Karen Chambers, Executive Vice President Iman Cosmetics
Updated: Jan 14
She started her career behind the counter at a department store, and with passion and purpose moved to brand management and then product development
Lipstick has been in Karen Chambers' blood since high school because her friend's regularly enlisted her to do their makeup for the prom and other occasions. She started experimenting with makeup at 11 or 12-years-old and had her eye on the industry from a young age.
In this episode, Karen takes us on her journey from working the makeup counter at Macy's to talking her way into her first corporate beauty job as an assistant brand manager where she literally learned what the duties of that role were while she was on the job. She caught the bug for product development because of her curious nature. She'd sneak back to the manufacturer area to chat with the cosmetic chemist who gave Karen her first lessons on shade matching and other important elements of product creation.
What someone could take away today is you didn't look for a job opening. You created an opportunity for yourself."
While she initially dreamed of being a celebrity makeup artist, one of the important lessons Karen learned from working behind the counter was to always put the customer first. It doesn't matter if that customer is an everyday lady or a big-name celeb.
Karen talks about the range of opportunities available in the beauty industry—whether one's interests lie in the creative, science, or analytic side—and it sometimes doesn't matter your field of study, it can be used in the industry. She notes that people in the beauty industry come from lots of different backgrounds.
Flexibility is probably my superpower, especially nowadays the industry has changed so much. It changed periodically when I first started, but particularly over the past five years, I, the social media has shifted so much are our online shopping habits versus primarily brick and mortar.
We discuss how the industry has changed over the past five years and the importance of embracing those changes so you aren't left behind. One thing that no longer applies: the industry dictating whether a color "in". And Karen tells us about what she does in her day-to-day role at Iman and the impact the brand has had for the past 25 years and how they are working to keep the brand relevant today.
I work directly with Iman to have her vision come to fruition for the brand. So that involves everything. So I oversee the entire team. That includes our legal and our manufacturers and our advertising group and our marketing group and our operations and making sure that the vision that she's created gets practically trickled down into an actual end product that our customers then want to purchase.
Karen Chambers is the Executive Vice President of IMAN Cosmetics, a global leader in beauty for Women of Color. She was named one of the beauty industry's leading women to watch by Upscale Magazine. Prior to IMAN, she held executive positions with multicultural fashion and beauty brands including Dark & Lovely, Posner, Black Radiance, and Ashley Stewart. Her industry credits include ESSENCE Beauty Awards and an Oprah "O-Ward" for cosmetic product innovation. Ms. Chambers has been a longtime contributing travel, beauty, career and lifestyle writer and editor for Black Enterprise, Black Elegance, and BlackPlanet.com. She’s worked as a stylist/makeup artist for leading designers and retailers including Donna Karan, Nordstrom, and Macy’s and has created product launches and brand campaigns for Jay Manuel, Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, and the Oprah Winfrey Show. Ms. Chambers is an alumna of Rutgers University's Douglass College with a BA in Communication, minors in English and Africana Studies, and certifications in Interfaith Ministry and Energetic Healing. Her personal and professional passions include wellness, women's empowerment, and multicultural diversity and inclusion.