“I grew up in Detroit, and my family mostly worked in automotive plants or were school teachers. When I was growing up I wanted to be a lawyer, because I watched a lot of Matlock with my grandmother and thought lawyers just asked spiffy questions and made a lot of money. [Laughs] When I got to the University of Michigan I realized I was actually more interested in communications, art, media, econ, and film, and I ended up focusing on marketing as a career. So much of it was teaching people how not to sound like old losers on the internet. If you don’t get the nuances of how people communicate with each other on the internet, you sound really out of touch. For example, a lot of brands are confused why people are on Tiktok and not Facebook—I don’t want my grandma knowing my business, that’s why! You can hate on social media all you want, but it’s a money market. Obviously marketing is a large departure from law, but I think now I’ve translated that interest into advocacy.
I got into cannabis as a way to deal with Crohn’s disease. Western medicine wasn’t really helping, and actually, a lot of the medications were making it worse. They can cause your hair to fall out, your skin to break out, weight gain… a whole bunch of stuff that you don’t want. I decided to move to LA because I wanted a change of energy and access to more healthy things, and I’d also have better access to cannabis. But when I got out there, I was alarmed by how few Black people were in the cannabis space. In New York I was always surrounded by cool people of all different races who consumed cannabis. But in LA, cannabis was a fucking tea party. I’d be one of five Black people at a giant festival. There were a lot of microaggressions, and people asking me why I was there—Black and brown people did not have opportunities to even exist in the cannabis space, and that made me feel very othered. I don’t know how to explain it other than to say it’s just not fun.
That’s sort of how Cannaclusive came together. One of the first things we did was a big photo project. There’s a lack of authentic representation of Black and brown people through every industry—like, there are so few Black and brown people in C-suites—but racism in cannabis is rampant. We were really interested in showing Black adults consuming without looking like a stereotype, so we created stock photography that’s available for free use on social media. If a brand wants to pay for a photoshoot, we do that too. We started another project called The Accountability List, which was in response to the black squares that brands started tossing up in June. So many brands posted that black square, but have no black people in their companies, no multicultural marketing, no focus on anything that might show they actually care about Black and brown people. This is our way of holding the industry accountable until we see actual change.
Black and brown people did not have opportunities to even exist in the cannabis space, and that made me feel very othered.
Out of that, we created Cannabis for Black Lives, which is a coalition of businesses that are trying to drive focus to equity in cannabis. Asking for equity means going through policy makers and then waiting on the government to make space in a super small industry. For example, a state might say they’re going to make sure that seven licenses go to Black and brown people, which is great, except they already have 40 licenses owned by white people, mostly white men. Then let’s consider the fact that mostly Black and brown people are in jail for cannabis, and even when you expunge those records, if one of those people then wants to get a job in the cannabis space they can’t get in. It takes millions of dollars to start a dispensary—that’s a lot of money. But there’s so much opportunity if you can get in, because cannabis sales have been up over 40-percent since the beginning of COVID. It's a weird thing to consider. So right now we’re talking about begging for scraps at the table, not equity. The littlest percent of ownership doesn’t make up for racism galore.
I don’t know why we started pretending that the Korean scrub towel is a new thing. I saw one on Instagram they were calling ‘The Mitt,’ and it was written in that heavy Helvetica people use when they want to seem like they’re not appropriating. Anyway, I’m a big believer in Korean scrub towels or gloves—the ones that clean your body until it squeaks. A squeaky body is a clean body. I like to use basic soaps, like Dr. Bronner’s or Molton Brown. I also have a really amazing CBD soap from Hollingsworth Hemp. Topical CBD can work, but it’s a matter of making sure you’re using the right stuff. When I’m finished I hit the towel once, and then put on liquid shea nut oil from Life Flo and vitamin E oil from Jason on the parts that get the most dry. After that I literally run around my house naked, air drying my body.
Out of the shower, I do my skin routine. Making sure my skin looks great sometimes feels like the only thing I can somewhat control. I use the Dermalogica powder scrub, which is good for daily use, and then I use a rose water toner from Mario Badescu. Depending on what I’m about to get into, I have a couple different oils I choose from. If I’m just going to be at home, on Zoom calls, and annoyed, I put on Outer Space by Tonic. That’s a face oil with rosehip and CBD—it’s super amazing. The other CBD face oil I like is the one from Kiskanu. The founder, Gretchen, is a white lady, but I fuck with her because she realizes that her whiteness can be used to help others. She’s a great advocate for Black and brown folks. If I’m going to do my makeup, I use the Tata Harper priming oil. It feels like silk on my face.
Making sure my skin looks great sometimes feels like the only thing I can somewhat control.
Now, this is where it gets bougie. During the day I bronzer it up, and if I’m going somewhere special, golden highlights are my thing. My undertones are a little complex—I have some red tones and some cool tones, so whenever I go into Sephora they can’t figure me out. That’s when we get into a conversation about how they’re doing it the wrong way, and it goes downhill. The point is, I know my face. I usually have to mix two different types of foundation, or use bronzer to bring out the red again. Or sometimes, I use concealer to hide the parts that are cool, so I can be more uniform with the foundation. If I’m going on a date, I use the MAC Studio Fix Conceal and Correct Palette in Deep and By Terry liquid foundation in Intense Mocha. I powder it down with Bareminerals powder in Golden Dark, and then I use a bronzey Becca highlighter in Topaz on my cheeks and on the tip of my nose. That really makes your nose look more symmetrical, and makes it pop without you looking like Rudolph the red nosed, glitterati reindeer.
For my brows I use Benefit products. If I have a minute I like to use Precisely My Brow and Gimme Brow. Those have been the best ones for me. I used to use Brow Zings, but I never have time for that one. The one I end up using the most is Ka-Brow, which is an eyebrow cream gel. You can modify how heavy you want it to be, from a light brow to an intense brow, and it looks really good across the board. I only do heavy eyes for nighttime. My eyeliner of choice is from L'Oréal, the liquid one with the gold top. I can’t use pencil eyeliner. When I use pencil eyeliner, it looks like I'm a five-year-old trying to draw their family. Then I'll use mascara real quick, usually the Extreme Dimension 3D Black from MAC, and some type of lip. I have a clear Lip Bar product I use if I don’t want to use a color, and otherwise I do a strong red. I always have Bawse Lady in my bag, which is a liquid matte. Lip Bar’s founder, Melissa [Butler], is from my city. I love her immensely. When I do a strong red lip I also draw on a fake beauty mark with eyeliner—I put it on my right side between my nose and my lips. I just love doing that. Sometimes people are like, ‘Wait, have you always had that?’ Which lets me know they’re an idiot and that they don’t look at my face. [Laughs] It’s kind of a litmus test.
When I use a pencil eyeliner, it looks like I'm a five-year-old trying to draw their family.
Barneys obviously went out of business, but that’s where I used to buy a lot of my fragrance. I’m really ashamed to say that I used to love Gucci Guilty—now I’m a Maison Margiela fan, and I use a lot of the Replicas. Lazy Sunday Morning smells very nighttime and soothing. I use Jazz Club at night, and if I’m really trying to stand out and snag a boo I use Lipstick On. It just feels a bit sexier. Some people say it smells a little waxy, but to me it smells unique, and pleasant. I am the biggest fan of smelling unique and pleasant. I also like to spray Chanel Coco Mademoiselle on my lady bits if I’m going out.
My hairstyle is really dependent upon the pandemic. If the situation is going to get worse, I don’t want a hairstyle that I can’t maneuver with. For most of it I had faux locs, but I really wanted to go back to having my hair out and straightened and luscious. I definitely wore wigs if I felt like I couldn’t do my hair. Hair by Rae is an amazing hairstylist—I usually go to her, but she can also come to you.
I don’t take a lot of the crazy medicines for my Crohn’s anymore, but I am trying really hard to take care of my hair, because you never know. Nutrafol is my shit. I got it for free and at first I didn’t believe it would work, but it’s legit—it’s thickening up the sides and crown of my head, which has some stress breakage. I grease my scalp actively with Wild Growth Hair Oil, which has been part of my scalp oiling routine since I was eight years old. The formula has changed unfortunately, but I still use it three or four times a week. I also do an apple cider vinegar rinse every Sunday. I make it from scratch—just water, and enough apple cider vinegar to get the dirt but not too much, because your hair will smell horrible. With faux locs, dry shampoo is clutch. I use the two from Ouai. Their Super Dry Shampoo spray is for when I want a refresh because I know a guy will be sniffing my hair and I want it to smell good. And the foam is if I rode my bike for 70 miles. To shampoo my hair, I mix some diluted Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint with a little witch hazel, lavender, and ylang ylang. I use the conditioner from Ouai, and then I condition my scalp with Grounded from Tonic, which is CBD oil. Hemp seed oil is full of vitamin E and fatty acids, and it’s also good for increasing blood circulation. That’s a great weapon against hair loss.
I don’t think anyone should let themselves go because the world is on fire—the world is going to be on fire regardless. Just because it’s a pandemic doesn’t mean I want to look like shit. Not feeling like you’re attractive sucks! I mean, there’s only so much mental abuse you can take. I didn't want to suffer, so I used this time to get really into working out. I was always into fitness, but it became a way for me not to stress. I do a lot of weight training, cardio, kettlebell… I have a kettlebell class tonight, actually. Like I mentioned, I was doing a lot of bike riding when it was appropriate, and I love going camping and hiking. Being active is my way of releasing things. But therapy is also clutch. You can’t just think that one little boxing class is going to absolve you of all your stress.”
—as told to ITG
Mary Pryor photographed by Alexandra Genova in New York on January 19, 2021