Recognizing Black Beauty: The Creators of Beauty Bash

Creators of Beauty Bash: Pictured l-r Triphena Johnson and Fred Miller
Creators of Beauty Bash: Pictured l-r Triphena Johnson and Fred Miller

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This is the thing we tell ourselves when we don’t always want to take a hard look at our flaws. This is what the beauty industry banks on from consumers. Beauty is truly in the eye of who controls the dollar. According to Research and Market’s Global Beauty Care Market report, the industry clocked revenues worth USD 379 billion in 2013, which is anticipated to reach USD 461 billion by 2018. Some of these revenue streams is contributed from African American consumers.

The upside to the revenue streams flowing are the jobs and opportunities that the industry have provided for young African American talent. In Chicago, some of the leading black hair care and beauty brands held court such as Soft Sheen, Johnson Products and Fashion Fair Cosmetics. In the 1970’s the city was a talent pool of artists and creative minds bringing Black beauty to the forefront of the world through various media platforms. This was the time to break and shine for many make up artists, models and hairstylists.

Throughout the last forty years, there have been many changes as Black owned companies—once the pride and joy of the community sold to general market companies like L’Oreal and Revlon. There are two people who understand how important understanding the history of these stories and the careers that have benefited in the beauty and hair care business.

Fred Miller and Triphena Johnson are the principals of Darker Horse Creative Agency, a marketing firm dedicated to brand strategy and trade show production for the beauty industry. For the past six years they have built a unique platform called the Beauty Bash—an annual event that honors and brings together people of color that have achieved great strides in the Beauty and Hair care industry.

Fred Miller, who has worked in the hair care industry for the past 30 years explains the concept and vision behind how the Beauty Bash event began.

We wanted to invite people from the business that we are in. It was happening at the same time as the America’s Beauty Show, one of the biggest trade shows in the industry and we knew all of our industry friends would be in town. It wasn’t called Beauty Bash at first…we just gave it the name just to let it sit there. So, we decided to keep the name and it stuck.” he said.

It was one of the greatest parties folks had been to here. One of my mentors, James Harris said, ‘You know you had everybody who was anybody in the industry that night, right? You need to do it again!’. We thought about it and that’s how it started.”

After graduating from John F. Kennedy High School on the Southwest Side of Chicago, Miller was introduced to Ed Gardner, the owner of Soft Sheen Products while painting murals for the Chicago Housing Authority.

The manager of the development where I grew up at McClaire Courts, was a friend of Bernadine C. Washington. She was talking to her about me and Mr. Ed Gardner who owned Soft Sheen started a program. He wanted the best in the community to come work at Soft Sheen. So, Bernadine gave him my name and I came to work at Soft Sheen in 1984.” he said. “That was my entry into the business professionally. Aside from that, my mother was a hairstylist. It all started at home. I used to do fashion shows with my sisters and cousins in my mother’s living room so it all came full circle.”

He quickly worked up the ranks, first starting out in the packaging division working on the Sportin’ Waves brand. Soon after, he was working in the marketing department and assisting on trade shows.

They were the people that put together all of the huge trade shows. I worked with a guy named Eddie Wilson because he showed me what the industry was. He said, ‘Do it this way, do it that way. Make it pretty and make it good. People will love it. He showed me what the beauty industry was about.” he recalled.

Miller’s partner, Triphena Johnson, is a reputable make up artist and has worked in the industry for the last two decades. As a teenager, she started modeling in shows around northern Indiana. Born and raised in Gary, Indiana—her love for make up artistry began behind the counter of the J.C. Penney department store in Merrillville.

There was a young woman, Gretchen Garcia, who produced fashion shows in my area and also the person that was a part of my modeling career. That was my first introduction into what fashion and beauty was. I was still not understanding my strengths and my worth but she guided me.” she said.

After building a strong following in her area as the ‘go to’ make up counter girl and earning top seller status at the store. She was meeting people through her relationships in the modeling world. Many would stop through the store with their celebrity clients and encourage her to reach out to photographers in Chicago to build up her resume of work.

There was a local photographer, Daniel Duverney, who encouraged me to come and see how make up artists translate from an everyday look to film. Often the camera and lighting translated from high lighting to low lighting uniquely read something different to the naked eye. He told me, that I needed to understand this if I’m going to do television, or print advertisement, video and/or film. So, I started my walk with him as a professional make up artist.” said Johnson.

Over the years, both Miller and Johnson grew strong as the top people in their field and built a solid working relationship together as well as a strong friendship.

Fred often hired Triphena for his traveling trade shows because of her work ethic and easy-go-lucky demeanor.

When someone says, ‘We want Fred to do this job.’ Nine times out of ten, if they have to book an entire show – somewhere in between they know they are going to get the best make up artist in the world. She happens to be my best friend. It just works like that.” said Miller.

Triphena adds. “When I’m weak, he’s the strongest. He produces all of Beauty Bash and I come in to support and give what I need to give. I’m his host but he does all of the leg work. It is his baby. I’m excited to know that he is a good, wonderful human being. He has a lot to give to the beauty industry.” she said.

The ones that came before us and those coming up after us – Fred can put everyone in one room where they are not going at each other or feeling like it’s competition.”

At the 6th Annual Beauty Bash, they are saluting some leaders and trail blazers that includes founder of Carol’s Daughter, Lisa Price; Bernard Bronner, owner of the Bronner Brothers trade show and Chicago native, celebrity make up artist—Sam Fine. Every year, the event supports a charity. This year, partial proceeds from the Beauty Bash will be donated to Living with Lupus, an organization based in Chicago supporting family and friends with lupus.

One of their members Sherry Yvette, both Triphena and I have worked as a model and kidney transplant survivor. She has lived with and survived lupus all of these years.” said Miller.

The event continues to build with the support of its sponsors and media partners with the goal of recognizing the achievements of working professionals in the beauty and hair care business. There is so much in store for both the principals of Darker Horse Creative.

Speaking for the both of them, Miller adds. “I want us to continue to grow and bring more clients in through trade shows and events. If there was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – I want to travel and get booked in Europe and Africa. I think that continued growth is what we’re going for.”

For more information on the 6th Annual Beauty Bash:

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