By Sarni Jaye
Empower Magazine takes a look back at an interview with beauty icon, Vera Moore, when she was a featured speaker at the 2016 ESSENCE Festival.
The former soap opera star built a beauty empire and encourages others to follow their dreams
Vera Moore has built one of the most progressive cosmetics and skincare lines for the global market as President & CEO of Vera Moore Cosmetics. Though she grew up in poverty as the youngest of seven siblings, Moore was determined to create a better future for her family. She progressed from working as a stenographer to landing a coveted role on daytime television.
The inception of her cosmetics brand came from her appearance as one of the first black actresses on the NBC soap opera “Another World” where she portrayed the character Linda Metcalf for 10 years. Realizing a void in the market for quality products for women of color, the seed was planted for her brand. Moore’s journey has led to national recognition on the covers of leading media entities such as Black Enterprise Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Upscale Magazine, and PEOPLE Magazine, and she holds credits for other notable shows including the Tony Award-winning Broadway Musical “Purlie Victorious.”
She has spoken at the first Urban Economic Council presented by the White House Business Council, the White House Council on Women and Girls and the U.S. Small Business Administration. Moore’s brand has been featured on stage and screen with credits including, The Cosby Show, The Wendy Williams Show, The Antwone Fisher Story starring Denzel Washington and Saturday Night Live, to name a few. Most recently, she graced the 2016 Essence Festival Beauty & Style Expo stage with other industry icons such as Tyra Banks.
Empower Magazine was thrilled to catch up with Vera at the Fest to discuss her struggle, motivation to succeed and advice for other dream-seekers.
EM: You came from humble beginnings but made the decision to change your family legacy and become successful. Tell us what inspired that drive?
VERA: Coming from a wonderful, empowered Christian family that always put God first in their life, I’d always known that I was going to do better even though we were poor. I never had any idea I’d be an entrepreneur; my background was always theatre. But when I went on the the soap opera, there was a void in the market for quality products for black women. So here I am on national television and the products were too red, too greasy, too oily, they rubbed off on your clothes. You’re under hot lights. I played Linda Metcalf on “Another World,” and I’d say, “Good morning Dr. Matthews office,” and the makeup would be all over the phone. It was greasy and oily, but everyone was wearing that particular line and that’s the way it was. That’s when I made a conscious decision that I wanted to do something better. My intention was to empower women–to make them feel good about themselves. When I first started, there weren’t many black people on television. As I was saying at Essence, many years ago you’d see a black person on television and say, “Ma come look at the black person on television!” and by the time mom got from the kitchen to the living room, the person was, bam, gone. Things have changed, and in those times a lot of women said, “My lips are too big” … but people get injections to get big lips. I wanted to empower women to make them feel good about themselves, stand in their own truth and enjoy who they are. That’s why I did it.
EM: How was your Essence Fest experience, and why do you think events like Essence Fest, the magazine it sprouted from, Essence Magazine, and events that celebrate the black woman and her beauty are important?
VERA: This was my first time at Essence Fest. We were at the Beauty Box. They sold out of all of my products, so that was great. … These platforms are very important because it shows you that everybody is an individual like a fingerprint. There is so much power in collaboration. People can see other women like yourself and platforms like Empower Magazine, Essence Magazine and other magazines, and it gives them confidence and tells them that you too can do it. You see all types of women from all walks of life and how they made it from a bootstrap. Some didn’t graduate from college, but they’re making millions of dollars in their business and some graduated from college and work for major corporations. It’s just inspiring to see these women tell their story to let you know that sometimes it’s not always in a book. You get so much wisdom from these people. Oprah Winfrey was just wonderful at her event. It’s important to know who you are, stand in your truth and it’s all about who you can take along with you. It’s so encouraging, so inspirational, it’s just wonderful.
EM: Speaking of inspiration starting a business and making it flourish has to have its ups and downs. What was the inspiration that helped you keep going despite the struggles and build your empire to what it is today?
VERA: I wanted to empower women. I wanted to build a legacy. I have a wonderful daughter, Consuela, and she is our national training director. All of this inspired me to go forward, to push forward. It’s nice to employ people who look like you. We have a diverse staff, but it’s just nice to show people that if I can do it, you can do it. That inspired me. People inspire me everyday when they say, “Thank you. I appreciate you. I’m so proud to see a black woman doing this.” I inspire people; people inspire me. You always want to do better. You always want to uplift.
EM: In society, we talk a lot about success, but we don’t talk about the struggle to get there often. What was one of the biggest business challenges you faced and advice you could give that came from that?
VERA: There were a lot of challenges. Naturally there’s the challenge of finances. How I initially started my business, I mortgaged my home to do it. I’m not suggesting people do that now, but that’s what I did because when we first started we had no credibility. The banks are not going to lend you any money, so we put our house up for collateral. So that was a challenge. There was the challenge of racism. When I first started I went into a major mall called Green Acres Mall. It took me three years to get in there. … When I got there all of a sudden I couldn’t get in the location [they were supposed to put me in, which was on first floor] and they said you have to go on the second floor. But that was the food court. They said, “Do you want to be up there?” My thing was how do you deal with this challenge of being disappointed that you were supposed to be on the first floor. You know how you deal with it? You break down the barrier. It was still an opportunity for me to break that barrier and be the first black tenant in the history of the mall. I would have gone on the roof to break that barrier.
There are constantly challenges as you scale up and you grow. I’m in Walgreens stores now in a section called the “Look Boutique,” which is a section upgraded to look like a mini department store. That’s a big challenge. How do you fulfill your orders? How do you do in store promotions? How do you get your marketing team? But the challenges are good. You just stay very focused, you stay very disciplined, you know what you want, you know your vision, and you step up to the challenge. That’s what you have to do. It’s not easy… This is what I tell people about entrepreneurship. It’s not like catching a cold. You can’t just be an entrepreneur because Vera is an entrepreneur. Do you want to be an entrepreneur, and do you have the stamina, stability, honesty, integrity? Do you have all those things, those ingredients to make a success? Are you willing to sacrifice for it? Are you willing to work two jobs? Are you willing to not work 9 to 5? Those are all variables of different challenges you face, but if you want it, you can get it.
EM: What legacy do you want to bestow upon the world?
VERA: It’s very important that I know my source. I know that God is my source, and I give him honor for all this; this is truly a blessing. I thank God for it every day. I want people to know that I do give God the glory. I’d like to pass it on to my daughter, but the legacy I’d like people to know is that we can do it. We are powerful people. All people: red, yellow, black, or white, we are all God’s children. But black people in particular, if we come together and work together, I mean look, we have the first black president. Who would have thunkit? My father died at 99, and he would have never thought, being born in 1907, that there could be a black president. It just shows, yes, you can. But you have to make up your mind that you want to do this, be disciplined, be focused, have a vision and go after it step by step … I want people to know that they can go forward and that they can do it. Don’t let anything stop you!
EM salutes Vera Moore for being unstoppable and for inspiring us to embrace that same indomitable spirit. Moore says she has a book inside of her, so a memoir could be in the works in the future, but until then, follow Vera Moore Cosmetics across social media platforms. Her product line can be found in select Walgreens and in Duane Reade stores nationwide or online at www.veramoorecosmetics.com.