If you’re a music and dance enthusiast, you may remember the name Monika Deol from back in the late 80s and early 90s. The former Much Music host and co-producer of the late-night dance party televised program Electric Circus is now the founder behind one of Canada’s first inclusive beauty brands – STELLAR Beauty. STELLAR is serving up a range of products catering to 35 (and counting!) skin tones – all with excellent payoff at accessible prices. Being Indian-born and Canadian-raised, Monika understands the historic struggle to find affordable, good-quality make-up for all skin tones. With that experience, Monika’s drive to foster inclusivity in the make-up game was – and remains to be – at the core of her brand’s DNA.
STELLAR’s wide ranging lineup and affordable prices are enough to make you fall in love with the brand, but that’s not all they boast. Each product is 100% cruelty-free and devoid of parabens, sulphates, fragrance and phthalates. Most are also vegan. In this installment of our Founders series, we chatted with Monika to learn more about her pop-culture past and the trajectory of her game-changing company STELLAR in today’s highly competitive beauty industry.
We appreciate that you’re taking the (much needed) initiative to help steer the beauty industry in a more inclusive direction. Tell us a bit about the early days of STELLAR Beauty and what prompted your decision to start this company.
STELLAR really began with frustration. I was lucky to have a long, substantial career in Canadian media focussed on pop-culture. The make-up industry is very much a part of that culture. I think pop-culture reflects what’s really “on” in society. The fact that I could never find good matches in foundation, concealer or powder told me there was a need for change. Now, that was many years ago and I accepted immigrants like me weren’t the target audience in monetary or cultural demographics. A few years ago, however, I was shopping for make-up with my daughters, nieces and their friends and I realized not a lot has changed but we – the immigrant population – had evolved, both culturally and economically. The fact that my daughters couldn’t find an exact match disappointed me and a life-long obsession with make-up became a mission! Being inclusive is about more than just skin colour – it’s also about amazing quality at an accessible price. We purposely kept our price-point reasonable, because that is inclusive.
Did working in the entertainment industry (we loved Electric Circus!) impact the way you approached building STELLAR Beauty?
Thank you! And yes, absolutely. I had a career that was all about inclusion. It was part of my mandate in life to try to make an impact on pop-culture because that’s where change really begins. Electric Circus was about “BE YOU.” Everyone’s a star, everyone can bring it and own it.
I grew up being an outsider and an outlier so I’m very comfortable with not following – but challenging – norms. STELLAR is for everybody. I had no desire to create some exclusive, posh brand. If you look at our Instagram @stellarbeautyofficial, you’ll see we just think everything is good – all looks, all ages, all colours, all genders. Honestly, that’s not to make a statement, it’s just kind of how it is.
People would say fashion, make-up and the entertainment industry are all superficial. I think the complete opposite. Fashion and make-up articulate personality. They are expressive of who you are… whether you wear jeans and a t-shirt or fashion-forward clothing…whether you love dramatic make-up, a clean, glowy face or no make-up – you’re communicating your personality before you even open your mouth.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned along the way?
That it turns out, our light-skin colours are the best-sellers! That I did not see coming. All our colours do well but, ironically, our light colours are the top-sellers. People love the formula! So, I listened to what my client told me – that we needed to be more inclusive! So, we just did a shade extension of lighter and deeper shades in Limitless Foundation. It’s been awesome and I’m very happy that we truly are for all skin tones!
What beauty trend do you want to see go away? What trends do you foresee for 2019?
I love beauty!! There’s a time and a place for everything. But, I’m kind of over exaggerated false lashes 24/7.
I also think guys are going to want in on the natural-look make-up action. I think men are going to want to conceal dark circles and even out their skin tones. Honestly, I never thought men would be into grooming eyebrows and body hair as much as they are, so…skin’s next!
Tell us about your formulations, what makes STELLAR stand out?
We truly perform like a luxury brand at an accessible price. The pay-off and wear is awesome but, again, price is part of being inclusive to me.
We’re also very clean – 100% cruelty-free. Almost everything is vegan and oil-free. We don’t use parabens, sulfates, phthalates or fragrance.
With the rise of inclusive beauty brands on the market (Fenty and Milk Makeup to name a few), we know there’s still a lot of work to be done. What would you like to see happen next? What’s in the cards for STELLAR Beauty?
We are one of the few independent, family-owned brands in the space we’re in. I would love for people to check the backstory of the brands they support. Google who owns them – you might find a few surprises as to who you’re really giving your money to. I would love for people to give indie brands a chance and to support businesses that are trying to have integrity and create great product at great prices.
STELLAR will continue to develop innovative products that are super high-performance at a reasonable price. There are some exciting things going on that I can’t talk about right now, but, like I used to say in my past life…stay tuned!