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JoAnn's Journey

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JoAnn Fowler is the founder of Sappho New Paradigm Cosmetics

In the late 2000s, I was head makeup artist on The L Word. A year prior to this Jennifer Beals said “JoAnn you should start a makeup company” and my response was, “The world does not need another makeup company by a makeup artist”.

Cut to Mia Kirshner sitting in my chair announcing she would no longer be wearing any makeup containing parabens. My response (she is after all the actress) was "OK, I don’t know what you are talking about but I’ll do some research". Mia had been living in Paris so she knew a fair bit about cosmetic regulations and that conversation spurred me to investigate further.

Soon after, my friend Norma gave me a book called Just Not a Pretty Face and I read a sentence that would change my life … it something went like this:

In 1984 researches found more than 380 toxic chemicals in the blood, many linked to cancer, including parabens and phthalates (and even rocket fuel) and the test subjects being used were new born babies still in hospital. 

It was clear to me that the world needed another makeup line … I needed another makeup line. No longer could I go to work and put this crap on people without making them aware of the consequences. I needed an alternative to the toxic, chemically laden offerings out there. Bottom line, I did not want to be responsible for anyone getting cancer. I would offer clean makeup. If it was refused then at least I was clear on my stance (if you were a child – you got the good stuff no matter what).


Buying Green Beauty, no matter what company you buy from is a Feminist Action and here is why.

Parabens were discovered in 1918 and were used to treat women during menopause as they emitted low levels of oestrogen. They soon discovered that parabens made a great preservative, so they threw them wholeheartedly into all our personal care items. Now, cut to 100 years later, they are finding fully intact parabens in the middle of breast tumours, emitting oestrogen. Cancer loves oestrogen.

And then we have Phthalates.

Phthalates are petrochemicals that make plastic softer, they make fragrance last longer and they are the base for all synthetic fragrance. Anything you buy with fragrance or parfum (that is not specified as a natural source i.e. essential oils) is a phthalate.

Phthalates are endocrine disruptors. They mess with your hormones. Because of the presence of these endocrine disruptors, millions of baby boys are being born with their urethra at the bottom or middle of their penis, undescended testicles and markedly lower sperm counts – the last article I read, dated July 25, 2017, noted that sperm counts have plunged by 60% motility in the last 40 years.

And so here comes the second part of New Paradigm.

There is a misconception that business is just business. There is no room for emotion, no room for compassion … there is only room for profit. The construct of being able to try to ruin a person’s life and livelihood at your office and then happily go home and love your family, is basically bullshit. Who you are in business IS who you are as a person. Energy does not know what room you are sitting in. Intention does not know what room you are standing in.

When we disconnect from our humanity and call something “just business” it hurts everyone. We become devoid of all compassion. The construct of 'Just Business' is based in patriarch and ego. Screwing someone out of his or her business is seen to be something that gets a proverbial pat on the back. Ego fuels avarice – it fuels racism - it fuels misogyny – it fuels having to be right no matter what – it strips us of our humanity it breeds contempt.

I learned this the hard way.

In summer 2015, I thought I had met the people that were going to help make my dream of Sappho come true. They said all the things I wanted to hear but by Christmas of that year I had eczema up both of my arms, not enough funds to buy even $40.00 worth of groceries and my website was a complete and utter dogs’ breakfast. I trapped myself by not being fiscally responsible. I made myself vulnerable to predators. I disassociated for a couple of days and went through a very depressing Christmas. Then I started listening to Dr Wayne Dyer over and over again and learned about intention and meditation and started looking at my options. I was turning 60 and since both my parents passed in their 60s, I asked myself if I only had 5-6 years left, would I want to spend it in the company of this businessman … and my heart’s answer was no.

I sold my loft (the one I built myself … the home that I thought I would have forever) and went to small claims court, and for 2 years, 2 hours 1 day I prepared my case, answering up to four of his lawyers at any given moment. I jumped through every hoop they threw at me including eight years of bank statements proving purchases. I went from using a paragraph written emotionally about what he had done, to being able produce a 56-page rebuttal in proper legal form for the Supreme Court. I won a 39-page Judicial decision in the lower court which he ultimately tried to appeal - I won that as well.  I was able to accomplish this through mimicry, I paid attention to how the lawyers worded things, I sought out the legal forms to copy, I learned to cite other judgments  - each time they sent a letter threatening me, I changed his name to mine and sent it back.

This was the toughest part of my life. I threw myself into saving my company. I used a rented loft to store my goods. I worked there, I shipped from there, I repackaged and sold from there, and even though his bogus website was up for those two years selling my product at 30-70% off, I tripled my sales and I designed and produced a whole new line of 84 products that I am incredibly proud of.

I am truly grateful because through this journey, I learned to meditate, I learned to change my thinking, and my life’s philosophy became one of intention. I am not perfect, I am able to be reactionary in moments (sometimes hours) but my recuperation time and my intentional return to kindness gets shorter and shorter with practice. I also have the most amazing group of talented loving supportive friends whom I have learned to ask for help.

Who I am as a person is who I am in business. My business is an extension of my values, my principles, my entirety. I am responsible for my actions and my reactions. Life is about perception, and as I get older I see that no experience is inherently good or bad, they are all steps along the road of learning and becoming.

I attended mediation with my adversary and his lawyer with what turned out to be a naïve hope that we would work things out amicably. After the session ended, the arbitrator came to me and asked “Why did you sue this guy?”, and I said, “You just heard why for an hour.” He said to me, “Well, you are going to lose.”

If there was a moment that propelled me farther than I ever imagined it was that moment. I went home and stood in front of my big ass windows looking at the mountains, shaking with fear and crying uncontrollably through gasping sobs. With snot flying everywhere, I made my case to the universe.

NO matter what I think, NO matter what this arbitrator thinks, NO matter what you or anyone thinks, I am going to believe that this is the best possible thing to happen to me today. I am and will continue to be taken care of.

I said it over and over again until I owned it and last week my company was valued at 6 times what it had been and we became profitable without drama, without bullying and by offering good value for good money. Next week, I celebrate my final win in Supreme Court! This year has been amazing and my company is doing very, very well.

In my life there is no such thing as “just business” and when I buy green I am wilfully supporting the feminist agenda – that of saving the world despite patriarchy.

Tavia Cosper