By Tayla Larsen
When Wainikiti ‘Kiti’ Bruinsma traded in the green hillsides of Suva for boarding school in Brisbane she knew she was in for a change. Suddenly her own culture was swapped for Western etiquette and language barriers left her baffled. Despite the challenges, Kiti quickly adapted to the Australian way of life, but there was one element she wasn’t prepared for, the subtle racism in the cosmetics industry.
Imagine making your way down the make-up aisle and only being able to find one or two shades of foundation that appear to match your skin tone. Instantly you feel some joy that your search is not fruitless, but the feeling is quickly crushed when your targeted skin colour doesn’t match yours, even in the slightest. This is the disappointing reality many darker women are facing which the Fijian native knows all too well.
“You look at the magazines, because I used to follow Ebony Magazine or Essence, and they get their stuff from Target … and then I go to Big W and the darkest one made me look orange and I just couldn’t understand why they had that,” she says.
Fed up with the beauty world’s limitations, Kiti has harnessed her positive attitude to create her own online make-up company Gold and Cedar, designed for women of colour. While business has been steady, Kiti is preparing to re-launch her website this month with hopes of attracting all clients.
“You want choices, not just one choice, so that’s why I started it. I thought ok I’ll start it … I just source my products from the US then I just mark it up and sell it here,” she says.
Back in Fiji, make-up wasn’t considered a priority, but when blending into university life in Australia Kiti struggled to find suitable products. For years she was limited to eye make-up, lipstick and blush purely because of how frustrating it was to find foundation. Only two brands carried shades that matched her skin tone forcing Kiti to travel one hour each way just to purchase her foundation.
She didn’t know it then, but these set backs were the building blocks that would form her company. However, this didn’t come without its doubts.
“I think I had it [the idea] at uni but it just didn’t surface. It surfaced probably less than 10 years ago and then I said, ‘I’m not that smart, I’m not that confident, there’re so many businesswomen out there so successful and they’re so confident’ and so I pushed it away but it was still in my brain,” she says.
About to settle for her mundane daycare job, Kiti found the urge she needed to turn her dream into a reality within the pages of a book about vision. Talking about the moment it all clicked for her two years ago her brown eyes illuminate; it’s almost as though she is reliving that pivotal moment which would go on to benefit women like herself.
Now as the re-launch of her website approaches, the excitement in Kiti’s face is evident and you can sense the butterflies in her stomach just from sitting next to her. It’s clear this isn’t just a job, but a passion: a mission for inclusion and diversity.
“I know where I want this business to go but it’s just all the money that you have to put into it to make it successful. I can see where I want it to go in the future but it’s just getting it there,” she says.
If Kiti could have it her way she would give her products away for free. In the meantime, she’s breaking down the beauty industry’s barriers and bringing changes of her own.