Samantha Mang On Asian Representation In Beauty Media
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Entrepreneurs Of Color Q&A: Samantha Mang On Asian Representation In Beauty Media

A true pioneer for inclusivity since reading magazines as a teen girl.

Entrepreneurs Of Color Q&A: Samantha Mang On Asian Representation In Beauty Media
Function Of Beauty

Custom beauty products aren't new, but as a beauty writer who's tested hundreds of hair, makeup, and skincare products for years, I can say with authority that quality custom beauty is extremely hard to come across — Function of Beauty is the exception to that.

A true role model in custom beauty backed by high quality and superior technology, Function of Beauty's strategy and mission is simple: to build a hair and body care brand fit for every single hair or skin type.

What starts as a simple quiz asking about your primary concerns, scent preferences, ingredient allergies, and even name you'd like on the bottle ends with a beautifully wrapped, vegan, cruelty-free body care system delivered straight to your door.

I'll be the first to admit that I first thought the whole brand was a gimmick. I've tried dozens of brands like this, but what is marketed as "custom" is often just a selection of four or five pre-packaged options you're expected to fit the bill for. But when I sit down with the founder of Function of Beauty and learn that there are actually thousands of formula options based upon your preferences, I'm truly shocked.

What's more shocking is the actual results of using their hair system (I've just received the body care, and plan on trying it ASAP, if not sooner). They sent over a shampoo, conditioner, hair mask, and hair serum. I've never actually tried a hair product that's shown me immediate results, and have truly never felt very passionately about a product that's transformed my hair after one use.

Again, Function of Beauty is the exception to my somewhat fine, semi-wavy, unruly, unpredictable Indian hair. I, like most people, never fit the bill of one "hair type". This brand finds power and strength in inclusivity, and it's clear from the entrepreneurs behind the brand that the products are branded and made. mindfully.

Samantha Mang, Senior Vice President of Brand and Innovation at Function of Beauty talked to me about just that.

What is the story you hope to tell with Function Of Beauty?

Function of Beauty was founded on the cornerstone of celebrating individuality and embracing diversity. We are a brand that can truly deliver on that because every single one of our custom products are individually filled and designed based on what you want out of your hair or skin.

As SVP of Brand and Innovation, I hope to continue to develop products that help you achieve whatever beauty goals you may have, and to continue to share your individual stories of what beauty looks like and feels like to our community.

What has been your biggest challenge and highlight in the industry so far?

Every new innovation is a challenge and a highlight!

But honestly, the most trying times as a marketer (and as a human being) I've been through have been in the recent quarter — both the COVID-19 pandemic and the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

The pandemic is hard for obvious reasons and still so much is unknown, but the crescendo around BLM really caused me to examine my work in the industry with a new perspective. From a personal perspective, it has been and continues to be a swirl of emotions — pain, anger, outrage, disbelief — especially as I see others around me suffer.

As a marketer, I relooked at previous work and questioned whether I had done enough to recognize systemic injustices (probably not) — I am especially focused on how I can make an impact in my work at Function moving forward: A, how are we elevating Black (BIPOC in general) voices and content in our channels? B, are we truly celebrating individuality in the images that we're showing? C, does our innovation pipeline speak to our BIPOC customer? Do our products help her or him celebrate their natural hair? I'm privileged to be in the position to make important decisions at Function — and so I feel responsible for actually affecting change and making an impact.

How much does coming from a marginalized community play into your role as a businesswoman?

I remember being a devoted reader of many teen girl magazines, but I never saw myself represented.

There was a lack of images, of content for girls who didn't look "stereotypically American" — there were no articles on what to do with my flat Asian hair or how to put eyeshadow on monolids.

So knowing what it feels like to not see yourself represented in mainstream media — I'm deeply empathetic to that, and that's something I hope to change.

I also grew up in Beijing, China, going to an international school, where my classmates were from vastly different parts of the world. That early exposure fueled my curiosity and ability to be more objective to different perspectives — something that continued in New York. I've carried those two immensely useful characteristics with me throughout my career.

How do you feel building communities on social media has impacted the way you do business?

I think the way communities on social media are built is incredibly powerful and special.

I wanted to go into marketing because I think it's so special to be able to make products and to connect with people every day of their lives.

Communities on social media allow brands to build that one-on-one relationship with their customers or potential customers; they're also a great equalizer — there's no hiding in the comments section, there's a certain loss of control that terrifies any brand manager.

It allows the brand to become more human and less fixed as some brand positioning statement on a Powerpoint slide. I love Function of Beauty's big and highly engaged community on Instagram — my favorite thing to do is to wade through the comments section and to see all the UGC that pops up from everyday people.

What advice would you give to the upcoming generation coming from marginalized communities?

Be the change! You have a louder voice than ever, so use it — at work or at home. Chances are, your parents or grandparents of long-held views and deep-set beliefs — understand why they think that way, educate them, help them understand. At work, think about what you can change or impact in your sphere of influence, and commit to doing that every chance you get.

What can we expect from the future of Function of Beauty?

A lot! We have quite a few, big launches coming up (we just launched body products!), we've finally landed on a social mission that feels very specific to Function (that will be shared soon!). We're upgrading the core parts of business every day.

Perhaps this is best summarized by our CEO and co-founder, Zahir Dossa: we strive to make customization a norm, not a niche.

Rapid Fire

What are your favorite accounts to follow on social media?

@functionofbeauty, of course. Perfect blend of shelfie goals, funny memes, and cute animal pictures, and inspirational #definitionofbeauty stories from our community.

@butlikemaybe is the most hilarious, yet painfully accurate illustrations of our modern times.

@humansofny because I love the way Brandon can elicit the most personal, heart-wrenching, uplifting, or fascinating stories from strangers, and captures them so well in both photos and a short, tightly written narrative.

To what characteristics of yours do you attribute your success?

Hustle. The constant push to do better, find opportunities, and solve problems.

Tell us a book you'd recommend.

My favorite book of all time is "Cutting For Stone," by Abraham Verghese. It traces the lives of two British Indian twin brothers born in Ethiopia from before their birth to their adult years — it's both a family drama as well as a view on the deeply human side of medical practice.

I remember being hit by the beauty of Verghese's prose and storytelling just a few pages into the book and tears streaming down my face as I neared the end. It's not so dramatic now when I reread it, but I still feel all the feels.

What charities do you support?

The ACLU and the rescue agency where I adopted my dog, Theo.

What is the item in your closet you wear the most?

Summer dresses or jumpsuits. This way I don't have to match a top and a bottom.

What is the one haircare product you can't live without?

My custom hair serum from Function of Beauty. I was initially terrified to use it because I have very fine, thin Asian hair — but one pump is just enough to give me some sleekness and shine without weighing it down.

What is on your nightstand?

My Kindle is always there, a Laneige overnight lip sleeping mask, and a bajillion cups of half-drunk water. It is always a cup party.

Odyssey may earn a portion of purchases made via links on this page.

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