Among other things, Joann Zehenni’s journey in becoming a beauty brand founder began with the college application process. “One question I would always hear was, what are your passions and how do they reflect your high school experience?”
Each time that question arose, Zehenni could only think of one thing: her skincare journey, which was characterized by bouts of lupus—a genetic condition that runs in her family and impacts the skin’s sensitivity to products and environment.
“I’ve always had a gut feeling that I wanted to start my own beauty brand for sensitive skin,” Zehenni tells thirteen lune, thinking she could provide products for people with skin similar concerns to her own. She recalls telling her mother that her dream was to start a skincare company when she was an adult, to which her mother replied: Why not start now?
“I’ve always had a gut feeling that I wanted to start my own beauty brand for sensitive skin.”
“There hasn’t been a day when I haven’t thought about Gemini Beauty since,” Zehenni says, referring to her brand of beauty products designed to provide skincare safe for people with sensitivities.
As an ally brand at thirteen lune, one of the company’s missions is clear: inclusivity, especially when it comes to who feels represented by the available offerings. “We’re starting with representing my Lebanese and Russian cultures through Gemini Beauty’s skincare products and integrating skincare secrets passed down through generations in each product,” Zehenni says. That said, efforts won’t stop there.
Gemini Beauty has also partnered with LupusLA, a non-profit organization that’s dedicated to finding a cure for lupus while also providing support and services for those impacted by the disease. “They have an inclusive mission that also has a large impact on the BIPOC community’s health and wellness,” Zehenni explains, as women of color are more likely to be diagnosed with lupus than other demographics.
“We care about the whole person.”
Above all, Gemini Beauty operates with the ethos of “beauty for a cause,” Zehenni says. “While we are a skincare company, we care about the whole person, about their overall wellness,” Zehenni explains, as she hopes to contribute to a “more transparent, inclusive beauty” industry over time.
Get to Know – Joann Zehenni
What does allyship mean to you?
I believe all people deserve to see themselves and their lived experiences honored in the beauty world, whether that be finding the right shade of foundation or seeing one’s culture reflected through mindful skincare. The beauty industry’s many platforms have the privilege of being able to amplify voices and needs that would typically go unnoticed. To be an ally, in my opinion, is to acknowledge the implicit biases that surround communities, acknowledge the personal privileges that exist, and from that open-hearted place, listen to the varied experiences of our community members. Then it’s an ally’s responsibility to actively engage. Whether that’s taking further efforts to educate yourself on how to best address injustices at hand or walking alongside those that haven’t had the same opportunities to advocate their endeavors and stories.
Has inclusivity always been a priority for you as a brand founder?
Inclusivity is absolutely a priority for Gemini Beauty and always has been for me. Despite being a small brand and just one person, I hope I can contribute to adding diversity to such a people-forward industry, and address skincare needs that reflect we’re actively listening to marginalized voices and not solely creating for the skincare needs of the bell curve middle. How the company furthers the mission of inclusivity will undoubtedly grow as Gemini Beauty does, but this is where we are starting. Gemini Beauty is all about helping people find comfort in their skin, but to do that, individuals must find comfort in the skincare and makeup industry first.
What was the impetus to start your brand?
As a kid, I remember my frustration when I couldn’t stay outside for long periods of time because of my sensitive skin, as it would always react to the sun and any suncare products I would use. When I was 12 years old, I received a diagnosis of lupus, giving me and my family clues as to why my skin reacted harshly to the environment around me. I remember talking to my dad and sister, who also have lupus, in hopes of finding answers on how to navigate the challenges with my skin. Over quarantine in 2020, my skin began to flare again so, I began to research how to protect and care for my skin to the best of my abilities. This is also where my thinking regarding college applications began. And as I said, I haven’t stopped thinking about Gemini Beauty since.