TooD founder Shari Siadat is taking on the beauty industry. Not because she needs to – because she actually cares.
I receive an email that TooD founder’s Shari Siadat will only have 20-to-30 minutes to speak with me.
As it turns out, Siadat’s daughter has a horse-riding lesson. Despite this, she has kept me in her packed schedule. I tell her this will be more of a conversation than an interview, and she tells me she prefers it that way.
My first question: “Why don’t you tell me how you started TooD?”
Their immediate response: “Definitely. We’re a non-binary beauty brand.”
And then she launches into one of the most well-spoken explanations I’ve heard, tangents running into one another, intertwining, and always coming back to her first answer.
It is at the end of her answer that I realize I haven’t asked their pronouns. We talk about the evolution of pronouns and what she feels comfortable with. Eventually, Siadat pauses, then gives an answer that perfectly defines them, their energy, their philosophy, their purpose.
“I really just look at myself as a soul.”
The interview might as well end there. But we’re just getting started.
TooD, as Siadat explains, is non-binary because a creator’s energy is non-binary, too.
Creators’ energy is not defined by their gender; it’s all about self-expression, expression that passes societal “norms.” She believes that being put into boxes and definitions has harmed people more than helped, creating “a lot of angst and anxiety that create anger, that creates rage, which is aged anger.”
The theory bleeds into the beauty industry, culminating in insecurity and rules to follow, like the boundaries of eyeshadow and the necessity of hair removal. Siadat explains that it all stems from the 1920s. “You’ve got to also understand the historical context of colonialism,” she says.
I look back on my knowledge of beauty history – the makeup market was booming, but colonialism does not immediately register. Siadat continues: “If you think about it from a colonial mindset and then the patriarchal mindset, which then needs to have one gender define rules for another, you can now start to deconstruct [these concepts].”
They throw out examples: why do women need to wax? Why do they need to shave? Why do certain beauty products only belong on certain body parts? “The beauty industry has profited off of creating insecurity,” Siadat states. She’s not wrong: The beauty industry is expected to exceed $716B globally by 2025, already having reached $511B in 2021.
Siadat also began TooD to find their place of belonging. They grew up in the “homogenous” town of Boxborough, Massachusetts, where “everyone look[ed] one way: a Eurocentric way of blonde hair, blue eyes, slender features.” Growing up as Iranian-American in this environment, “it really embedded a loud message to me, one of which: ‘I don’t belong.’”
Not only did her features differ from her peers, she also was uncomfortable with Iranian traditions passed down from her immigrant parent, as “having Iranian rules in American culture also did not seem to sit well with me.” And with that, “I was always caught in these two worlds – and that confuses a child.”
Siadat grew “passionate,” as they call it. But entering the beauty industry, specifically, was not their choice. Rather, it’s their “purpose.”
“At this time, with the feminine collective rising, with all the skills I learned in my other lifetimes as men and women, they all came together to give me the capacity to communicate this story and to help people maybe have a spark of consciousness from the cells.”
It’s early, but we’re in deep, so I ask The Big Question: What is your ultimate goal with TooD?
“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,” she says defiantly. “I really want to start a movement here.”
Well, okay, that’s a tall order. But honestly? I think she could.
On TooD’s site, Siadat tells the story of being bullied for her unibrow.
I share my own story with her: that a boyfriend told me mine was “cute” in seventh grade, so I began waxing it. I’d continued to do it all my life… until COVID hit, and I questioned why I was actually doing it.
Siadat listens, scoffing at the “cute” statement. “I share my unibrow story to say everyone has a unibrow story. I can only talk about my experience in these 42 years of how that really messed me up, and how many years of therapy I’m in as a result of that.”
Growing up, there was no space to foster the self-love that Siadat was looking for. So, she began creating an environment that she felt she belonged in. Then she began creating another environment for her daughters to grow up in, starting with their mom – a mom who was “a woman standing up to face a society that may not want to accept her for her actually showing up as who she is and how she was born,” Siadat states.
In finding this self-love, they explain how their life expanded. “My aura changed, the way I act changed – even if you look at photos of me from a few years ago, I look substantially different. I look tense. You can look at my body language.”
We talk further, and the topic of masculinity and femininity come up. “I love my masculine side,” Siadat says. I mention my belief that every person has feminine and masculine energy within them. They jump on that. “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.”
She then mentions traits that divide people into gender roles; nurturing is the woman, authoritative is the man. “That’s simplifying the binary, putting people into boxes,” they say. “I really go back to Indigenous and 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 equate it to pink and blue, men’s and women’s razors, the Pink Tax, how inanimate objects have become gendered to no limit. But, I say, there has also been progress in the industry. Siadat agrees, and it’s she who brings up my piece on Machine Gun Kelly and UN/DN LAQR. “Everyone my children’s age; the boys all wear nail polish. It’s not even a question, and it’s not even looked down upon. … So, that type of energy is starting to happen.”
But she’s wary. “We have a tendency in this culture to have everything be so performance-based. So, it’s almost like, ‘Okay, well, if you wear blue nail polish and you play football, that’s acceptable. But if you want to wear lashes and high heels and glitter on your beard, you’re considered a freak.’”
That’s another space the attitude of the brand is born from. “I want to give power to the people to know, ‘I can put glitter on my underarm hair, or on my happy trail, or on the nape of my neck, or on my ankle, or on my toe hairs. I’m allowed to do that,’” Siadat emphasizes. “I want to really encourage everyone to create in any manifestation that feels right to them.”
Siadat “thinks of [herself] as the mother of Gen Z beauty,” and I’d have to agree.
She’s calling out the BS, saying eff beauty standards, and breaking binaries. “From a psycho-demographic, I am Gen Z, I was just born 20 years earlier. And I think part of that had to do with me wanting to create a system to usher in and let Gen Z kind of solidify it.”
It’s that Gen Z energy – the IDGAF attitude of “twenty-twenty-TooD” (as Siadat and I called it during our call) – and a call-it-as-they-see-it confidence that gives Siadat their voice. “Sometimes I am more connected to my masculine side and present myself accordingly. And then sometimes I feel like the most feminine femme – ballgown-red-carpet-girl-glam. And they’re both me. I don’t have to pick, I just need to honor.”
I tell her that she’s a leader, that she’s creating a path that others have been ambivalent – perhaps even scared – to tread first. She’s humble. “I feel very lucky[, but] I’ve been almost numb to it, which made me sad. I really examined the female imposter syndrome.”
It comes back to the negative feeling her unibrow birthed. “I needed to overachieve in order to feel like I was worthy of love. And so, it’s never good enough. … I didn’t know what I was getting into. I was building a brand that was a reflection of my life experiences.”
This is reason enough for anyone to start a brand, but this isn’t the end of her answer. She hasn’t forgotten my question about being a leader. What I’ve learned is that Siadat is the master of storytelling, because she has a story she needs to tell – and that she knows others need to hear.
“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,” she says.
I think to myself, that is the exact definition of a soul, and acknowledge her sentiment. “You’re not doing it for anyone else,” I summarize – or so I think.
“And yet,” Siadat smiles, as if she’s sharing her biggest secret with me, “for everyone.”