Marly Hamilton is beating the odds.
If you’ve been on the makeup side of Twitter this week, then you’ve likely scrolled past a tweet by Marly Hamilton AKA @LVNDRBEAUTY, a Black transgender creator who recently launched her own beauty brand.
The post, with hundreds of retweets and thousands of likes, reads, “Bet they will never tell the story about how the BLACK TRANS WOMAN WHO made 20k in one week from a business she started on her own.. people don’t like those stories I guess.”
Marly’s message highlights a strong disparity in how the media covers, and audiences engage with, stories told about the beauty community— an imbalance that has become strikingly obvious in the wake of the biggest beauty drama in YouTube history.
Despite Shane Dawson’s infamous observation that the viral beauty community is “negativity first, makeup second,” creators outside the top 1% are crying out against this damaging generalisation, eager to prove you cannot paint an entire community with the same toxic brush.
While clickbait headlines and stories filled with “tea” aren’t going away any time soon, the need for more diversity in coverage of the online beauty community is abhorrently clear.
And telling their stories is a good place to start.
We spoke with the woman behind this powerful message, Marly Hamilton, on launching a beauty brand, building an empire, and beating the odds as a Black transgender woman in America.
Growing up in a family of four boys, Marly Hamilton knew she was different from her brothers. From an early age, the Philadelphia-native was enamored with makeup, “My discovery started as a child,” she told Centennial Beauty. “Watching my mom do her makeup before she went to bed. Yes! She wore makeup to bed.”
“I would sit on top of the toilet and watch her do her craft,” Marly reminisces of her mother. “She was so good at it.”
But things took a turn at home when Marly accidentally came out to her mother at 14-years-old. “Once I decided to transition our relationship became strained.”
“I was told verbatim, ‘If you want to dress like that then don’t come home.’ So I never [lived at] home again. I was forced to survive.”
Black transgender and gender non-conforming people face a devastating level of discrimination both publicly and at home.
A study by the National Center for Transgender Equality in partnership with the National LGBTQ Task Force reports that Black transgender people in America face a 26 percent unemployment rate— twice the rate of the overall transgender sample and four times the rate of the general population.
They also found 34 percent of Black transgender respondents reported living in extreme poverty— with a household income of less than $10,000 per year— and a shocking 41 percent reported being homeless at one point, more than five times the rate of the general population in America.
These are realities that Marly knows too well, explaining that she’s been fired every single time an employer found out she was transgender, usually from her social media.
“What can I say about the experience of being a Black trans woman in America…” she recalls. “It’s liberating and suffocating at the same time!”
On top of sky-high unemployment and poverty rates, Black transgender people in America are seven times more likely to experience physical violence at the hands of the police— of that, Black transgender women are particularly targeted. The Human Rights Campaign reports that “fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color, and that the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and unchecked access to guns conspire to deprive them of employment, housing, healthcare and other necessities, barriers that make them vulnerable.”
“To live in constant fear that you could literally be killed just because someone finds you attractive is terrifying,” Marly tells us.
“We have to stop the violence against BLACK TRANS WOMEN! Our lives matter!”
Marly explains that finding beauty “saved” her, particularly throughout her transition. It was this passion that led her to launch her own brand, LVNDR BEAUTIQUE. “I never wanted to become another statistic,” she says. “I want to live and thrive. I want to build my empire and be happy!”
LVNDR BEAUTIQUE, which launched on Juneteenth, currently sells luxury press-on nails, 3D mink lashes, and custom wigs. They will also be expanding into jewelry soon.
Take a squizz at their website, and the brand’s mission is very clear, “Our goal is to help those who need it the most,” it reads. “We are a TRANS, BLACK-owned business. We know what it means to struggle and fight for our seat at the table. SO WE BUILT OUR OWN TABLE for other marginalized men, women, and anyone in-between! Come have a seat with us.”
In its first week alone, LVNDR BEAUTIQUE made over $20,000— a massive success that Marly generously credits to her ‘BESTIEGANG,’ an affectionate term for her social media followers. “I owe all of my love and thanks to my BESTIES! Without them, I couldn’t have even had one sale!”
Marly also had some help from two of YouTube’s biggest stars, namely Jeffree Star and Shane Dawson, who gave her brand a shout out.
Of LVNDR BEAUTIQUE’s initial success, Marly plans to put everything back into the business to build a better future for herself. “Making 20K the first week of sales is absolutely life-changing and I’m completely in shock,” she gushes. “But I will be putting that back into my business to build an empire and change my life forever. I never want to go back to struggling.”
Though the cards are stacked against her, Marly recognises how important her success has been for the Black transgender community. “It shows my beautiful trans brothers and sisters that we are more than they say we are,” she says. “No one is going to believe until you SHOW THEM WHO YOU ARE! There are going to be people who want to see you fail but you will not fail…you will prove them wrong.”
On her future plans for the business, Marly’s ready to move “full steam ahead.” She is currently working on her next launch and tells us that she has a very exciting collaboration coming up soon.
“What I hope others can take away from my story is that it’s possible,” she finishes. “I’m just a girl who has a dream and I won’t stop until I get there! Having that mentality has changed my life and I hope someone somewhere is inspired by what I’m doing.”
For more on violence against the transgender community, see here.