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International Women’s Day: Glamour Exclusive with Valerie Lawson

By Eyram Rafael

A woman of grit, elegance, determination and excellence is worth celebrating every single day. Such a woman is Valerie Lawson; Ghanaian based multiple award-winning makeup artist and beauty entrepreneur.

Like a passion-driven artist, Valerie Lawson in 2010 began her journey into the world of makeup and beauty with a brush in one hand, a palette in the other. Bearing the spirit of a strong woman; she started balancing her hobby whilst still studying for her degree at the University of Ghana Business School.

Eleven years into it, Valerie has grown her hobby into not just a business but into a solid beauty brand; CVL beauty with an array of products that aims at empowering the woman to appreciate beauty and excellence.

Her passion for the art of makeup has made her a well-known name both locally and internationally in the beauty industry. Renowned for her unique, simple yet trailblazing makeup aesthetic, she has worked with many beautiful women like H.E Emma Solberg, H.E Samira Bawimia, Maria Borges, Mrs Reeta Roy among others.

Valerie’s grit as a woman has enabled her to achieve many great feats including starting her own beauty academy and most recently her position as Artistic Director for Maybelline NY, Ghana.

To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, Glamour sat down with the ever dashing and innovative Valerie Lawson.

Valerie Lawson

GLAMOUR: What is your definition of a woman’s beauty and what influenced that definition?

Valerie: When you go on my Instagram page (@mzl4wson ), you will see that I have had the pleasure of working with so many very beautiful women, and they come in diverse shades, sizes, heights, personalities, et cetera.

When I was younger I thought beauty was all about physical looks but now, I know that beauty transcends the physical. What makes each woman beautiful is really their uniqueness, their courage, and how intentional they are about being kind.

Uniqueness: Your unique features, unique personality and unique experiences. Everything that sums up to make you who you are.

Intentional Kindness because everyone is dealing with something and you can either choose to go through life playing the victim- Being guarded, being awful and unkind or intentionally being kind and choosing to let people have a better experience of you. There is so much strength in Kindness.

Courage to stand up and speak out at tables/roles we’ve been called to, courage to be vulnerable, courage to thrive and courage to know and operate in our power as women.

GLAMOUR: You were a makeup artist for many years before starting your own beauty brand. What inspired you to launch your own business?

Valerie: My baby - CVL Beauty was launched out of necessity. Personally, as an artist, I had and still have a policy - To not use the same uncleaned brush on two clients in between jobs, and work was getting overwhelming - I knew I wanted to grow something in the beauty space that was separate from me but birthed from my experience and needs as an artist.

I hated when artists did that or sprayed alcohol and used the same brushes on the next person. That is unsanitary, you can’t get enough residue off one brush using only alcohol and dry tissue. Most times the complexion of the first client is different from that of the next person and this greatly affects the finished look in a no-good way. Let’s not even start with the spreading of skin infection from using unclean brushes on clients.

The problem was - The retailers were not artists themselves; they didn’t carry the necessary brushes and tools to help complete a look and the few they sold were either too expensive or not of great quality.

My decision to go into designing and manufacturing brushes and tools happened because beauty tools are the channel through which our creativity flows and it is important for an artist to not compromise on their tools to avoid stifling efficiency and creativity.

Valerie Lawson

GLAMOUR: Having someone to look up to is not only inspiring but also essential; are there any other women who inspire your life and career?

Valerie: I have been so blessed to have some wildly powerful yet humble women as clients -

What I admire and what inspires me the most is how gracious they are, balancing work and life.

Their strength, courage and drive to impact lives in their various fields and their beauty and grace navigating life in general.

These clients are - H.E. Samira Bawumia, Sumaiya Dzietror - CEO of Pistis Ghana, Bozoma St John, Yolanda Cuba, Mrs Reeta Roy and my mother - The one woman I know inside and out and am so grateful and proud of her.

The few I have not met yet, but I believe I soon will are - Oprah Winfrey, Jamie Kern Lima and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

GLAMOUR: There is this stereotype about women and makeup. What’s your take on that and why?

Valerie: When I started out, 11 years ago, makeup was equated with being promiscuous, very shallow, materialistic and with little to nothing to offer. This stereotype was projected to both the makeup artist and the lady who loves makeup.

Now, however, although there is still some work to be done, I am happy to be a part of the group of women and artists changing this narrative.

The beauty and makeup industry is a viable billion-dollar industry and luckily in Africa, it is still a very green industry with a lot of opportunities. Thankfully, the beauty industry is making positive strides in the right direction towards inclusivity and representation.

Personally, when I wear makeup, I love the confidence it gives me and it puts me in good stead for the day ahead.

When I work on brides, I see a huge boost in confidence, they beam with confidence and excitement yet are vulnerable and are ready to walk down the aisle to be unveiled by their partner.

GLAMOUR: You were announced the first Ghanaian Artistic Director for Maybelline NY, Ghana. How do you juggle that role with your personal life, business and your beauty academy?

Valerie: Balance is everything for me - I delegate - I am not trying to prove any point to anyone by carrying everything on my shoulders. Nope - I delegate as much as I can. I can delegate now because I have been in all those roles over the years so I know to a large extent what to expect from each member of the team. I also try my best to be intentional about making time apart for people who are dear to me because one thing this period has taught me is we don’t have forever and we must value human lives.

I turn off my work phone when I need to so I can be present for my family and loved ones but when it's time for work, the family also understands and allows me to be fully present for that.

I read this book when I was overwhelmed with juggling so many things and it changed my life. E myth by Michael E. Gerber. I will recommend it.

GLAMOUR: What does the International Women’s Day Slogan #ChooseToChallenge mean for you?

Valerie: #ChoosetoChallenge - I believe first of all we should challenge ourselves. Our mindsets, our belief systems, our identity about ourselves. If we challenge ourselves, we are more honest and objective about the situations and people life brings us.

If we are being honest, what sets a lot of people apart or sets us back starts with US. What we believe about ourselves, what we believe we deserve, what we think, people think about us,

If we can #choosetochallenge the narratives and beliefs we have about ourselves, we will be more empathetic towards others, we will be kinder to ourselves and we will know that we are fully deserving of every good thing. We will also have a better perspective on every situation that comes our way.

GLAMOUR: What advice can you give other young women inspiring to achieve great feats like yourself?

Valerie: My first advice is to be ready for a ride. It is honestly not an easy ride, but it is a ride worth it. The journey to me so far has been my greatest gift and teacher.

My second advice will be to have fun and don’t lose your heart and spirit in the process. If you gain everything and lose your spark (your kindness, your goodness, your light) you really have lost everything.

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