How the Indigenous-owned Ah-Shí Beauty is Giving the Cosmetic Industry a Makeover
Luxury beauty is usually associated with brands like GUCCI, Prada, Burberry, Louis VUitton—all European-owned businesses whose products are synonymous with opulence, exclusivity, and, often, whiteness.
Houston resident Ahsaki LaFrance-Chachere is here to change that narrative with her own.
LaFrance-Chachere, who is half Indigenous and half Black, grew up on the Navajo Nation reservation in northeastern Arizona. She is now the CEO/founder of Ah-Shí Beauty (which translates to “this is my beauty”), the first Native American owned-and-operated luxury skincare and cosmetics brand in the country.
Ah-Shí Beauty sells 98-percent botanical-based cleansers and moisturizers and foundations for all kinds of skin tones (“We specialize in Indigenous pigment and all the shades in between,” says LaFrance-Chachere.), as well as lip and eye products that she hopes people can use to enhance their beauty and true selves.
“When you look at yourself in the mirror, you don’t see the brand, you see yourself,” LaFrance-Chachere says. “I don’t want [my customers] to see me, I want them to see their true selves.”
LaFrance-Chachere’s culture and background reside in almost every part of her brand and mission, and she wants to share her definition of beauty and luxury with as many people as she can.
“Two strong, strong cultures made me who I am,” LaFrance-Chachere says. “My whole goal is to continue to balance both my cultures and keep them alive through the business I’m building.”
Growing up she lived in a hogan, which is a traditional, one-roomed, eight-sided Navajo dwelling. It had a dirt floor, an open fireplace, and had neither running water nor electricity. She learned how to cook on a wood-burning stove, chopped her own wood, harvested her own vegetables, and helped raise her family’s cattle so they could get fresh meat regularly.
Her interest in beauty came from her mother, who built her makeup kit with the likes of Chanel, Dior, and Laura Mercier. LaFrance-Chachere felt drawn to the air of luxury around these brands and took it upon herself to redefine that European-dominated concept and associate it with her own culture.
“As Indigenous people, we are luxury, too—we just have different terms of what that is,” LaFrance-Chachere says. “Our beadwork, our turquoise, our sterling silver, our paintings, our baskets ... that’s all luxury.
She hopes that with Ah-Shí Beauty making its way into the market and with her finally having a seat at the table in the beauty industry, people like herself can have a brand they can authentically relate to.
LaFrance-Chachere’s husband, Dennis Chachere, who has been involved with Ah-Shí Beauty since its beginnings, speaks proudly of his wife’s achievements and dedication to her work.
“This whole process has been incredible, especially thinking back to how small we were when we started,” Chachere says. “[LaFrance-Chachere] has been working nonstop; she’s a true entrepreneur, a true hustler. Anybody calls, she answers the phone; anytime someone messages her, she’s messaging right back no matter if it’s two or three in the morning. She’s really about making this brand the best that she can.”
LaFrance-Chachere’s two storefronts in Arizona and New Mexico closed because of Covid-19. After moving to Houston with her husband in 2013, she opened an office here and plans to start another storefront sometime next year to continue her mission in Houston.
“Ah-Shí Beauty is more than just beauty products, it’s a movement to help inspire, empower, and create opportunities for my people,” LaFrance-Chachere says. “I’m creating this brand for my people more than anything.”
To learn more about the Navajo Nation, visit their website.