QUILL’s Editor-in-Chief, Tess, sat down with TooD founder Shari Siadat to talk about the brand, the beauty industry’s performative inclusivity, and Siadat’s thoughts on being the leader of a movement.
Tess: First of all, thank you, Shari. I’m so glad you’re here. Why don’t you tell me about how you started TooD, how that came about?
Shari: Yeah. Definitely, we’re a non-binary beauty brand. I started TooD because the universe had a plan for me and I had a plan for the world. Because I think so much pain is erupted as a result of putting people in boxes that they don’t belong.
And creator energy is non-binary. There’s no gender assigned to that. And at TooD, we really believe in giving people the paints to self-express however they want. And when I say non-binary, it doesn’t even have to do with gender.
You mentioned that when you had your daughter, you wanted to instill confidence in her and… I’m sorry, what are your pronouns?
I really just look at myself as a soul. So, the more immersed I am in my work, and I really believe in what I’m trying to do, I don’t really look at a pronoun as a way to identify myself.
Working with QUILL, you learn how deeply people identify with their pronouns. I always like to ask.
It’s such a good question to ask me.
One of my things that I’ve always said is it doesn’t feel right to gender things. I think we all have femininity and masculinity in us.
I think that’s what I’m trying to make people understand: You might be a homophobe and you might feel very strongly one way. But whatever gender you are, you possess the other side as well, the yin and the yang, and it’s just repressed. And then it will come out in really toxic ways.
I think I’m here to say that when we are placed in boxes of what femininity should mean, what masculinity should be, and we don’t subscribe to those ideals – that makes us feel like there’s something wrong with us. When, meanwhile, what’s really wrong is these binary rules that were created for us.
There’s toxic masculinity that says “you can’t shave” because it’s “feminine,” for example. Which isn’t even bad, but…
So, there’s so much about hair removal as it relates to gender. We’re all animals with hair on our bodies and who said that we have to remove it if we’re a woman or woman-identified individual?
Why are we gendering anything in general? But suddenly we’re doing it with inanimate objects, which leads to things such as razors and perfume and all of that.
Who was the person that even created that? I really go back to Indigenous, ancient times where so many cultures prior to the one that we’re immersed in now never had those gender roles defined. And that’s really at the root of humanity.
I kind of want to touch upon the opposite of what we’ve been saying, which is, the beauty industry in many ways has gotten worse, but in many ways it’s gotten better.
Absolutely. And I’m very glad you brought that up, because I don’t want to seem like a naysayer that’s like, “Everything is bad,” because that’s not me. I’m actually like a hype woman to positivity. I really appreciate the moves that have been made in terms of attempting to show inclusivity. I just call bullshit on this sense of a curated diversity and performance inclusivity that I see.
It’s frustrating. And I think it’s nice to have someone who’s angry about it like you are. Angry might not be the word…
Passionate. You’re ready to make a change.
I always get back to “soul” because if you know yourself, then you know how you want to share, and that changes.
Fluidity is honoring that we are all connected to energy and vibration. And so, we have different vibrations and then we want to self-express through our beauty, how we feel. I don’t have to pick.
Yeah. Why do you have to pick?
We don’t have to. I’m forward-thinking in that way to ask, “What is truly non-binary beauty? How do we break the binary open in terms of regions and who makeup is for and how it’s worn?” I really want to start a movement here.
You have this energy that’s just, “Fuck this, I know what I’m doing. This is my purpose. I’m a soul.” And that’s so rare to see in the beauty industry.
I want to take the beauty industry down and I want to call bullshit on an industry that has been created off of creating insecurity for people. Because I have nothing to lose, and that’s what it takes. I don’t do this for the money. I don’t do this for the fame. I don’t do this for my ego. I do this because I actually care.
And it all just stems from the 1920s. If you think about it from a colonial mindset and then the patriarchal mindset, which needs to have one gender define rules for another, you can start to now deconstruct, “Hey, where did my concept of beauty come from?” We have to understand: it has to do with power and control. So, I want to help people free themselves because that’s what TooD comes from. Attitude.
There’s this form of beauty that everyone’s trying to fit into. There’s a mold.
Yeah. TooD was really born out of my own journey of seeking a place to belong to, because I never felt I belonged as an Iranian-American growing up in a very homogenous town [Editor’s Note: Boxborough, Massachusetts], with everyone looking one way: a Eurocentric way of blonde hair, blue eyes, slender features. And when I didn’t fit any of those, it really embedded a loud message to me. One of which: “I don’t belong.”
We are all trying to look one certain way. We’re “accepting” diversity, but who are leaders? White, blonde, blue still.
I know this as a working model, I will get cast on things and literally get cut the day before because people still don’t want to show a face like this, which is so funny to me because I’m like, “I’m so rad and dope. You guys don’t even know this flavor.”
So, you’re filling a space that really isn’t filled yet. You are making a path that others have not and are scared to start, honestly.
I look at is as: How can I, one, help myself find a place of belonging first and foremost to myself, right? To really meet myself and understand who I am. Second, how can I share some of those experiences with my daughters and have them witness a woman standing up to a face of a society that may not want to accept her for her actually showing up as who she is and how she was born? Which is my birthright. And then, lastly, I think: how can I share my experience of this freedom I found for myself? I’m telling you; you’ve got to love yourself first.
How does it feel to be that leader in that movement?
I think all I can say is I’m very fortunate, I found my voice and if finding my voice is representative of being a trailblazer… that’s for history to determine. But, for me, it’s about finding myself.
You’re not doing it for anyone else.
And yet for everyone.
Thank you so much. You’ve been wonderful. You have phrased everything so precisely.
It was really nice to meet you.