What Does a Professional Runner Know About the Hair Business? A Lot, Actually
Mackenzie Hill is a world-class hurdler, a former UCLA track star, and a 2019-2020 Olympic hopeful — and with all the running (and sweating) that staying in competitive shape has required, she’s experienced a few issues with her hair over the years. It’s a story as old as time, but as a woman of color who was not seeing her needs served in the larger beauty industry, she went out and created the brand that would be the answer she, and many others, needed. Now, she's a founder and face of LumiBloom, an online-based beauty company that sells luxury virgin hair, in the form of weaves and extensions, as well as vitamins and teas blended up to encourage health and wellbeing.
The name itself — a portmanteau of “luminescent” and “blooming” — represents the way Hill wants people to feel when they use her products. And its website promises and end to long drives to buy hair from beauty supply stores that don’t guarantee quality, as well as a clear and final answer in the "real vs. fake" debate. (It’s all real, imported from India — and you can cut, style, and dye it as if it were your own.) We spoke with the Long Beach, California based entrepreneur about the difficulty (and upsides!) of being a competitive athlete with natural hair, and how her business is changing the game for women who love their texture, but also sometimes want the versatility that extensions provide.
How long have you been natural and when did you start having issues with your hair?
"Probably for at least seven or eight years, I’ve been completely natural — and it made life a little easier. I moved away from home, so I was away from my hairstylist and I had to figure out what to do; it got to the point where [my hair] was making life more complicated. [After getting it relaxed], my hair was just breaking, so I was like ‘ok this doesn’t work’ and I cut it all off and I basically started over. When I’m competing and really on the road, I’m in a weave, because it’s just another way to protect my hair. My thing is, under my hair, I want it to be nice and healthy because I don’t want to be a slave to the weave. I want to be able to also wear my hair out."
What made you decide to create your beauty company?
"I’ve always been a hair girl and I always liked to change it up. I would go curly, straight, emerald — which is now my new favorite color — blonde, purple, pink, so just that flexibility was something I always had a passion for. Also, there was a point where I knew that track wouldn’t be forever, so I was thinking about what my next step would be.
"One thing that I liked about the track profession is the camaraderie and support; the confidence you get from both track and being with a group of women. So when I thought about what to do next, the hair company kinda stuck. I don’t want to call it just a hair company because it’s more than that, but creating LumiBloom fit because it’s a culture where I can gather women around, and we are taking care of something that can help instill confidence. It doesn’t necessarily have to be weaves, but there are haircare products that make your own natural hair feel good. The vitamins and the teas take care of you from the inside, and make you feel good. I’m very aware of how the insides feel because, apart from being an athlete and running a company, I also have a gluten allergy so I’m very aware of what’s going on with my body. Just providing other women that same kind of flexibility and that same confidence is something I believe LumiBloom does."
What makes you different from other beauty entrepreneurs?
"I think what makes me different is that I’m also an athlete at the same time, so I think it kind of changes my view and how I approach some things, not necessarily from a glamorous perspective. When it comes to every touch point of my company, you can identify, anybody can identify with what they see; it’s like, ‘oh yeah, I know this girl,’ or ‘I am this girl,’ or ‘I can be this girl.’ It’s all very relatable — it’s aspirational, but it’s not so far out of the box that the customers can’t see themselves in it. As far as how I differ from other entrepreneurs, to be honest, I think a lot of successful entrepreneurs are very similar: we’re all very outgoing, we’re not afraid to test the limits, and we always see opportunities."
What is your overall goal for LumiBloom?
"I want to turn it into a lifestyle brand and make it more of a movement, not make it be all about hair. We started with the hair line. With haircare products, we have expanded that line, and then we added the tea and the vitamins and just continue to add other things that I believe support the movement and the goal."
Splitting Hairs is our monthlong exploration of hair based on a survey of women across America. It’s like you brought a photo to the salon — we’re giving you exactly what you want.