Candace Reels is an LA-based activist and the founder of Female Collective, an apparel brand and online community that celebrates and uplifts all women. Here, she shares surprising lipstick advice, her trick for at-home manicures and what you can do right now to make a difference…
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in beautiful, sunny Los Angeles! As a kid, L.A. felt like it was all about beauty — how you look and who you know. It was a lot to take in. I was exposed to the film and TV industries, and saw many white women being promoted for their roles or appearing on the covers of magazines. Luckily, my amazing parents would always tell me I mattered as much as everyone else in the room. Nowadays, they’ve also allowed me to live at home while chasing my dreams and building my baby, Female Collective. Because of this, I’ve been able to focus on what I need to get done. I’ll finally be moving out this week!
How would you describe intersectional feminism, and why is it so important?
It means creating equality not just between men and women, but also breaking it down by class, by race, across all lines. As a black woman, I can’t separate being black and being a woman, so I need to talk about racism within feminism. We have to make sure we fight for all — black women, brown women, Muslim women, native women, trans women… The world is full of people who are suffering in so many ways, and we need equality for everyone.
Let’s talk about Black Lives Matter. Why is it imperative that everyone gets involved?
Naomi Wadler, the 11-year-old girl who spoke at the D.C. March For Our Lives, inspired me when she said, ‘I’m here for the young black girls and to speak for them.’ There are white kids who are afraid of being shot at school, and of course that is something we should care about. But there are black kids who are afraid of being shot anywhere — in their homes, on the street, anywhere. Just like with feminism, you have to break these issues down across race and class. We don’t typically feel as affected by issues until they happen to us, but we need to have empathy for what other people are going through, even if it’s not our own experience. Let’s make this a bigger conversation.
Do you wear makeup? What products are part of your “everyday face”?
I used to wear lots of makeup because I would find something on my face to be annoyed with. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more confident in owning my so-called flaws. I’ve used the same L’Oreal True Match foundation for years; I found my color (classic tan) and have refused to change it up. After that, I’ll use Tarte blush in Peaceful, a peachy color, and for highlighter I like Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Champagne Pop. To make my eyes look bigger, I use this lash primer before two coats of Urban Decay Perversion mascara.
How do you switch it up for special occasions (or whenever you’re feeling dramatic)?
When I’m feeling a bit extra, I’ll put on a bold lip. I love mixing red and pink lipsticks together to create a beautiful rich color that pops! My favorites are ColourPop liquid lipstick in More Better and Bad Habit.
What’s your skincare routine?
My daily cleanser is Pacifica Kale Detox deep cleaning face wash, which is perfect for oily skin. After that, I use Thayer’s witch hazel rose petal toner. It calms down all the oil but doesn’t dry me out. I put it on both day and night. I follow that with Heritage rosewater and glycerin spray, which makes my skin feel refreshed and smells amazing. For moisturizer, I use Andalou Naturals 1000 Roses Daily Shade with SPF 18. Clearly, I’m obsessed with anything and everything rose.
What advice would you give to someone who is struggling with self-love?
It sounds corny, but when I wake up every morning, I read a list of affirmations. I say that I love myself and that I can get anything done. Especially in this age of social media, it’s important to remind yourself that you are enough. Sometimes, I’ll blast music to release tension. One of my favorite songs is ‘I Say a Little Prayer’ by Aretha Franklin; I also love Motown and anything by Rihanna. Just a quick, five-minute dance will do it.
Do you do your own nails?
Yes, I love doing pedicures and manicures. It feels relaxing and meditative. This is really random, but I rest my hand on a shoebox while I’m painting. My hand is stable, and the polish goes on more easily. I like Revlon’s ColorStay Gel Envy — it doesn’t chip right away like other polishes.
Do you have a signature piece?
At this point, I honestly feel weird leaving the house without a hat! I could be going on a date, to a meeting, brunch with friends, it doesn’t matter. Hats help me stand out in a crowd. Lately I’ve been wearing a lot of Brixton.
Any other style tips you’re willing to share?
For sunglasses, I like a brand called Crap Eyewear, based in L.A. They have amazing vintage-looking frames that are pretty affordable. When it comes to clothes, I also like mixing menswear with womenswear. That way, I know no one else will have my outfit on!
What’s the story behind Female Collective?
After graduating college, I wanted to be a fashion buyer, but after a couple different jobs I realized it wasn’t the career for me. I was 26, and I felt lost and was struggling with self-love, so I started an Instagram account to help encourage myself. I would post quotes, photos of women I looked up to, and memes that made me laugh. I didn’t tell anyone about it, but it started gaining traction. Next thing you know, I turned it into a clothing brand and online community that’s about celebrating, uplifting and supporting all women. It’s been quite a journey, and I’m loving every minute. One of my all-time favorite posts is a photo I took at the Women’s March in 2017. It’s a photo of a bunch of men holding a big sign saying, ‘Men Of Quality Respect Women’s Equality.’ It’s a very special one to me, because I’m always talking about how men need to join the fight.
What’s your process behind creating the Female Collective T-shirts?
The lines usually just come to me when I get inspired about a subject. My top three are: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun-Ding For Planned Parenthood (50% of the proceeds go to Planned Parenthood), Queen RBG (featuring an image I drew of Ruth Bader Ginsberg), and The Rise of the Woman = The Rise of the Nation (I truly believe this).
What are a few actionable ways for women to help make a difference?
I always tell people to choose a cause they’re passionate about, whether that’s women’s rights, LGBTQ issues, the environment, gun control, Black Lives Matter… From there, learn about who’s already fighting for these issues in your community. They’ll help you figure out how you can get involved. You can also start following Instagram accounts of people and organizations involved in social justice, as they’ll share specific ways for you to help. Most of all, the best thing you can do is truly listen to the marginalized people affected by these issues.
Do you have a routine for winding down at night?
I will check social media, although I know that’s the opposite of what you’re supposed to do! Then I read a couple chapters of a book. I’m currently reading Freedom Is A Constant Struggle by Angela Davis, who is one of my biggest inspirations.
As a proponent of self-love, how do you navigate the often confusing world of beauty?
I love beauty products and fashion, and I try to support businesses that feel empowering. If a brand wasn’t feminist before, but is trying to capitalize on a feminism ‘trend,’ I avoid it. I love how Fenty Beauty came out with so many shades. Rihanna is creating a brand for ALL women. Beauty standards are something I hope we’re growing out of; there isn’t just one standard. All kinds of people — of different shapes and sizes — are beautiful.
Thank you so much, Candace! We love you.
(Photos courtesy of Candace Reels/Female Collective.)