I’m a single mom. I have three girls—my oldest daughter is about to turn 12—so I have very feminine energy around me. My mother is only 20 years older than me.

I’m a seeker. I am always seeking ways to get to know myself better. Because I was born and raised at a certain time in the world and to Iranian immigrant parents, I thought that I would have to follow a certain way of living, whether that was what I accomplished in school, how I looked, who I was friends with, what kind of career I had, or getting married young and having children. I was very much asleep and trying to—how do I put this? Trying to just make my parents proud.

Shari2

When you struggle with feeling like you can’t love yourself, that action will permeate into behavior that might not be consistent with who you are.

I struggled so much with feeling less than because of the way I looked. I needed to overachieve to feel like I was worthy of being lovable. When you struggle with feeling like you can’t love yourself, that action will permeate into behavior that might not be consistent with who you are.

I was born in Columbia, Maryland, but I was raised most of my childhood in a very small town called Boxborough, Massachusetts. That’s with a B, not an F. Everyone thinks I’m from Foxborough because they’re Patriots fans. But it was a very small homogenous town of less than 3,000 people—it didn’t even have a stoplight. I lived there until eighth grade. There wasn’t a lot of diversity. As a result, I was teased a lot about my appearance. For having a unibrow, for having hairy limbs, for having very tan skin. I think I was more tan as a child than I am now. I just stuck out, visually. That pain really permeated deep inside of my psyche. It made me need to shape shift, code switch, become a chameleon, to try to figure out how I could survive.

I didn’t have the emotional wherewithal to put language to my feelings or to go to my parents and say that I was having all these troubles. Instead I used fitness and exploration in the woods to kind of soothe myself. I’m also a lifelong ballet dancer. There was always a polarity in me. I was a tomboy, but also a bunhead. I would run to basketball practice with my tights rolled up.

ShariU

In eighth grade, my family moved to Boca Raton. I looked at that as an opportunity to reinvent myself. I got addicted to the power of wearing masks. When I removed my unibrow for the first time, I saw myself as human. That became a lifelong undercurrent for me, from the way I groomed myself with lasering, waxing, and highlighting, to the people that I got into relationships with, to the jobs that I had, and my friendships and whatnot.

When I came to New York for college, I felt more connected to the community because of the diversity. But even immersed in that, I still felt like I had to be a WASP. I went to business school, I double majored in IT and marketing. I had a whole career in pharmaceuticals. I got married. I had children.

My first two girls were very fair, and then my youngest daughter came out looking exactly like me. That was an invitation to say to myself, “My child is so beautiful. Why do I not give myself the same level of love and adoration that I do for her?” I realized that if I don’t live a life where I can accept myself for who I am, my children will absorb that, and they will also follow in my footsteps.

ShariKit2

Open communication is the key to a beautiful relationship, whether that’s friend to friend or mother to daughter.

What I now understand about mothering is that, at the end of the day, children only want to feel safe and they want to feel loved. I want to make sure my children are advocates for themselves. The last thing on earth I want to do, if my child says, “Mom, I want to smoke weed,” is make her feel ashamed for being honest with me. Because open communication is the key to a beautiful relationship, whether that’s friend to friend or mother to daughter.

If my daughter came to me and said, “Mom, I want to smoke weed,” I would want to have a conversation with her to understand, like, “How did you learn about it? Have you tried it before? Are your friends doing it? How are they doing it? Are you rolling a joint? Have you smoked out of a pipe? Are you vaping?” Because I think there’s some health consequences of that. I don’t want my 12-year-old daughter smoking weed. That’s just developmentally inappropriate for her, for her lung growth and for her brain development and all that stuff. But I don’t want her to feel embarrassed talking to me about it because she’s going to do it anyway. We all know how we were when we were teens.

When I think about how cannabis has been used in the past for medicinal reasons, to help with anxiety, to help with creativity, to help with community or bonding, it has unlocked so much magic for people. But it’s gotten a bad rap. This flower can really help so many people if used correctly and in the right dose and in the right strain. Everyone’s journey with cannabis should be very customized based on the type that you take and how that impacts your chemistry. People should be open to exploring and know that there’s not one solution for all. The key here is in choice and in observing yourself and how you interact with this powerful plant. And making sure that you are policing for yourself what works for you.

ShariWindow

I just want to give my daughter the tools to make the best decisions for herself. That’s really my approach, because the world is only opening up to legalization, and this is a conversation that is going to probably happen in my life sooner rather than later. Giving them good information and making my children really feel safe and willing to share with me how they really feel about cannabis is the only way to help them move forward.

It was out of love for my children that I decided to grow back my unibrow. Not only did I grow it back at 37 and wear it proudly for the last four or five years, but now I have COVID grays and COVID curves. It’s been this beautiful unraveling. Now I get to choose which society rules I want to follow and what are the ones that I want to actually create for myself. That’s very much the spirit behind TooD.

ShariSplit

At the beginning of 2020, right before we knew that the pandemic was going to start, I posted something like, “I’m so tired of the 30 under 30 list. I would love to see the 50 over 50.” I want to know the single mom of two kids who at 47 published her first book. Because to me, the journey of how she got there would be more fascinating to me than measures of success that are tied to youth. My tagline in life is “experiment until it works.” Everything is an input that drives another input into creation.

Around my early 30s, I stepped away from corporate life. I got more into philanthropy and started to teach ballet at a nonprofit in East Harlem. I understood the beauty of community and movement to talk about trauma, either firsthand or within your family. I understood how much the power of an emotional connection and being witnessed and seen was. I also started to get more involved in the art world and to become not only a patron, but also heavily involved in raising funds to help artists and museums because I really believe in the power of how art and storytelling can heal so many of us.

Because I had come from such a traditional and corporate background, that was the first time that I got to be around people and places where I saw more individuality and freedom of expression. It permitted me to express myself with fashion. It gave me the confidence to say, “What mood am I in today? Let me use my body as a canvas to express that.”

ShariBed

When I grew my unibrow back, my entire aura changed. It was like I was no longer hiding something. I think shame festers in secrecy. When you are so secretive about something, it completely changes how you behave. I started the Instagram handle @myfiercebrow to share my experience with people.

Then I thought that the best way to do this would be through children, through a new generation—to have a picture book about a little girl with a unibrow. Then anyone else who had that experience would feel seen, or maybe a family member or a friend would then have at least one reference book to provide an opportunity for a conversation about different forms of beauty. I wanted to create a complimentary product that I could bundle with the book that would allow children to self-express and paint themselves and highlight their uniqueness.

This was the summer of 2019. My book agent introduced me to someone who took me to a lab and when I walked in I thought, “How can I just create one product that no one in the world will know?” I had this internal checklist of what kind of product line I wanted to create so I wouldn’t add more pollution to an over-polluted world. This was the first project I worked on that I had zero expectation and pressure on because I wasn’t sure if I could do it. Maybe that’s why it worked.

ShariShadow

Every message in the media is telling you that there’s something wrong with you.

I had zero experience in the beauty industry except, of course, being a woman in this country who has been marketed to since the second she was born and also been told that she’s not good enough. I wanted one product that would corner the market in terms of clean color and performance was vital to me.

I took a hard stance when I publicly said that TooD will not invest in anything that makes you want to erase yourself. My tagline is, “embrace, don’t erase,” because I don’t want to invest in products that make you feel like you’re not enough. I will not invest in a concealer or a foundation. But, at the same time, I don’t view makeup as something shameful. What I’m trying to do is change the conversation of what makeup is.

Every message in the media is telling you that there’s something wrong with you. Every message is still showing curated diversity. Or, if you’re old, then this is the way you look when you’re old: a muted face and all-black attire and Anna Wintour-chic. It’s like, no, I want to be Baddie Winkle smoking a joint at 95 years old with glitter all over myself and pink hair. Why is that not the splendor that we aspire to?

ShariSurf1

ShariSurf2

If you could create your own rules and if you could wear makeup in any way, shape, or form, on any part of your hair or skin or body, what would that look like?

As a Persian girl, my mother and grandmother always had a beautiful face of makeup. We’d go to these parties with other Persian women and they all would adorn themselves in bright colors and bold lipsticks and eye shadows. This is in the ‘80s and ‘90s, when that was very much the fashion. I remember going through my mother’s drawers and trying every lipstick on. Putting it on different parts of my face, too.

That is where I want to get TooD: that childlike wonder of having products or paints or tools—whatever you want to call them—in front of you and saying to yourself, “How do I want to express myself?” How fun is it to be able to share your creativity in the world by using makeup and not about covering up yourself to fit in? That’s really what I want to have with this brand. To ask people, if you could create your own rules and if you could wear makeup in any way, shape, or form, on any part of your hair or skin or body, what would that look like? That, to me, is the coolest thing.

ShariSwing

I like to call bullshit on the industry because there’s this new wave of everyone feeling like they have to step up the diversity game. But it’s curated diversity.

ShariHouse

I like to call bullshit on the industry because there’s this new wave of everyone feeling like they have to step up the diversity game. But it’s curated diversity where people are like, “Well, we’ll get canceled if we don’t do this.” But it’s not really coming from an authentic place. It should be, “How are we showing the different forms of beauty and the beauty exists in all of us? How can we showcase that?” And secondly, when makeup has been marketed to kids, it’s really trying to just get them in the funnel at a younger age. To get them attached and addicted to needing to look a certain way.

With TooD, it’s about unlocking the creativity that we have within us. None of us are one thing. We shouldn’t feel like we are trapped in one identity or one way of being. The world may perceive you as one thing, but you really are more. We’ve been conditioned to feel that way. I’m only speaking from my own life experience. I struggled with how much I was, not for how little I was. I thought that I had to fit myself in a box. When I permit myself to fully expose all the polarity that I have inside of me is when I feel the most free. Freedom is contagious.

ShariBench

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Shari Siadat photographed by Meghan Marin at her home in Amagansett, NY. If you like this Conversation, please feel free to share it with friends or enemies. Subscribe to our newsletter here.