By Alina Orozco
Twenty years ago, Wende Zomnir helped launch Urban Decay and changed the direction of the prestige beauty market by introducing quality yet edgy and colorful lipsticks, nail polishes and eye shadows. The Newport Beach-based company continues to shake up the cosmetics industry with its popular Naked palette and its first celebrity collaboration in 2015.
Bold packaging and alternative color palettes aside, Urban Decay is now on a mission to not only reimagine stereotypical beauty conventions, but also empower women all over the world through a new program called The Ultraviolet Edge. The international initiative launched in March of 2015 with three goals: support causes that empower women; donate $500,000 in its first year (as part of a plan to raise $3 million in five years); and shine a spotlight on inspirational women.
Urban Decay teamed up with singer and OC native Gwen Stefani to help reach its goals, and so far they are on track to help make a difference. Newport Beach Magazine spoke with Zomnir, now the brand’s chief creative officer, for her insight on the program and ways to help.
Newport Beach Magazine: How does The Ultraviolet Edge work?
Wende Zomnir: Every year around International Women’s Day, we come out with a limited-edition product. Last year, it was an eye shadow palette and we did it in special shades for Gwen [Stefani]. What’s important to distinguish is that we do not donate proceeds from the sale, but that every cent of the selling price goes to the program. So when you spend $20, all of that money goes to The Ultraviolet Edge fund. You give with your dollars and we give on top of that.
NBM: Not only is the program new, but partnering with a celebrity is also a first for Urban Decay. Can you share why you chose to start the collaboration with Stefani?
WZ: One of the things we try to do is highlight women who break down barriers. Gwen is really inspirational to other women, how she evolved not only as an artist but also as a person. She has always inspired me. We’re both from Orange County, and we were both breaking down barriers at the same time. And let’s face it, Gwen has helped us get eyeballs on our initiative so more people participate.
NBM: What are some of the organizations the program benefits?
WZ: We have four key organizations we support. In the last year, we donated $50,000 to Laura’s House, an OC-based domestic violence organization that provides services to [nearly] a million Orange County residents. We gave $178,000 to the Women’s Global Empowerment Fund, a pillar organization dedicated to empowering women in Gulu, Uganda. We also gave $125,000 to Kakenya’s Dream, an amazing organization that has inspired me personally, focused on empowering … young girls to stand up for themselves in Kenya. Then there is Her Justice, a nonprofit based in New York City that provides legal services to low-income women. We donated $150,000 to them.
NBM: What has helped make the initiative so successful?
WZ: First, if you go on to our social media sites and listen to our customers talk, you can tell they’re amazing people and they want to do good things. Second, the products are our top 10 products, our best-sellers. So it comes down to those two things, our rad customer base and good product.
NBM: Why is giving back important to you and Urban Decay?
WZ: We’ve been really lucky. We’re headquartered in Newport Beach, we live in this amazing place, and we are so privileged to have everything that we have. We are in business because of women, and we want to inspire and empower them. Our mantra is that makeup is not about covering your flaws, but about expressing who you are. In many other parts of the world, women don’t have that luxury. We are passionate about what we do to empower our sisters in other places.