Photographer: Peter Ash Lee
Jodie Patterson was tired of having her makeup done poorly. “The colors would always be way off,” says the 43-year-old PR executive–turned–beauty entrepreneur. “It’s hard to find experts who know how to apply makeup on brown skin.” So she took matters into her own hands. In November she launched Doobop.com, a beauty site for the full spectrum of what she calls “brown girls”—a term she borrowed from her daughter. “She told me, ‘I’m not black like you’re black. I’m a brown girl,’ ” says Patterson, whose ex-husband, the New York restaurateur Serge Becker, is Swiss and Vietnamese.
Patterson—who ran Georgia, a beauty boutique in New York’s NoLIta from 2008 until 2011, drawing fans like Sarah Jessica Parker and Jodie Foster—assembled a focus group of 100 women to help her develop Doobop, quizzing them on their beauty needs and woes. “Brown girls are always searching for that perfect combination of products,” Patterson says. “For every hair product a Caucasian woman buys, a brown girl buys eight. What I use on the roots is different from what I use on the middle and on the ends.”
Once she had narrowed down the list of concerns, Patterson and a team of experts—including a dermatologist, two hairstylists, a nutritionist, and two makeup artists—tested hundreds of products, often discovering off-label uses. “Sometimes the best way for us to use a product won’t be included in the directions,” says Patterson, explaining that some African-American women wash with a conditioner in place of shampoo to preserve the hair’s much needed oils. “And the best conditioners for that aren’t necessarily ethnic products,” she notes. So while Doobop carries black beauty mainstays like Iman Cosmetics and lesser-known brands like HapsatouSy, from Paris, the site also features high-end lines like Leonor Greyl, Comfort Zone, and RMS Beauty. Patterson’s mission: to prove to her customers that they have more options than they might have thought. “I want them to say, ‘Thanks for taking me out of the ethnic aisle.’ ”