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Dioné Cosmetics is here to remind you that your self-worth doesn’t wash down the drain with your makeup

Alisha Anderson’s love for makeup was discovered serendipitously, and now her fun and affordable high-quality cosmetics brand has taken her from the East Coast of Canada to The Grammys, Golden Globes, and SXSW.

Growing up, Alisha Anderson was never a make-up person. “I thought makeup was something you did because you were an adult. I only ever wore it if I had an event to go to and it was something that I had to do if I wanted to be taken seriously. I hate doing something that I have to do–I want to want to do it.” After graduating in 2005 with a psychology degree in Saint John, New Brunswick, Alisha’s passion for helping others led her to working with at-risk youth as part of a homeless outreach program in her city. “Eighty-nine percent of the time it was an amazing job; it was very fulfilling and the kids were sweet. The other ten to eleven percent of the time I was dealing with nineteen-year-old prostitutes who were drug-addicted or sixteen-year-old runaways who were sexually assaulted. There was a lot of heaviness and my mental health wasn’t fantastic either.” Eventually these factors resulted in severe burnout, and Alisha’s doctor put her on stress leave.

During this time, YouTube was just gaining popularity and as she was watching old MuchMusic videos one day a makeup tutorial popped up in her recommendations. Clicking on it out of pure curiosity, the video mesmerized Alisha and completely changed her life. Inspired, she bought the same products in the video and enjoyed playing around with the makeup so much that she found her stress began to decrease and she felt like herself again. When it was time to go back to work, Alisha realized she wanted to pursue makeup further.

Just like that, she went for it–quitting her job and beginning cosmetics school, where she was unimpressed with the makeup kit they were provided. 

“Back then my city didn’t have a MAC, Sephora, or anything. We had a Shopper’s Drug Mart [a large pharmacy chain in Canada] but it wasn’t even a Beauty Boutique yet. So, I was like, I’m just gonna do it myself!” 

Citing the economic statistics in Saint John as an influential factor, Alisha was determined to bridge the gap between professional quality and affordability, while also ensuring her makeup was inclusive (her foundation comes in seven different shades which can be mixed to create even more) and cruelty-free, which was much more difficult to find in the 2000s.

In 2009 she graduated from makeup school, where her final project was a business plan for Dioné. The brand name comes from her middle name, Dione (pronounced Dee-On), named after her late cousin. While taking a Greek mythology course in university she learned Aphrodite’s mother was a demi-goddess named Dioné (with the accent) and that really stuck with her. “When I decided that I wanted to start a makeup company it had to be that name. I used to tell my cousin she was going to see her name written in lights. I was going to make it famous, and on her birthday this year I was in LA gifting my products to celebrities. I think she’d be proud.”

It took Alisha four to five months to compile a database of potential manufacturers that could help her build Dioné in an economically feasible way. She eventually settled on two and worked with them to tweak their stock formulas into products that fit her parameters; long-lasting, cruelty-free, excellent pigmentation, easy to use, and comfortable on the skin. It took about three years to settle on the different products and then in March of 2012, Dioné officially launched and has been growing ever since. Twelve years later, Alisha now has a curated roster of five manufacturers that create her gloss, glitters, and foundations for her based on what they do best.

Building a company in a competitive space like the makeup industry, Alisha knows how important it is to stand out both with her products and her branding. “Unless you’re super niche, you’re going to have competition and my competition just happens to be multi-billion dollar conglomerates. There’s no one like me, just like there’s no one like you. We’re unique and that in itself is enough to not have to worry about competition in my mind.” Her messaging with Dioné is a little different than most beauty brands; coming from a psychology and non-profit background, Alisha doesn’t like to use scarcity tactics in her marketing that can stress people out. “Especially if people are buying something because they’re having a down day and doing a little bit of retail therapy, I don’t want to be the reason why they’re not able to pay their bills at the end of the week.” Alisha also doesn’t believe that a person needs to wear makeup to feel and look good, and despite owning a cosmetics brand she isn’t afraid to openly tell people that either. “I’m probably not the best business person in the world,” she laughs, “but when you’re told that you have to do something then you don’t want to do it. I try to eliminate some of the pressures people feel that they have to wear makeup in order to present themselves to the world. If I can alleviate that a little bit, they may be more apt just to try it because it’s a fun creative outlet and form of self-care.”

Having a psychology background and dealing with youth early in her career, Alisha knows how easy it can be to fall into those trenches where you don’t feel like you’re good enough. Having experienced being teased and bullied when she was younger, Alisha expresses “I just want people to know that no matter who they are, where they live, what they make, what they do or how they live, they’re here for a reason and they’re valuable in their worth, and that doesn’t change if and when you wear makeup and it certainly doesn’t change when you wash it off. Your value does not go down the drain with your makeup. It stays intact with who you are and that’s the messaging of ‘live life beautifully.’ That’s the tagline of my company and that’s my whole mission.” Alisha created Dioné because she loves to do and wear makeup, but the last thing she wants is for anyone to feel like they have to. But if they’re going to… it might as well be Dioné Cosmetics. “I want people to know that you’re allowed to follow your dreams, you’re allowed to pursue your passions, you’re allowed to have a mental health breakdown, you’re allowed to feel bad. You’re human. There’s no such thing as perfect. There’s no such thing as ideal. We’re humans flinging through earth on this gigantic rock and makeup is not that serious. So I just want to alleviate some of the pressures that people feel.”

If Alisha were to write a love letter to her high-school self, she would commend her confidence, but encourage her to have more self-love. “I would tell her to be kinder to herself and that you don’t have to try so hard to get people to like you. People can speak very meanly to themselves, but you would never say that to your best friend and you yourself should be your own best friend! So I would speak to myself a little more gently, even up until recent years.” And to the Alisha who started Dioné twelve years ago, she would tell her to just keep going. “The more money I make the more change I can make for my city, my country, the world, but always stick to your morals. Don’t change your message just because you think it’s going to make you more money. Follow your gut because your gut has gotten you this far and it might not be as far as it should be but there’s lots of people who haven’t even started. I’m as far as I am because I did. So, keep going, keep following your heart, following your gut–do things that make you feel good because that’s all that matters.”

“I’m tearing up a little bit thinking about it because that’s what I want and need to be. I want to be a makeup company that you can look at and just feel good about and know that I’m not adding to the social pressures, and maybe helping alleviate some of them a little bit. When I went to Los Angeles, it really solidified that they don’t hear that they’re good enough. The more I told them about my mission, they were all just like ‘you have to keep going, you people have to hear this’ and it does come from my psychology background, but it also comes from my 15 year-old-self. I thought I was going to change the world. I always thought that I was going to change the world, and you know what, maybe I am going to help the world in this way.”

Find Dioné Cosmetics at https://dionecosmetics.com/ and on Instagram at @dionecosmetics

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Thanks Dioné for makingme sparkle at SXSW! 🤩

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