“Know Your Beauty”: How Love, Aunt Bonnie Plans To Bring Brown Beauty Media To The Forefront
Meet Corey Huggins, the founder of the recently launched platform love, Aunt Bonnie — the first luxury global beauty media platform providing beauty trend content along with tools and technology for multicultural women and the beauty industry.
A NYU Stern School of Business graduate, Huggins’ beauty background is steep, having worked at major powerhouses such as L’Oreal, Black Opal, and Glossybox. What interests us about the love, Aunt Bonnie experience is that it’s seeking to define and tell the “untold story of the multicultural market.” What does that mean exactly? Well we chatted with Huggins about his inspiration for the platform, challenges many Brown beauty startups face, and how he thinks love, Aunt Bonnie will be the leader in a new era of beauty marketing.
MadameNoire (MN): What inspired you to launch love, Aunt Bonnie?
Corey Huggins (CH): I’ve worked in beauty for most of my professional career. I recognized that there was a gap between what the general market brands were doing and educating about our beauty and what was missing. I decided to fill that gap with a site, platform, media company that fills the void of Black and Brown women from an educational and practical perspective.
I had an Aunt, her name was Bonnie. She taught me everything I know about beauty. She was love and knowledge personified. Therefore, I created love, Aunt Bonnie so you could walk in her high heels and get the information you need about the beauty that you love so you can know your beauty. That’s the passion behind the brand.
MN: What were some the biggest challenges you faced as you built the platform?
CH: What I’m proposed to do is so new and revolutionary, a lot of people don’t see it and can’t visualize it. We’re a cross between the authority, education, and information of a New York Times. We have the beauty and aesthetic of Vogue Magazine, only it’s done with Black and Brown shades. The big challenge is painting the vision and picture that people can put into their own points of reference.
MN: How did your team overcome those challenges?
CH: We give it to [our audience] in a language that they understand. We have partnered with some of the biggest tastemakers, influencers, and entities, in Black and Brown beauty. We tell a different story based on that influencer.
For example, our first major moment was “Press Play For Sexy.” That was a beauty meets sexy moment. Everything around that was a sexy adaptation of beauty. We had “Hot Hair,” “Kissable Lips,” “Seductive Eyes.” We partnered with iHeartRadio as our influencer. Everyone knows radio and the sexy side of music. We showed everything from Ciara to Janet Jackson to Rihanna to Beyonce. We told the beauty story of those entities.
MN: There are alot of Black and Brown beauty startups out there, many of which are founded by women. Do you think you being a man changes anything?
CH: It gives me a competitive edge. At the end of the day, women want to feel beautiful. My perspective is unique and different because I am looking on the outside in. I’m giving you a different voice as opposed to the same woman to woman. I’m offering something fresh.
One example is from our Tones of Beauty show. We got so many brands that applied to that show that were just haircare brands. I wanted to tell a complete story of the woman. I knew that there were other parts of her beauty that needed to be manifested. Had I gone with what most boxes (that are just hair-focused) do, I would have gotten one note. By me looking on the outside, I was able to curate a moment with Black and Brown woman in her full beauty as opposed to what the trend is.
MN: Why do you a lot of Brown beauty startups fail?
CH: For subscription boxes, that has to do with the depth of brand contacts. The better the contacts, the better the brands in the box, the better the box will be and the more consumers you will attract. If you don’t have the right contacts to prospect for brands, you are dead on arrival. If you don’t have the skill set to contextualize those brands and tell branded stories above and beyond the standard fare, you are dead on arrival. It’s one things to fill a box. It’s another to sell and move that box.
For general market brands, there is a lack of authenticity. For so many years, multicultural beauty was ignored. It wasn’t only until there was a rise in other ethnicities that they even began to attach a dedicated strategy to multiculturalism. Those strategies have been inauthentic and don’t speak with a voice of credibility. There have been a lot of missteps in the marketing, product development, and “voice” given to those brands.
We have a lot of great ideas but we struggle with how to scale, build, and execute. We also have issues with financing, resources for marketing, advertising space, how to get the product out there, new product development (in terms of formulation), and R&D in terms of claims.
Those brands that were founded by people of color have done well when they ride a trend. They have been able to reach scale quickly. For a cosmetics or skincare company, it’s still a struggle. It is a number’s game.
MN: How is love, Aunt Bonnie different from other platforms that exist in the Brown beauty space?
CH: Our structure is different. We are a beauty media company. As a whole, we read like a magazine, function like a boutique, and showcase like an art gallery. We’re a beauty media platform that allows you to use all types of media. We’re the conduit that connects the multicultural consumer with brands.
We have multiple data points. One is our highly regarded, limited edition Bonnie Box. The Bonnie box is not a subscription model box and trades on scarcity, luxury, and being in demand. We partner with the leading beauty and lifestyle tastemakers.
We have Bonnie Media. I have proprietary relationships with some of the leading publications in Black beauty such as FASHIZBLACK and TXTURE Magazine. We have monthly columns and campaigns we run every month with them.
We have Bonnie Data which is our own market research firm. If a brand wants to know information, they can tap our database and survey them.
We have Bonnie Consults. I have proprietary relationships and contracts with brands like Carol’s Daughter, Clique by Roble, Design Essentials and ORS Haircare.
We’re going to be launching the Bonnie Show. Through my partnership with Cosmoprof, we have launched Tones of Beauty. It is the first global luxury showcase highlighting Black and Brown beauty. We’ll be launching a new radical sampling program that is an evolution to the box and will shake up how brands disseminate samples and get their products in the hands of consumers.We also launched our own branded proprietary products called Bonnie Beauty.
MN: What’s your plan to establish love, Aunt Bonnie as a Brown beauty authority?
CH: We are going to give all sides of the story. We’re going to give enough information such that the woman can make her own informed decision based upon her beauty needs, wishes and desires. You can think of us in terms of consumer reports. We are going to take the brand, consumer, trends, historical story and roll it up with all the other facets to tell the complete story so that a woman can know her beauty. We rally around that tagline.
MN: Will it be hard for love, Aunt Bonnie to reach success?
CH: I don’t think it will be hard because of how I’m going about it, I am a marketer. I was classically trained. This is not a blog. This is a beauty agency. We are as institutionalized and culturalized as any agency – only ours happens to be Black and Brown beauty. We have the best writers, partners, influencers, brands, and pictures. No one is doing what we are doing.
We are telling the story that already exists. We are already international, global, and chic. A woman who may not see her self or cannot afford some of the brands….we inspire for her to aspire. Where she is today does not mean where she will be tomorrow. We will give her enough information that she will make her own choice and know her beauty.