#POWERPLAYER: Atima Lui
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Shoppers on the hunt for intimates, shoes, makeup and more can find a growing number of brands offering “nudes” that pair with a range of skin tones. (Insert happy dance here!) Yet while these diverse offerings are both welcome and necessary, it can be hard to know exactly which shade best matches your skin—especially when you're shopping online.
Enter a genius technology called Nudemeter. Just upload a photo of the back of your hand and answer a few simple questions, and this patent-pending skin tone matching application will pair you with the beauty and fashion items that best complement your complexion.
Nudemeter and its accompanying website, Nudest, are the brainchild of Atima Lui, whose frustration with the limited 'nude' shades in the marketplace began in childhood. “I remember my mom putting nude hosiery on my skin; it made my legs look so ashy!” she says. “I always knew that not everyone was a traditional shade of nude. In fact, it turns out that items labeled the color 'nude' do not match 84% of the global population.”
While in college, Atima started a full-service hair, nail, and tanning salon targeted at multicultural customers. She then went on to impressive roles at big-name tech and retail companies before launching Nudest in 2016 after graduating from Harvard Business School.
Here's Atima—our latest #Power Player—to share her 'aha' moment and more.
- What was the moment when you realized it was your professional mission to solve what you call the 'nude problem'?
Atima: Towards the end of business school, I got an offer to work for a major tech company. It was exactly what I had hoped would happen. Yet as graduation approached, something didn't feel right about the opportunity.
I decided to meditate and look inward, and what I realized was that I definitely had the entrepreneurial bug. I didn't know what kind of company I would start, but it was clear to me that I could only do something that I was extremely passionate about.
As I meditated, the universe—God—came to me and communicated that my purpose is to improve the confidence of dark-skinned women and girls. That's how I ended up with the nude problem and began working on my business plan.
- The Fashion and beauty industries have undoubtedly gotten better at acknowledging diversity since you opened your salon back in 2010. What has happened?
Atima: Beauty is really individual and personal now. When I was younger, we had one standard of beauty that was dictated to us by magazines and TV and celebrities. Basically, if you weren't tall, skinny, blonde and blue-eyed, you felt like there was something you needed to change about yourself.
What has moved the needle is technology. Thanks to social media, we decide what images we choose to see every day in our feed. We want to see people that look like us and have a standard that we can aspire to. Companies are now able to target people in a lot more individualized ways and change the creative that they put in front of us in order to serve our unique needs.
- What remains to be done?
Atima: There is so much money left on the table for companies that don't recognize the infinite numbers of skin tones on our planet. And diversity goes beyond skin. I think about diversity in body size, disability, and gender representations.
There is also room to improve the diversity that companies project in their imagery and in the products they sell. It's as simple as showing your product on someone who looks different from the 1990s standard.
Cover Girl had 'cover boy' for the first time! It didn't require any different products—just a different representation of how you market the existing products.
- Your Nudemeter technology matches shoppers with appropriate products according to their skin tone. How do you find the brands you partner with?
Atima: We match lingerie, hosiery, shapewear, shoes, and beauty products. When we first got started, we found companies that are similar to ours—innovators who want to change the color nude. We reached out to them directly and I feel like what has happened is that we have community of brands with likeminded goals.
- What are you still looking for in the marketplace?
Atima: The biggest opportunity is in shapewear. It's expensive to produce and purchase, so it's hard to make. Hopefully someone will go out there and back this issue.
- What types of products do your customers want most?
Atima: They get really excited about footwear—finding the right nude shoe. Women of color and really pale women are so happy to find a ballet flat to match their skin tone.
- What's next for Nudest? Any new projects or innovations you are particularly excited about?
Atima: I'm really excited because we were accepted into a digital accelerator with Coty, Inc., which is the 3rd largest beauty company. (Cover FX is part of the accelerator, too!) We are really in R&D mode to make sure our technology works flawlessly with beauty products. We want to get things really right with beauty so we can empower customers to shade match without having to go in-store.
- What is your "foundation"? Who, or what, grounds you?
Atima: As an entrepreneur, the ups and downs are insane, so it's important to have a support system around you. For me I'm so lucky that mine is my family as well as my friends.
I'm part of an all-women's working space in New York called The Wing. Going there every day and being a part of something like that is so empowering and wonderful and keeps me going.
- Speaking of foundation, what has been your experience with the Cover FX Power Play Foundation?
Atima: I love my Cover FX Power Play Foundation—I'm a shade N120—because it's quick to apply and blends effortlessly. So many brands don't offer a shade for my dark skin tone, and when they do, they often make me look ashy. When I wear Cover FX, it's just the opposite. I feel like I'm glowing and I get so many compliments!.
- What do you love most about going to work every day?
Atima: I love that I can see the results of my work daily. When you work at a startup and run it yourself, every decision you make has an immediate impact. I appreciate the opportunity to see the results of my work daily.
- What is your beauty 'uniform'?
Atima: I moisturize my entire body daily. People say I have really soft skin. It's because I moisturize every day—even in summer. I cleanse my face every day and I put on a facial serum. I do like to wear bright lipstick because it makes it look like I have a full face of makeup even when I don't, and that makes me feel put together.
- What are three things on your bedside table right now?
Atima: I have three candles because I like to light candles. They help me be calm and create a nice energy. I always have a book. I like to try and read for pleasure. Right now I'm reading The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani. I try to read books by women of color to support them. I also have sage leaves. I like to burn those and “smudge” the air. You light the sage on fire and then the smoke is supposed to clear harmful bacteria, clear the air of bad energy, and keep you calm. Start-up life can be crazy, so it's nice to be calm at home.