Welcome to Byrdie's new series, The Hustle. We're profiling diverse, interesting women and woman-aligned folks in the beauty and wellness industries who are usually behind-the-scenes. From the cosmetic chemists formulating your holy-grail serum to CFOs driving the biggest beauty companies forward, these women are the definition of career goals, and they're getting real about the journeys that led them to where they are—the highs, the lows, and everything in between.
Chanté Waters is the expert mind behind SheaMoisture's media strategy. The beauty executive arrived at the multicultural beauty brand with over a decade of media planning and marketing experience, having previously worked with companies like Samsung, Grey Goose, and Mondelez.
As SheaMoisture's Head of Media, Waters is tasked with directing the beauty brand's media strategy and performance. Since stepping into the role at the end of 2019, Waters has channeled her top-notch media savvy into conceptualizing strategic media partnerships that align with the beauty brand's core mission of over-serving those who are underserved. Ahead, Waters opens up about the biggest career risk she's taken, her day-to-day responsibilities, and her advice for those looking to break into media.
You went to college for marketing and HR management. Back then, what was your "dream job"?
I would have to say I was one of those rare people that decided in high school that I wanted to work in advertising. I think a lot of people stumble into it. But I would always pick apart different commercials. I would say, "I wish they cast this type of individual" or "The language should be a little bit different." And then I remember my mother was like, "That's somebody's job to make those decisions." So, I was part of a few professional organizations in my high school days. When I got to college, I focused on being a part of that B-school community. Marketing always made sense to me. And it's interesting because my parents are both strongly numbers-oriented. My mom was an accountant. And then I liked ideas. I like the fun side of business. So in college, I wanted to have a balanced understanding of how to work with people, which is why I wanted to pursue the HR side of my degree. Then, marketing was something I've weirdly been passionate about since I was a teenager.
What were some of the professional roles you held after college?
I would be remiss to say that one of the biggest resources and help I had during that time was the Diversity Scholars Program at the University of Colorado at Boulder. That community gave me kind of a home within the school. It also provided me a lot of access to resources. It also helped me unlock the internships that I had. The final internship that turned into a part-time role was working at a small agency out of Boulder, the Sterling-Rice Group. That's where I learned a little bit more about media as a discipline versus kind of the broader space of advertising.
I believe I had three different interviews. I had an interview for an account position at Wieden+Kennedy, a very prestigious agency. There was also a strategy consultant agency that is extremely well respected in the industry. Then, I had a friend that reached out and told me their sister works at an agency in New York, and I should meet with her. That meeting ended up being the position that I took at a full-service agency, Deutsch Inc. It was based on my gut feeling where I would be the most comfortable. In advertising, and I will say, particularly as a Black woman, finding those spaces where you're comfortable sometimes are far and few between. I've had to rely on my intuition and move into different spaces that I believed could not only support me as a Black woman but also help me flourish as a professional.
Have you ever taken any career risks?
I spent time at another agency before taking what I call my delayed gap year. So, as a bit of background, I've danced my entire life and was basically in the studio between five and six days a week all the way through high school. I had decided to stop dancing in college. Then, I started taking classes in New York City because dance has always been my safe space and one of the most important things in my life.
At the suggestion of a dance teacher, I began auditioning for small gigs that I could balance with my agency job. She recommended that I audition for professional sports dance teams because the audition experience and job itself are unlike most gigs in the industry. I went purely as an experiment to see how far I could get and ended up making the team for the Nets basketball team, who at the time was in New Jersey. That year I would travel to New Jersey, take client calls in the locker room at times, and then go out and perform. During the course of the season, I was also promoted, so when I approached my supervisor about auditioning for a second season, she was strongly against it. I ended up making one of the biggest and riskiest decisions of my life in quitting my job to dance.
That experience changed the trajectory of my career in many ways. First, it made me realize that you have to believe in yourself and never give in or give up on yourself and your dreams. You will learn something from every experience if you are open to it. Little things about the job translated into lessons for me in the professional space—how to prioritize your time, being able to perform from all sides, even if it's even putting on a lash and a lip now that I work in beauty! It also led me to a position when I returned to media, where I met one of my mentors and finally found a place where I was valued as a professional and a person. Everything happens on time for a reason.
It made me realize that you have to believe in yourself and never give in or give up on yourself and your dreams.
After my time dancing, which concluded with being a part of the inaugural season of the Brooklynettes Dance Team, I worked for a number of brands I really enjoyed. But, I knew I wanted to transition to the brand side where I could work for a brand with a purpose aligned with my values. Ultimately, I'm lucky to work at an organization that considers itself a mission with a business, which is rare for most marketing organizations.
What does your day-to-day look like as the head of media?
The majority of my time is focused on our largest brand—SheaMoisture. I'm in charge of ensuring we are reaching our consumers and introducing them to products that are purpose-built for their needs. And there's a lot that underpins that. My day can consist of meeting with media partners to discuss the performance of a campaign to meeting with our leadership team to develop our marketing strategy for the upcoming year.
What's the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding is that I get to work on a brand that I love, and that has been a part of my hair journey. It's also a brand that has always been a part of a very transformative moment in many women's lives since it's often the first brand you use on your hair journey. You have a very intimate relationship with your hair. So, working on a brand that I care about and is doing great work in the community is the best part of my job.
What's the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of my job is thinking about how we continue to push ourselves forward in a space where media is constantly changing. There are huge sweeping industry changes that are happening right now. All media professionals have the exciting role of trying to navigate how our brands continue to show up as the media landscape evolves.
Do you have advice for those who want to break into the media industry?
Right now is an amazing time to break into the media industry because everything is changing, and there are so many emerging trends that feel native to young professionals. I would say my first piece of advice is to stay curious about all things. In this industry, to create work that will actually get noticed, you have to think like a human and not just a marketer. You should constantly be asking yourself what's relevant in culture and for your consumer. My second piece of advice is to network and connect genuinely with others in the space. There are great resources like MAIP, and She Runs It where you can connect with individuals that you don't work with day-to-day and learn from them. My final piece of advice is to do the work - and that's honestly the hardest part. You have to do the work and learn—fail and learn. There's something to learn from every situation, even if it's 'I don't want to be in a situation like this again.
In this industry, to create work that will actually get noticed, you have to think like a human and not just a marketer.
Is there a specific initiative, campaign, or project you worked on that you're most proud of?
The one project that I worked on that I am most proud of was our "It Comes Naturally" campaign for SheaMoisture.The campaign was an uncompromised collaboration across our leadership and agency partners, composed of predominantly Black women and six Black female artists. The campaign was a visually stirring campaign that brought to life the artists' work through animation and is a celebration of Black beauty and resilience. Our leadership is predominantly Black women. Our agency partners really had that cultural consciousness, and again were largely composed of Black women that wanted to reflect the experience of who we are every day. Then, with the artists that we commissioned for the project itself, I was able to see how their approach to their craft can be animated and brought together to craft this beautiful story. I think that's one project that I will always remember.
What does beauty mean to you?
Beauty, for me, comes naturally after developing a strong sense of self-love and appreciation for who you are as an individual. Over time I've learned that taking care of myself internally is the foundation for feeling strong and beautiful externally. While I love how a good facial or silk press can change your day, it's in doing the work to make sure you're happy and healthy on the inside that will lead to true beauty.
Over time I've learned that taking care of myself internally is the foundation for feeling strong and beautiful externally.
What are your favorite beauty products of the moment?
My number one is the Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen & Restore Shampoo ($12) from SheaMoisture. I've gone through several different phases with my hair, whether it was transitioning my hair or trying to keep it strong and healthy. That product has always held me down and really helped my hair. I also love Pat McGrath's Sublime Perfection Setting Powder ($38). It's one of the few things that I can use as my go-to before I go out the door. One other product that I enjoy is Base Butter's Face Jelly ($21). We've worked with the brand as part of our Community Commerce program. It's a face jelly, but I also love to put it on my hands because it just really absorbs deep into your skin and is wonderfully moisturizing.