When TV show Euphoria debuted in June 2019, its over-the-top makeup looks — bold neon eyeliners, glittery shadows, and rhinestones — sparked a global makeup trend both on the runways and across social media. Suva Beauty, one of the many brands featured on the show, has catapulted to fame since the show debuted, with its neon Hydra Liners, a favorite of Euphoria’s makeup artist Doniella (Donni) Davy, frequently used on actors Hunter Schafer and Alexa Demie.
The Brown-owned company, founded by Indo-Fijian Muslim makeup artist Shaina Azad, has been celebrating the spectrum of skin shades and gender identities since Suva Beauty’s inception in 2015. Azad wanted to position the brand's Instagram account, which boasts over 600,000 followers, as a space to showcase the evolving landscape of beauty with representation at its forefront — consistently posting a diverse cast of models and content creators who are leading the conversation towards inclusivity. It was important to Azad that the brand embraces racial and gender diversity authentically, especially as 40% of Americans identify as racial or ethnic minorities and more than one-third of Gen Zers say they know someone who prefers gender-neutral pronouns.
“If you’re a minority, there’s going to be a higher chance of being reposted on our page,” Azad tells TZR. “I don’t just want to see white people on my page. I want to see people that look like me. I want to see the whole spectrum because we’re catering to people from different backgrounds. I want people to come to our page and be able to identify themselves and say ‘that person looks like me’ and identify with the brand. That’s what’s really important.”
Suva Beauty: Principles Of The Brand
Azad grew up in Surrey, Canada where her Fijian heritage made her a minority among the Indo-Canadian and Caucasian Canadian communities where she lived. She was teased for her darker skin tone, especially from lighter-skinned South Asians who told her she was ugly. “Growing up, it was frowned on to be Fijian. And it goes back to the whole ‘white skin is better' and 'the deeper you are, the uglier you are,’ and it was pretty crappy,” she says. “I would get called 'Blackie' right up until my adult years — it was crazy and disgusting."
While in university, she trained concurrently as a makeup artist at Blanche Macdonald Centre, Vancouver’s top makeup school. After working in Egypt for two years as a journalist, Azad returned to Canada and worked both as a makeup instructor at her alma mater and as a makeup artist for film, TV, and commercials. (She also had a side hustle doing bridal makeup.) Her clients would buy products right out of her kit so Azad decided to create her own line. She gave a nod to her Fijian heritage, naming it Suva Beauty after the capital city of Fiji. And, she made sure that diversity and inclusion were built into the brand’s DNA, from the products it created to the marketing strategy. This stemmed in part from Azad’s experience with childhood bullying and exclusion, as well as noticing how myopic beauty brands and media had been in championing anyone outside of the perceived beauty ideals.
“When I created Suva Beauty, I wanted to show that Fiji is beautiful so Fijians here and abroad don’t have to be ashamed,” Azad explains. “Yes, I am Fijian but I also have South Asian heritage. We’re deeper skinned and we’re beautiful. So that was a bit like sticking it to everyone who teased Fijians for being dark-skinned and ugly.”
Suva Beauty: Creating The Brand
Suja started with one pro eyeshadow palette that Azad used during all of her makeup gigs. But, she was still missing a product that allowed her to create a crisp, graphic liner in bold colors that wouldn’t smudge. She started combining Laura Mercier’s cake liner with various eyeshadows to try to mimic the oil paints she used on canvas, but while she got the color right, the texture was cracking.
She was playing around with different formulations and color-ways, posting her creations on her Facebook page, and people responded. Encouraged, Azad started looking for manufacturers and chemists who would be able to turn her vision into reality, but it took some trial and error. Her ideas were so farfetched that many contract facilities couldn't comprehend what she wanted. “When I tried to explain to the manufacturers that it has to be this opaque and this exact Pantone color, they’d give me something else that they thought was pretty and I’m like, 'No, that’s very Estée Lauder and not Suva Beauty,'” she says.
Eventually, Azad perfected the formula and introduced the Hydra Liners shortly after launching in 2015. Azad knew that vibrant colors would show up and look great on darker skin tones — something that she believed heritage beauty brands failed to capitalize on.
Suva Beauty: Engaging With Its Community
Azad was impressed with the level of artistry within Suva Beauty’s Instagram community and started reposting her follower's photos on the brand’s grid. She loved how some of the looks created transcended mainstream archetypes by blurring boundaries between masculine and feminine or breaking ethnic beauty ideals. Azad favored more fluid, boundary-pushing images of self-expression that showcased the brand in innovative ways, garnering attention from several celebrity makeup artists including Sarah Tanno, Lady Gaga’s MUA, Mimi Kamara, who painted Kiki Palmer in Suva Beauty for the 2020 MTV awards, and of course, Euphoria's Davy herself.
“Being inclusive is very important to me and making sure that everybody feels like they’re part of the brand and not being judged,” she explains. “That’s constantly in the products we develop. We want to encourage all of the misfits to be like ‘Hey I’m going to be who I am and I’m going to love the hell out of myself’.”
One look at Suva Beauty's account, and you'll see the spectrum of skin shades and gender expressions and identities embraced. As an accessible makeup brand for all, diversity permeates all aspects of Suva Beauty, from the products created to the faces representing the brand.