a beautiful life

Carol’s Daughter Founder Lisa Price Is Unapologetic About Building Wealth

Photo-Illustration: The Cut; Photo: Getty Images

Carol would be proud of Carol’s Daughter. In 1993, her daughter, Lisa Price, started making products for the Black community in her Brooklyn kitchen. At her mother’s urging, she started selling them at craft fairs. Twenty years later, the brand, one of the first new buzzy beauty lines to focus on natural-hair care, became a sensation, securing brick-and-mortar stores and celebrity investors such as Jada Pinkett Smith, Jay-Z, and Mary J. Blige.

In 2014, Price sold the company for an undisclosed (but no doubt large) amount of money to French-owned L’Oréal. The Cut talked to Price about her response to the criticism of no longer being Black-owned, whipping up homemade bath melts, and her “no” from Oprah.

Are there aspects of your beauty routine that you consider to be self-care?
Absolutely. I am a person who represents a beauty company, but that doesn’t mean I should walk around looking perfectly coiffed. I do whatever is necessary to feel balanced and whole, function clearly, and be able to smile and not have it be plastered on my face, but come from a genuine place in myself.

Later on today, I’ll be getting a massage. It is definitely a luxury to be able to do that, but I’ve realized that it is something I need to stand up straight, and to feel limber and strong. It’s something I’ve gotten more accustomed to doing. I still don’t do it on a regular basis — I’m still trying to get to the once-a-month thing, but that’s better than the once-every-couple-years thing I was doing before.

I am also a lover of baths. That’s an easy way for me to destress. I do a warm bath, turn on music, and light a candle. It’s relatively inexpensive, but it’s amazing how relaxing sitting in bathwater can be.

What do you put in the bath? 
Because I can make things, the world is my oyster. I love combinations of salt and a little oil. Sometimes it’s dead sea salt, or pink sea salt. I also like the fun of bath fizzies and bath melts. I blend coconut shea, coconut oil and put it into silicone ice trays, drop it in the bath, and it melts and makes the water creamy and soft.

I’ll make milk baths or sometimes I want an herbal bath. I might use fresh eucalyptus water and a little Florida water. I really have fun in the bath. That is the one self-care spa at-home treatment that has been consistent my entire life, starting from when I was old enough to be trusted in the bath alone. That’s been a sanctuary for me. I can watch Netflix in the tub, do audiobooks, or sometimes, I’ve even called girlfriends from the tub.

Has the way you think about beauty changed during the pandemic? How so?
Before the pandemic, there was a certain routine to things. I did my eyebrow shaping and tinting every six weeks, and manicure and pedicure every three weeks. I do personal appearances, photo shoots, shoot content, and I talk with my hands, so I always felt like my nails should be manicured.

When we were figuring out Zooms, I didn’t feel the same pressure to have everything perfect. It also wasn’t topical to do so since we couldn’t go out to appointments. Now that we are sort of on the other side, I feel that some of what I was doing wasn’t absolutely necessary. I still like to have my nails done, but I don’t feel the same need to have nail art. I love glitter, a little bling, and my hands were always a conversation. But it’s too difficult to do that, and for me, it’s not as personality-identifying as I thought. I also feel more confident in my own makeup-application skills. It’s not because I suddenly learned to contour from watching 90 YouTube videos, but I got more accustomed to looking at my own face as it really is.

I also indulged myself in making different whipped and shea cocoa butters at home, and taking care of my skin. It’s not that I neglected it before, but being at home and being able to experiment in different ingredients and oils has been fun. I made a body serum that contains squalane and I’m a bit obsessed. I never had worked with squalane before. I have time to explore things that I didn’t have before.

What was the biggest “no” you heard in your career, and what did you learn from it?
It’s not exactly a no, but there was a time when I was supposed to appear in an issue of O Magazine. It was an article about female business owners. I did the interview, the photo shoot, wardrobe changes with a stylist, and even went through the fact-checking process — everything that would indicate I would be in it. Then the issue hit the newsstands and I wasn’t in there and no one knew why.

Someone from the magazine did call me to apologize and she just kept saying, “I don’t know what happened.” I couldn’t get a straight answer. To this day, I don’t know why. It was really devastating and I was disappointed in myself — unfortunately, I assumed I had done something wrong. Maybe my interview wasn’t good enough, I looked too fat in my pictures, or all of the other women looked prettier. My feelings took me to someone deciding, “She’s not good enough.”

I remember one of my brothers saying to me, ”We are not going to dwell on that and live in that place of sadness. All this means, you’re going on the show. This was a big disappointment and it shouldn’t have happened, but it did. It just means bigger and better is on the horizon and you’re going on the show.” My husband told me, “You did a great job, the pictures were beautiful, there was just some mishap somewhere. Just let it go, and don’t take it personally.” After a few days, I listened to everybody, and I didn’t internalize it. I moved forward and didn’t let myself think about it and didn’t start crying every time I saw the magazine on the shelf. Within a year, year and a half, I was on the show. And it wasn’t because someone had heard about the magazine and wanted to make it up to you. It was like the universe said, “I told you, you are good enough.”

What was your takeaway from that situation?
I always try to see what it was I was supposed to learn in every situation. Having done this for nearly 30 years, I’ve learned that you can’t live in the place of, I’m stupid, I’m such an idiot, why did I even try? I didn’t have social media, I didn’t have MasterClasses, or people to follow, or people to talk with. There was so much that was unknown, so you just make lots of mistakes.

It’s more important to learn from the mistakes and keep moving. You will get to a place where you can hear other people’s stories and listen to keynote addresses when they say things like, “My first 14 businesses failed.” I’m sorry, what? Fourteen? You realize that the thing I did six years ago wasn’t a big deal even though I was depressed for days. It puts it in perspective.

Yes, I’d like to avoid making mistakes. But there are also times when you did everything you were supposed to, met all the guidelines, checked all the boxes, and yet it still didn’t work out. You learn that it’s just life. And who says that business is supposed to be perfect, if life isn’t perfect? We don’t have control over things, but how we react to them. How you allow things to take you up and down, is the only thing you have control over.

What do you wish more people understood about what you do?
I wish people better understood that African American entrepreneurs work very, very hard and we sometimes, or oftentimes, have to work harder than our white counterparts. We are overcoming a wealth disparity — and I don’t mean people with parents who have millions of dollars. There is a big wealth disparity between the average white person and the average Black person. You don’t have the same resources and don’t qualify for the same lines of credit, which companies often need to be able to succeed, pay companies, and continue to grow.

You also came under some flak in 2014 for selling your company to L’Oréal. It came back last year, when people learned anew that you had sold the company and it was no longer technically Black-owned. What did you think of that blowback?
When someone is in a position to sell their company and build wealth for their family, and go out and start a few ventures, I would love for people not to react with vitriol, but allow them to be celebrated for doing that. It is the only way to build wealth over time. Black banks don’t magically appear in great numbers. Investment groups, angel investors, and groups that target Black-owned businesses do exist, but it is going to take time to be equal from a wealth perspective. That might require different things being sold. And people should not be canceled because of that.

Some people felt comfortable dragging myself and my company last summer when they were making lists of who is Black-owned and who is not. I don’t think they were aware of how much I mentor Black-owned businesses and fight for them. I will never stop being an advocate for that.

I’m the kind of person that if I go to a craft fair or festival, I feel like I’m committing a sin if I don’t shop. I remember too many days of being at things like that. That was how I paid rent and bought food. I don’t go to a lot of them, because I can’t walk through them without spending a little here or there. I can’t not support it. When I am referred to as a sellout, a disappointment, a figurehead, or someone who doesn’t have a voice, it’s a bit maddening. I don’t listen to it. I continue to do my work. I only have to answer to God and my family.

I’m going to be 59 on May 18. If I want to retire, does that mean my brand is no longer viable? Does it mean it shouldn’t be supported? There is an assumption that no one will be speaking on behalf of the consumer because a white company purchased it, when it really isn’t the case. There are a lot of us out there trying to help people understand that companies can be Black-founded, Black-owned, and Black-led — those aren’t excuses, those are realities.

What made you decide to sell to L’Oréal?
L’Oréal understood my consumers and they also understood what it was that I did differently when speaking to them and in how I built it. They had a great respect for the work that my team and I had done. From the very first meeting, I didn’t feel like I was trying to teach them who we were and what we were about.

Sometimes, we would sit down in meetings and negotiations with other people and we walked in assuming that they didn’t know anything about us. With them, it was more of a feeling of, We get you, you’re amazing, we are curious about this. Then they would do a deep dive into a topic that you didn’t even think was going to come up. It was like, You researched me, okay. You went a few pages deep in my Instagram. It was like that from the very first conversation.

Unfortunately, _______ is worth it.
Massages are worth it. The other things is worth it, therapy. I know this is a beauty piece, but wow. For a long time I would say, “I need to find a therapist.” It wasn’t until quarantine that it happened because I didn’t have to go to someone’s office. I used to stress out about my schedule and when I would be in town. First, I found someone who was good, but not for me. But I didn’t give up and looked some more and now, I have found someone invaluable.

I would have said, not too long ago, that therapy is too much of a luxury and not absolutely necessary. I just need to schedule my time better, schedule some mini-vacations, get extra sleep, and I’ll be fine.  A therapist helps you uncover things you’ve been struggling with. Hopping on a Peloton every day at 7:30 is good for your cardio system and to relieve stress. It is not a good way to deal with unhealed trauma. Mmmm, no. 

Founders often say that the key to success is to “keep going.” How do you do that?
Keep going, just don’t keep going blindly. Maybe the goal you had should be adjusted. You won’t know that it should be until you get quiet and listen. Think of new ideas. During quarantine, a lot of businesses didn’t make it. But I also heard a number of people and businesses that discovered new things about their business, their personality, and ways of working.

Don’t be like a horse with blinders and no peripheral vision. Stop now and then to take pulse of the situation. Don’t give up, especially if you’re emotionally and  physically stressed out. You probably just need a break. You need some stillness, and to come back with a clear head. But sometimes, it is time to stop. I’ve heard that story too. I didn’t realize how miserable I was until quarantine happened and I didn’t have to do it anymore. And now they do something different. Keep going, but listen.

Carol’s Daughter Founder Lisa Price Is Unapologetic