The reality of the beauty world is that it’s oftentimes all about “lewks.” And unfortunately, despite how diverse beauty influencer may appear, all aren’t necessarily welcome to the club. But Black, queer-owned brands like LVNDR Beautique are carving out their own lane of beauty inclusivity —and doing so with a huge profit.
The owner of LVNDR Beautique is known to the online world as @LVNDRBeauty. Behind the username is Marly Hamilton, the Black, trans beauty influencer whose killer lashes earned her over $20,000 within the span of a week. And that’s just after launch.
As one of the few Black, queer-owned brands (they make up about less than 2 percent of small businesses) to find success in the retail market, Hamilton’s success is a testament to the inner workings of influencer culture.
Prior to her official launch of LVNDR Beautique on Juneteenth, Hamilton says she had no intention of building a beauty brand. But as her online following grew in 2018, going from 75 followers to 2,000 followers on Twitter, people began taking notice of her self-made wigs, lashes and nails — and wanted to shop them all. Unfortunately, the beauty guru’s very public online presence gave her problems keeping employment in her real life, which ultimately made her turn online compliments from fans into a fully realized business.
“I didn’t want to work for someone anymore because every time a job would find out I was trans, they would fire me without hesitation,” Hamilton tells In The Know. “I never want to have to work for someone else again. That’s my goal.”
The beauty guru’s Bestie lash collection (which is currently available for preorders only) launched on Juneteenth and sold out in mere days. The name “Besties” is directly derived from the name Hamilton gives to her fans and supporters — two of whom happen to be YouTube’s biggest and most controversial creators, Jeffree Star and Shane Dawson.
Star became a part of Hamilton’s world when he ran a contest selecting online creators to send free Jeffree Star Cosmetics products to as gifts. It took two tries, but Hamilton finally was chosen in the second round of the PR search in 2018.
“I didn’t make the first round, and for me I was crushed because I was like ‘Why? Why didn’t I make the first round?’ I thought I was pretty talented,” Hamilton says. “I thought I stood out more than a lot of other people. I’m like this dark-skinned brown girl with bright-ass colors on my face, so I’m definitely standing out. I didn’t make it that time, but then he did another search that week and I made it. I was at the gas station, and I broke down crying.”
With this kind of support behind her, Hamilton’s following grew even more. She explains that her support and friendship with Star is derived from their similar upbringings, as they both weren’t viewed as accepted in their respective communities.
“The fact that he came from nothing, and I was like ‘I want to be like that.’ I came from nothing, too. I can build an empire. I can build my following,” Hamilton says. “I never want to push people onto other people but, to be honest, if it was not for Jeffree Star, I would not have been put on the map at the point that I was put on the map.”
In the days leading up to Hamilton’s launch, both Star and Dawson showed support for Hamilton, with Instagram swipe-ups to her site as well as tagging LVNDR Boutique in an Instagram post. Since launch, Hamilton now has amassed 33,000 followers on both Instagram and Twitter and over 5,000 followers on the LVNDR Beautique Instagram page.
“From that moment, I had gotten a chance to finally show the world who I am and show my work,” she says, referring to her selected for the PR search and promoted by Star. “And I can’t be more thankful for anyone who has ever stepped in and helped me.”
The beauty YouTube community has been put under a microscope recently due to YouTuber beef among Star, Dawson and Tati Westbrook. But with Hamilton garnering their support and building a relationship with them, she doesn’t think Dramageddon — a multi-part social media “cancellation” of several popular beauty YouTubers among the likes of Manny MUA, Laura Lee, Gabriel Zamora, Nikita Dragon, James Charles, as well as Jeffree Star, Tati Westbrook and Shane Dawson — is enough for her to cut ties.
“I consider them my friends because we’ve had outside conversations outside social media,” she says. “We check on each other, and I have a certain relationship with these people and I can’t just give them up because the internet wants me to hate people. That’s just not who I am as a person.”
Up to this point, Hamilton has been a one and a half-woman band. Other than her accountant, Hamilton has historically done everything else on her own to further her brand.
“Every sticker on my lash that has a name, I place those stickers myself,” she says.
Due to the rush of interest, the LVNDR Beautique owner says that she had to pause all orders of her press-on nails because she was overwhelmed, gaining hundreds of orders with only two hands to make them. She says the nails will eventually be back from their hiatus. But in the meantime, Hamilton is enjoying stepping into influencer status.
She says, “I got a manager and I got my first sponsorship [offer], which didn’t go with my brand, but it was also like, ‘Wow, I’m finally getting paid to be an influencer.’”
Hamilton says she’s putting her dreams of having her lashes in Ulta, Beauty Bay and Morphe out into the universe for those who will listen. Plus, Hamilton explains the LVNDR Beautique brand has plans on expanding into cruelty-free 3D mink lashes.
“They are harvested by the shedding of the mink,” Hamilton says. “We are not killing mink. No, ma’am.”
Not to mention, Hamilton herself is quietly working on a collaboration with a brand, which she’s not unveiling just quite yet.
“What I’d tell my younger self is, ‘You are enough,’” Hamilton begins as she begins tearing up over the phone. “I would tell her that she’s beautiful, she’s different and that that’ll be something that people look up to in the future.”
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