body and my hair. I like the lightness of it."
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Photographed by Julia Robbs.
How do you discuss beauty with the young girls at your camp? What's important to you about how they perceive beauty?
"Beauty is such a complex concept. We have all heard that beauty comes from within, but for so many of us it’s hard...to experience ourselves as beautiful on a consistent basis. I feel that first, it’s important to be transparent and share with the youth my own struggles around beauty — my own insecurities. This creates a common ground, [allowing] learning to be a shared experience... We look at how society and media affect the stories we tell ourselves. We work to remove that inner critic who tells us we are lacking. Then, as women, we acknowledge each other, we celebrate each other, we compliment each other. We also share practical lessons around self-care: how to take care of your body, eat healthy, do yoga, drink water, apply makeup, how to dress to represent your own style. This year, we are also going to speak with the youth about social media and how they share their image online — how they represent their beauty using these platforms. For me, my goal is to have a generation of young women who love themselves and love the beauty they see in others."
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