St. Catharines, Ontario
We can’t say enough about Jenn Harper. A proud Indigenous woman, she is also a savvy entrepeneur who founded Cheekbone Beauty, the fantastic makeup collection that gives back – think thousands of dollars to date donated to The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada. Jenn is a modern-day hero in our eyes – overcoming abuse and loss and turning trauma into a platform for education. She’s also serious about developing the most fabulous makeup (wait till you try the lipgloss!). We were honoured to sit down with Jenn and get a tiny glimpse into all the greatness she’s already accomplished and continues to in 2019…
TS - Tell us about your passion for makeup and how you translated that into Cheekbone Beauty.
I’ve always loved makeup ever since I was a little girl. There’s something so special about feeling pretty. Makeup does something to us. It has power. I always knew I wanted to support my Indigenous community in some way, I just wasn’t sure how and then I had a dream in January 2015. I woke up and knew right away what I had to do: combine my passion with purpose – that meant using lipstick as a platform to talk about the injustices that affect Indigenous youth to this day.
TS - Tell us how your background has influenced and continues to influence Cheekbone.
Learning the truth about the history of Indigenous people motivates me to speak about it. My grandmother was a residential school survivor. This was a horrific experience; she was physically punished for speaking our language. When I realized that, according to these societal beliefs, I was also ultimately not supposed to be here, it was very hard for me. I lived in a lot of shame and pain until I started learning the truth behind the situation and that truth helped me release my shame.
TS - You also speak regularly at schools to educate young people about the effects of the residential school system. What’s that like?
It’s been the most painful experience in my life. Believe me, I wanted to quit many times and sometimes still do. Non-Indigenous people need to understand the reason for our pain and the harmful stereotypes that exist. Indigenous people still live in communities with no clean water. Indigenous kids get 30-50% less funding for elementary school; they have to leave home at 14 just to attend high school. This has not ended so I have to keep going.
TS - What kind of feedback do you get from young people?
Kids are incredible and recognize injustice immediately. I am so confident that our next generation will be a part of massive change.
TS - Cheekbone can be defined not only by what it does, but what it doesn’t do – tell us about your no-animal-testing promise.
We knew that animal-testing is antiquated. It is cruel and not necessary. It actually goes against everything my ancestors believed in: that every living thing has a purpose. More plainly, it just seemed unkind.
TS - We love the name of your brand – does it have any special significance?
Yes! Cheekbones are my favourite feature of the human face.
TS - Tell us about the pink feather that customers receive when they purchase a Cheekbone Beauty product.
I wanted to send a little something to all of our customers as a real thank-you. I am so grateful for every order and the pink feather represents my love and gratitude.
TS - We can’t get enough of your Cheekbone Lipgloss – what’s the secret behind it?
The Vitamin E! It is sooooo moisturizing.
TS - If you had to pick one makeup item every woman should have, what would it be?
Our “Perfect Brows” because it is so simple to use and because our brows frame our eyes. The reaction when women see the transformative powers of “Perfect Brows” in before-and-after images is incredible.
TS - What’s your best-selling item to date?
Definitely our liquid lipstick in AUTUMN. It is the perfect red for every skin tone – for real!
TS - What’s next for Cheekbone Beauty?
This year is really exciting for us. We’re formulating a new sustainable lipstick with no plastic used in the packaging. And our dream to create scholarships for Indigenous youth will hopefully come to fruition with the help of some larger donors.
TS - You’ve been through so much and are such a survivor. If you could give your 12-year-old self a piece of advice, what would it be?
It’s okay to make mistakes.