United Shades – A Conversation with Emmy Nominated Clean Beauty Makeup Artist Karim Orange
2021 has started out with a bang and has left us all waiting for the healing to begin. With a new administration in a country so divided, anything that can unify us and bring us forward into a new light of hope is a welcome change.
As I searched online for optimistic and unifying stories to read, I received a notification that I had a DM waiting for me. To my surprise, it was the amazingly talented clean beauty expert Karim Orange. I don’t know about you but, Emmy Nominated makeup artists don’t often DM me out of the blue. It was such a serendipitous moment and I eagerly replied to her. She was excited to share with me her newest venture, a cosmetics line she curated for Gabriel Cosmetics called United Shades. I read that twice. United Shades. The answer to my Google search had appeared in my DM’s. Unifying, inclusive beauty.
In a true and generous display of sharing, she offered to send me her collection to try out and see what I thought. About a week later I received her generous PR package at my door. The packaging was luxurious, and the products included were like little platinum boxes of sensuous color with a beautiful silver makeup bag to store my goodies.
Giddy as a child on Christmas morning, I couldn’t help but start swatching out the colors immediately on my arm. They were so rich and delicious looking! Each color that I tried was as smooth as the next. The eyeshadow’s texture was almost as though it was a cream shadow as it seems so finely milled. It goes on smoothly with little to no fallout. The colors blend together so easily that it can only make getting ready for my day a faster process than before. Adding to the “pluses” this collection was gaining from me, it’s also cruelty-free & gluten-free! Can I get an AMEN?!
As busy as Karim is, she was kind enough to find some time for Latinista, to answer some questions I was burning to ask a fellow makeup artist.
Karim, thank you so much for taking the time to converse with me. I’m excited to share it with our readers.
CR: How did you come to the decision of clean beauty over traditional cosmetics?
KO: I always tell people that I didn’t choose clean beauty, it chose me. One day over 20 years ago, I put on a lipstick that I wore daily, and it sent me to the emergency room. The doctor in the ER told me not to use that particular lipstick again. The next day, I put on a different traditional lipstick and the same thing happened. That’s when I started to research and understand how sensitive our bodies can be too toxic ingredients. You can put something in/on your body every day and then one day the body just says ‘enough’! Autoimmune diseases such as Lupus and Fibromyalgia are examples of this. I was very lucky because my symptom was very obvious outside of my body. A lot of women are not as lucky because they have to take several tests to diagnose what’s happening internally.
CR: Wow, what a scary thing to have happened! It was lucky that you were able to be diagnosed so quickly. In comparison to traditional makeup, how is your curated line different than other clean beauty brands?
KO: United Shades is a collection, under the Gabriel Cosmetics brand. The brand itself is different because [it has] been a pioneer in the space since the ’90s. They were the first certified gluten-free cosmetic brand. The products are also, vegan FD & C dye-free, talc-free, and just overall nontoxic. They also have shades for all women.
CR: There are so many different terms used in the beauty industry and one that comes up often is “5 free” and “10 free”, as a clean beauty expert, can you explain what that means for our readers and where your collections fall in that aspect?
KO: 5 free and 10 free are usually used when referring to nail polishes but here [is] the short list of ingredients you should avoid in cosmetics:
FD&C and Lake Dyes
There are over 1000 other ingredients, but websites such as EWG (Environmental Working Group and Credo) are good resources when investigating ingredients.
CR: That’s really good to know! Thank you for that, I’m sure our readers will find that super helpful when trying to find products that are kinder to their skin and health. Do you find that “clean beauty products” last as long or as well as some traditional cosmetics? And for those women who are searching for staying power but want to do better for themselves, what would you say to them?
KO: I think everything is about the application. If you layer things like foundation and powder it will have the same coverage and staying power as traditional cosmetics. Lipsticks and gloss might have to be applied more often (you will not find any 8-hour lipsticks lol). That’s ok! Use the opportunity several times a day to apply your lipstick and get-your-beauty-on!
CR: I do admit, I love to take out a compact and touch up every now and then. There’s something so feminine and glamorous about it. What made you want to collaborate with Gabriel Cosmetics as opposed to other clean beauty brands out there?
KO: Gabriel Cosmetics is a true pioneer in clean beauty! The brand has been around since the ’90s and was one of the first brands I came across when I got into eco-beauty (which it was called back in 2001). Gabriel Cosmetics [is] a staple color line for every woman with [neutral] everyday buildable colors (almost like [Bobbi] Brown). The line ZuZu Luxe (owned by Gabriel Cosmetics), is the equivalent of a MAC with its bold bright colors and shimmer. I have also had a color collection with Vapour Organic Beauty called Inner Orange.
CR: Those are amazing comparisons! For those out there loyal to those brands but looking for a clean option, this will speak to them. If you would please, describe for me your two collections, Regal and Samba, and how you came up with these distinguishing names and colors.
(Models are wearing the Regal Collection)
From sunrise to sunset, this color collection is sophisticated, fun, flawless, and confident! Regal is a blend of warm, neutral earth tones complemented by rich accents of plum and burnt orange with a warm mocha lip. Sun-filled days, neo-soul tunes at night, laughter with friends over sangria, and trips down memory lane—that makes you glow. This is the vibe of Regal.
KO: The name Regal was inspired by the natural beauty I see daily in women of color. It’s a sophistication that comes effortlessly. From women in the Dominican Republic to Kenya the way their beauty comes alive when they are engaged with the sun and earth is very regal.
(Model is wearing Samba Collection)
From dining to dancing, this color collection is free-spirited, energetic, flirty, and fabulous! Samba is a blend of gold and deep bronze hues with a dash of blue, accented by a fiery red lip. Just like the Brazilian dance with African origins, when you wear Samba, you step up and out into the world like it’s a carnival—moving to the beat of your own drum. This is the vibe of Samba.
KO: Samba was inspired by my love of carnivals and bright celebrations that people of color have. From Quinceaneras [to]carnivals and just walking down the street. We love bold, bright, and energetic celebrations. It’s reflected in our music, dance, history, culture, and beauty.
CR: Ay si! The color, the life, the carnivals, and the dance. That is such a mood and speaks to my Boricua soul. These colors blend and complement each other so seamlessly. Would you say they’re your go-to colors when creating artistic works?
KO: Yes, it is my go-to collection for artistic work. The two collections together are great for any woman who needs everyday colors from bold to bright!
CR: Who is your collection for? Do you have an age range, gender, specific lifestyle you’ve geared your collection towards?
KO: My collections were inspired by women of color but it is a celebration of all women! Color is color so it’s more about how and where you apply it. Anyone who purchases United Shades is invited to a webinar with me to learn how to apply the products.
CR: That is a very unique component you’ve added there. A webinar with an Emmy nominated makeup artist to show you how to use the products you’ve purchased?! I’ve not seen that ANYWHERE. So, tell me, as a mom, a makeup artist, an educator, and not just a woman but a woman of color, how do you advocate for people of color with your brand?
KO: I advocate just by showing up (lol). I’m showing that we are here and need to be included in the conversation (especially in clean beauty). Most of the ingredients and traditions in clean beauty come from places dominated by POC (South America, Africa, The Caribbean, Asia, etc). I also write for one of the biggest wellness magazines in the US “Organic Spa Magazine” and use my voice there, and in other industry magazines. I also will be doing workshops in conjunction with United Shades for Pretty Brown Girl Foundation.
CR: You sound like this calling is second nature to you. It’s nice to see a passion in something so wonderful as an inclusion with beauty products come so effortlessly to you. Twice Emmy nominated, what is next for Karim Orange?
KO: More collaborations, more conversations of inclusion, and more clean makeup education to pass the torch to the next generation of makeup artists.
I’m currently doing an IG Live series called “Beauty & Black History” nightly at 7 pm during the month of February for Black History Month. I basically do my makeup while discussing key people in black history such as Josephine Baker, Misty Copland, and Michelle Obama. After Black History Month I will keep this conversation going a few times a week on the YouTube Platform.
CR: That’s quite the list! Thank you for speaking to me about your ventures and sharing with me your beautifully curated collection. It has been an honor.
You read it here Latinistas! These beautiful collections are available exclusively at gabrielcosmeticsinc.com so get your wallets out and get your “pretty” on. If you would like to follow Karim on her journey in educating using her art, you can find her on Instagram @thatgirlorange. Hasta la proxima!