Meet the 22-year-old who began her fast-growing cosmetic brand after being mocked in fourth grade

Dollita Okine January 04, 2024
Jassma'ray Johnson. Photo:

Jassma’ray Johnson, a 22-year-old Iowa State University graduate, is the CEO of Simply Sámone, a cosmetics brand.

Johnson suffers from the autoimmune disorder Graves’ disease, which causes her eyes to bulge out. It made Johnson the target of jokes when she was younger as she also had fuller lips and a big personality, according to the Des Moines Register.

Challenging her mother’s opinion that her daughter was too young to use lip gloss, she made her own in the fourth grade to become like Moesha, the teen character in the self-titled 1990s sitcom. Johnson began to like her lips, and by the time she was in high school, she was popular for her lip gloss.

She became the first of her family to attend college and while there, she rarely encountered anyone who looked like her. At the university, her classmates were carrying laptops and iPads, while she was carrying notebooks and pens. Imposter syndrome set in.

Johnson eventually started her business as an ISU student in 2020 as a means of fitting in. She told the Des Moines Register, “I just felt like the fourth-grade me again, and I wanted to feel seen, I wanted to feel heard.”

“I learned so much about myself while running a business, and I would definitely say this helped me love myself fully. That’s something that I didn’t know how to do before I started my business. I thought I did. But I really didn’t,” she expressed.

Last year, Johnson awarded a $1,000 college scholarship to a student at her alma mater, Des Moines East High School. Johnson, who herself benefited from college scholarships, said that she would never have founded her business if she hadn’t attended college.

She plans to introduce body oils and lip liners as her next major step for Simply Sámone. She would also like to sell foundation and eye makeup in the future. 

2024 will see the introduction of a Simply Sámone-branded package for orders placed with her business, replacing the plain shipping mailers she has been using up until this point, she said.

Johnson hopes to partner with a friend to open a store where women of color can buy beauty products. The beauty entrepreneur is also studying for a massage therapist license, which will help her develop skin care products for Simply Sámone.

Research by management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. says only 4% to 5% of all employees in the U.S. beauty industry are Black. Johnson is giving Black women a voice and a space by continuing to work through Simply Sámone.

“The things that I lacked in being a kid growing up is what I try to make sure that I provide for future generations,” Johnson disclosed.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: January 4, 2024


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