BY CAITLIN LEIKER
While makeup is used to define one’s features, Fort Hays freshman Reece Leiker believes “beauty” is defined by each individual. This means looking beyond current trends and society’s larger standards to celebrate uniqueness.
Leiker applies this approach through her personal makeup brand, which she named DEFINE in order to be inclusive and timeless, pointing out “Thirty years from now, I’m still going to be Reece Leiker.”
About four years ago, Leiker’s largest exposure to makeup products and techniques came from an affiliate company she worked for, where she was taught by a celebrity makeup artist.
“The most I had known at that point was mascara, and I was absolutely lost with just about everything else,” Leiker said.
After two years, Leiker realized how much she loved working with clients and wanted to forge her own path in the industry. She said it was so fulfilling to watch womens’ confidence grow with their makeup skills.
Using makeup to enhance one’s outer beauty provides the outlet to discuss inner beauty, which is very important to Leiker.
“So many times, we associate makeup with ‘I’m going to morph myself into somebody else, and I’m only beautiful if I wear makeup,’” Leiker said. “But no– we’re just enhancing your natural beauty. It’s already there. We’re not creating something new.”
Studying cosmetology through Hays Academy of Hair Design is what solidified Leiker’s passion to educate herself and others about makeup, all while standing for her brand message.
According to Leiker, there are two main points where the beauty industry is lacking: clean, high-quality products, and education. These were the gaps that she wanted to fill with DEFINE.
After conducting research, she found the chemistry behind makeup was just as important as the techniques used to apply it.
“If you actually look at the U.S. in cosmetics, they only ban 11 ingredients,” Leiker said. “However, my skin is really sensitive, and if I’m putting makeup on every day, I don’t want it to be harsh. So, I found something that was EU-approved.”
“EU approved” refers to a standard set by the European Union (Europe is a world leader in cosmetic exports). Products that are EU-approved are free of over 1,300 harmful ingredients.
“It’s a much higher standard than what the U.S. has,” Leiker said. “So, if that’s as clean as you can get it, that’s the kind of product I want to use and the kind of product that I want other people to experience. Yes, you can go buy foundation for $10 out at Walmart, but you don’t really understand what’s in it. You don’t know what the chemicals are going to do long-term, or how that affects your skin.”
To build her own line of products, Leiker sought out companies that produced a wide variety of EU-approved formulas and designs to be sold through small businesses like hers. The goal for DEFINE was to keep the brand beginner-friendly while maintaining professional quality. Leiker expressed that the amount of makeup included in each product would also help customers “get what they pay for.”
Leiker’s beauty brand is actually her second startup. Her first was Pure Roots, a nonprofit organization where she and her brother, Channing, sold homemade laundry detergent to help build homes for the extremely poor in Nicaragua. They secured a corporate sponsor so 100% of their funds could go towards their cause.
Leiker said her mother, Taryn, has been her biggest inspiration.
“She asked us, ‘What could you do to make an impact in the world?’” Leiker said. “I was like, ‘I’m 11, why are we asking these kinds of questions?’ But that sparked the whole thing. I wanted to help somebody.”
Leiker said every failure and challenge has helped her learn and grow. Before Pure Roots was founded six years ago, Leiker said she was extremely introverted and even had trouble looking people in the eye when she spoke to them.
However, through her experiences running a nonprofit (which is still in operation), she was able to learn the skills necessary to manage and grow DEFINE today.
“Even in the launch of DEFINE, I was procrastinating, so she’s been really supportive, really encouraging, and she’s celebrated all of my milestones with me,” Leiker said. “It’s awesome to have my biggest cheerleader and someone who pushes me to do something.”
Leiker is currently retailing her products in-store and online through Fancy That, her family’s boutique on 8th Street. Looking to the future of DEFINE, she plans to start accepting payments for makeovers once she gets her license. She also wants to make education front and center on social media, so that more women can gain the skills to do their own hair and makeup for any occasion.
“When we feel confident in how we look, that adds to our confidence in general,” Leiker said. “Yes, I’ll be teaching certain methods, but I want them to refine it and ‘DEFINE’ it for themselves.”
Information on how to shop for DEFINE products can be found here.