BET.com’s THE GLAM GAP is a weekly video series spotlighting Black entrepreneurs, executives and influencers in the beauty, fashion and lifestyle space.
When thinking of women, particularly Black women, in the style journalism space, Maya Allen should be at the top of the list. The beauty director at InStyle Magazine has climbed the beauty corporate ladder in record time, serving as an inspiration for others yearning to follow in her footsteps, and for those eager to see themselves represented in an industry that has long ignored them. Allen has worked diligently to change images and perceptions, and her impact is being felt far and wide. BET Digital spoke exclusively to Allen about how she juggles it all, and what she hopes to see in the future for the industry she loves so much.
Allen herself is filling the voids she grew up seeing. “For so long, I really yearned for representation in media,” she says. “I yearned due to a lack of Black women being celebrated and given credit for what we deserve. I think that that's really what pushes me. I'm so inspired by the way we're [black women] able to really push forward in this world despite the cards we’ve been dealt.” That being said, it’s Black women that Allen thinks of first in her work. “Black women do not deserve to be an afterthought,” she says. “We’re the ones who created these trends that everyone loves, we are the blueprint for it all. Because of that, the way that I love to talk about beauty is to use it as a way to convey confidence, to shed light on the diversity of us, to really make us feel good, powerful and celebrated.”
However, Allen recognizes that her work alone isn’t enough. “There's not enough of us in the beauty and fashion industry,” she says. “A lot of us are pigeon holed into these low-level positions for way too long. But yet, we’re the ones with these million-dollar ideas, [while] stuck in these stagnant positions that feel like less than what we deserve.” That’s why Allen makes it a point to constantly highlight Black brands and Black creatives. “I love supporting thoughtful small, sustainable brands because the care that goes into all of those products is so meaningful to me,” she says. “I think what the beauty industry really needs is diversity on the front and back end. We need Black women in C-suite positions making the decisions, we need Black chemists in the labs formulating our products because we are not one-shade-fits-all, we’re needed everywhere.”
With juggling her high-profile career, Allen makes it a point to carve out time for herself. “I'm so thankful for my professional life,” she says. “And I'm so thankful for my job. It's just so amazing because it comes so naturally to me, and I don't feel like I have to be a different person when I go to work or when I interview these fancy people and celebrities, I'm just Maya.” And while she finds pride in being authentic through her work, she doesn’t mix her personal and professional. “I think there's power in having boundaries,” she says. “Boundaries are my best friend, and I think when you compartmentalize things in your life and learn to practice healthy boundaries you’ll truly be able to become more successful. For me, I've never felt like my job title defines me. You have to have boundaries because if not, you're just going to get lost in all of it.”
It’s a lesson Allen is all-too familiar with. “There's so much serenity and power in stillness,” Allen says. “I think we live in a world that glorifies overworking and glorifies the hustle. And yes, there's something to be said about hustling and overworking yourself. Like yes, you will get to where you may want to be, but burnout is real.” Allen knows that feeling well. ”For so many years, I dealt with chronic burnout,” she says. “And I think it's from me pushing myself every single day, but it's also from a lot of external constraints in what comes with being in an industry that's constantly on go-mode. And granted, it's really important to work hard and to stay on it, but it's also important to fill your own cup first.”
Follow Maya Allen on Instagram @mayaalenaa.