Fearless and Flawless: Meet Activist and Beauty, Elle Hearns

September 4, 2019  |  

Elle Hearns

Source: Kenneth Hamlett

When you’ve survived and been beautiful while doing so – what could there be to apologize for? And to whom and for what? – Elle Hearns

Between the lines you’ll feel her confidence roar. Every word spoken within MadameNoire’s exclusive beauty series powered by Sephora lends to her truth. If you love the glow up and the glam of an unapologetic woman who is redefining traditional femininity, we encourage you to get up close and personal with beauty and activist, Elle Hearns, former strategic partner of the Black Lives Matter network and now Executive Director of The Marsha P. Johnson Institute. Hailing from Columbus, Ohio, this leader on the front lines fighting for the culture is also a chic superwoman serving face in any space.

MadameNoire:
Let’s talk beauty – is it true that your love of the beauty industry and makeup led you into the activism space? Please share how that all came together?

Elle Hearns:
It is true. A lot of my experiences growing up in Columbus left me isolated and alone. From the time that I was a small child well into my adult years I always loved glamour and anything that was beautiful to my eye- including me. I spent a great deal of time trying to break into the beauty industry by being a stylist and a counter manager for Kevyn Aucoin. However, my unwillingness to conform to the corporate structure was too much for the Midwest to understand, so I often turned to resisting and protesting workspaces that were too conservative to meet the beauty needs and culture that I and so many others needed to stay alive. As you could imagine protesting your workspace or not conforming to their rules regarding what was appropriate dress, or hair led me to being unemployed. I spent some time homeless which really opened my eyes to how little existed in the world for Black women like me.

Elle Hearns

Source: Kenneth Hamlett


MadameNoire:

Let’s talk about power, confidence, and of course beauty – why is the Black women a force to be reckoned with in your eyes? Is it fair to say that she is unapologetic?

Elle Hearns:
The Black woman is a force to be reckoned with because we know who we are. The world for so long has tried to tell us that we were different or that we don’t belong, but when we look around, we see everyone emulating us or trying to have power over us.

There’s an acknowledgement that Black women must do regarding our ancestors and our Mothers to understand our place in the world. That acknowledgement is what makes us so powerful. We know their stories, and oftentimes their stories become our stories in the same or different ways.

Our beauty is unmatched. Periodt. I remember being a young girl and recognizing the curve in my lip and the curl in my hair and being so fascinated that no one looked like me. It is completely fair to say that we are unapologetic. When you’ve survived and been beautiful while doing so what could there be to apologize for? And to whom for what? We are everything. And they know it.

MadameNoire:
You are a fierce supporter of the trans and black community – why is this space dear to your heart?

Elle Hearns:
I grew up surrounded by my sisters, my Mom, and my neighborhood. Those experiences shaped and molded me. My Mother always instilled in me to never look down on where you come from, which to be very honest I struggled a lot with. I came from the hood. I came from public assistance and food stamps. I came from Black people and I didn’t know how to be proud of that while also being bullied for it. It’s the first place I learned to love. It’s the first space where I also learned pain. So, in a lot of ways I learned how to win no matter how bad I was down. I watched my Mom and so many other Black young single Moms dedicate their lives to providing that I naturally learned to love from them.

The trans community has always been such an invitation into an emancipated life. The rules truly don’t apply to a people who’ve made a way out of no way when the doors everywhere have never been open. I met a group of young Black trans women after being released from jail and without those women my life and my activism would look so different. No matter where I go those experiences will always be with me and dear to me.

Elle Hearns

Source: Kenneth Hamlett

MadameNoire:
Share some of your beauty regimens – what colors and looks make you feel unstoppable and fearless? What does your makeup bag consist of? What products from Sephora are a must at checkout?

Elle Hearns:
I love this question and I’m so excited about it. I love products and my beauty regimen is pretty-specific. For colors I typically prefer classic nudes, bronzes, and rose golds. I’ve been giving myself permission to play with color more. Those colors just really capture my face well.

I am a full-face makeup girl, so, my makeup bag is plural. I have bags and bags, lol. It’s important to always have good skin products. Products from Sephora that are a must at checkout easily without question is Fenty Gloss Bomb in Fenty Glow. It’s so necessary. I love Huda Beauty’s eyeshadow palettes and Estee Lauder Stay in Place Foundation. NARS concealers are legendary. Laura Mercier powders are always great to just have. The Sephora Firming sleep cream is a must when I need to bring some moisture back into my face and at night. The Sephora retractable waterproof eyeliner in Classic Black helps me create an easy defined eye which I love.

MadameNoire:
You are a co-founding member of the Black Lives Matter network and now you are the Executive Director of The Marsha P. Johnson Institute. Please share what The Marsha P. Johnson Institute is doing for the community?

Elle Hearns:
The Marsha P. Johnson Institute works to protect and defend Black transgender people here in the United States. Over the last 5 years due to the advocacy of Black trans women the murders that often have gone unnoticed or acknowledged have become a part of the mainstream understanding of what’s happening to this particular community. We’re doing work to create more dialogue and community building for a marginalized community. Our work consists of advocacy. We are the only organization of our kind doing that work nationally. We are also building opportunities through political engagement around legislation proposals like ‘The Marsha P. Johnson Safety and Wellness Acts’ – which we are hoping will be a model adopted at the local level to improve the conditions of Black trans people and especially for Black trans people. The Marsha P. Johnson Institute is an extension of a bigger picture that I’ve always imagined for Black lives.

MadameNoire:
Speaking in the third person – how would Elle Hearns like to be remembered in the history books?

Elle Hearns:
Elle Hearns would like to be remembered and thought of now. I’m still here and I’m just getting started.

MadameNoire:
Can you name a few Black women who are your source of inspiration? What about them gives you life?

Elle Hearns:
My Mother and sisters are the ultimate survivors. I love to hear them laugh and fight for themselves. My first love will always be music and song…I grew up listening, watching, and dancing to women like Mary J. Blige, Patti Labelle, Janet Jackson, Twinkie Clark, Ciara and Lauryn Hill. Their voices and stories are forever etched in my head and bring me great inspiration when I need it most. I love Serena Williams, she’s the greatest athlete ever.

I’m intensely inspired by Wuzzam Supa, Jackie Aina, Jessica Dupart, and Rihanna. What they’re doing in the beauty industry is marvelous and so specific to the buying power of Black women who inform the world of beauty.

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