It was September of 2015, and Toronto was electric.
The city was hosting the Toronto International Film Festival, and all things glitz and glamour were being celebrated in front of the eyes of thousands of Canadians.
On the "Beeba Boys" red carpet in particular, one familiar face dazzled in front of the flashing cameras: Monika Deol, the former host of Canada's iconic dance show, "Electric Circus."
On this occasion, Deol wore a sultry black frock and flaunted a polished beauty look, which featured a dark smoky eye and a to-die-for glossy fuchsia lip.
Monika Deol attends the "Beeba Boys" premiere during the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival at Roy Thomson Hall on September 13, 2015 in Toronto, Canada.
Little did fans know that her lipstick of choice that evening was none other than one she created and part of a makeup line in the works. After leaving television to raise four children on the West Coast, Deol was ready to get back to business.
Fast forward to 2017 and STELLAR* has landed on Sephora's shelves in Canada and the U.S., and, in an interview with HuffPost Canada Style, Deol says her new business venture is a "dream come true" for a woman who immigrated to Canada from India when she was only three years old.
After a vibrant career in television and as a club DJ, Monika says she was unsure of where to take her career next, but after thinking about all the things she loved she realized makeup was high on her list.
"I had a life where makeup became integral to my identity, which some people find odd," Deol explains. "But for me, it was completely natural. Makeup mattered. I was a complete beauty junkie from day one."
For a woman who spent many hours of her life in a makeup chair, Deol never saw makeup as superficial. For her, it was always a tool that articulated personality and expressed who you are. But the application of her makeup wasn't an easy process — as a woman with a medium skin tone, finding the right foundation to match her colouring was complicated — makeup artists had to constantly mix products and create a custom blend for her, and Deol had to dish out big dollars to find the right products on the market.
Why was the cosmetic industry not providing more options for women with medium skin tones? Why were their cultures being left out of the makeup narrative? Deol couldn't quite figure that out. But instead of waiting around for a brand to introduce these kind of products, she took matters into her own hands.
"I was always that person that said, 'They should do this,' or 'They should do that,' but who is 'They?' Look in the mirror," she says. 'They' is you. Stop talking about it, fix it. That's when I said, 'You know what, I'm going to do something about this.'"
The birth of STELLAR* happened quickly — Doel created the brand in less than two years. And she had a point to prove to the industry: "it's not one size fits all."
The research behind STELLAR* included analyzing the Pantone skin tone chart and figuring out who their Sephora customer was. Deol charted out every shade of every foundation the beauty retailer sold and discovered there was a lack of makeup targeted to Hispanic, Latino, Afro-American, Aboriginal, Chinese, Filipino, Middle-Eastern and Indian women.
"A lot of us who are in the middle skin tones are immigrants or children of immigrants. We weren't the ones buying the high-end makeup. Our mothers weren't buying high-end makeup," she says.
With 22 foundations (17 of which cater to medium skin tones), six concealers, four loose powders, three blushes, 19 lipsticks and one mascara, STELLAR* prides itself as a "high-performing universal makeup" brand at an affordable price.
"This is personal. And I'm going to show you there is a market [for medium skin tones] and I don't need someone to tell me what the market is because I am the market," Deol says. "We're here now and it's our turn. This is based on real people."
"We are for everybody. There's colours right across the board. And from what I've been told, we're the first line to really pay attention to people in the middle. And who are the people in the middle? They're the fastest growing demographic in North America."
Since her days at "Electric Circus," Deol has lived by the fact that makeup is for everyone.
"I would look on that dance floor and I would see kids who were white and black and pink and purple and Indian and straight and gay and not sure. We were just all there and everybody was into it and no one cared," she says. "It was just about dancing and having fun. I thought, 'This is what the world should be, even if it's just a silly little dance show.'"
Monika Deol, 1994.
During her presentation for STELLAR* in Toronto, Deol introduced Adi Lando, a Sephora PRO Lead, who danced on "Electric Circus."
"That show was an hour long, and I remember it took me four hours to get ready for it," Lando said at the presentation.
And it was "Electric Circus" that got Deol in with Sephora. After being repeatedly told it was difficult for indie brands to break into the industry, Deol was able to land a meeting with Sephora in the U.S. thanks to not only her products, which were unique at the time, but also because the man she met with grew up in Toronto and was a fan of "Electric Circus" and Deol herself.
Electric Circus host Monika Deol in pearls and the little black dress, 1991
This was a big deal for Deol, as she explains that growing up with Indian parents, beauty was not a priority in her household.
"In our culture, looks weren't emphasized. We were expected to be studying hard and getting good grades and get a good profession. But then as we got older, it seemed as if beauty started to play a big role in our culture," she says.
According to Deol, makeup is a powerful tool that gives people confidence.
"Makeup is empowering, it's feminine, it gives you a sense of self. The STELLAR* woman is a global citizen and whatever colour she is, she gets it," she says.
STELLAR* is now available at Sephora and products range from $26-$45.