The Beauty and the CEO(3)

By: Carolyn Hector

Zoe only wanted to set roots down in the Miami office of Ravens Cosmetics. Call it a predestined destination. Her great-grandmother Sadie, affectionately known as GiGi, ran one of the largest cosmetology schools in the Southeast. As a teen growing up in Trinidad, Gigi loved getting ready for the masquerade, also known as “Mas,” at Carnival. For a touch of home, she named her new school after the beloved event. Before leaving Mas Beauty School, all the students wanted to be an employee at Ravens Cosmetics, one of the oldest and most successful cosmetics companies founded by an African American woman for people of color. It would be a sign of success to join their company. Tears of pride and joy threatened to escape the corners of her eyes as she realized how close she was to following in her grandmother’s footsteps.

Just last week at the after-party of a successful swimsuit fashion show, RC’s president, Marcus Ravens, had told Zoe the job was practically hers. The models on both of his arms swore Zoe was the best. And modestly Zoe had agreed.

Traveling in fashion circles, Zoe had met Marcus’s other board members, a group made up of siblings and cousins from the large family. Each of the directors represented shareholders, the elders of Ravens Cosmetics.

It had been hard to gauge how some of the Ravens women felt about her. In the world of fashion and cosmetics, everyone was either an enemy or an ally. For a very brief moment in Zoe’s life she’d modeled. Her knowledge of the industry, inside and out, put her in a threatening position. Plenty of times she’d overstepped the bounds as a makeup artist, questioning the chemicals the other cosmetologists wanted to put on someone’s face. She almost became difficult to work with. With her degree in cosmetic chemistry she could easily start her own line. But Zoe wanted stability in her life. Her parents married young before they had a chance to live out their dreams, before settling down. Seeing her parents struggle to stay together while reaching their own goals put a damper on Zoe’s outlook on relationships. Things were changing now. She was established and not to mention older than her parents had been when they married. Thirty was rapidly knocking on her door and a faint biological clock was ticking in the back of her mind.

Having reaffirmed her worth, Zoe took a deep breath. When the elevator dinged to announce her presence on the fortieth floor, the doors parted and opened up to a quieter situation than on the first floor. A half-circle African blackwood desk drew Zoe’s attention immediately, along with a receptionist who had curly blond hair pulled up in a frizzy ponytail at the top of her head. A headset rested somewhere in the hair, Zoe guessed, because the girl held her finger up in Zoe’s direction but finished the conversation on the other end of the line before disconnecting the call.

“Miss Baldwin?” The young girl, whose foundation was poorly blended from her face to neck, rolled her eyes at the sight of Zoe. Clearly not a fan.

Zoe smiled and nodded. “Yes, that’s me.”

“Okay, so, you and the others are in the waiting room over there.”

The others? Using the eraser end of a pencil, the receptionist pointed toward a glass room adjacent to her desk. A minute ago Zoe had been giving herself a pep talk. She was sure the job was hers and she knew she’d earned it. But there were others? She stood at the glass door to the conference room where just over a half-dozen women and men sat waiting at a large oval table made of the same wood as the reception desk. In an instant, Zoe recognized everyone at the table, including Titus, her nemesis.

To make it to this level of her profession, Zoe had come across several—as the young model clients had called them—haters, and Titus was not her number one fan. The one-name wonder scowled through the glass at Zoe, his long, tacky feather lashes clumping together, causing him to have to pry them apart with his loud pink fingernails. Zoe refrained herself from rolling her eyes by sighing instead. The man claimed to be the best yet can’t figure out which adhesive glue for lashes worked best. At the AJ Crimson event last year, Zoe’d almost had to tell him about himself when she found her artist’s kit at his station. He claimed the kit was accidentally placed there but Zoe knew better. He tried to steal it. A makeup artist’s beauty kit was as important to them as a doctor’s stethoscope, a police officer’s badge or even a mechanic’s tools. Zoe admired AJ Crimson for becoming a leader in the beauty world, bringing his popular brand of cosmetics to pop culture through hip-hop music and current top television shows. How badly did she want the Creative Design Director position? Zoe took a step backward.