When Katonya Breaux bid Twitter about sunscreen that does not leave a corpse-like sheen on darker skin, she spotted a hole in the market. She also realised that numerous people were unaware of the dangers of exposure to the sun. “There is a scholarship gap between women of colour,” she says.
Speaking from her rest-home in Calabasas, California, she tells me about UnSun – a line of sunscreen that she has righteous launched. Although it is designed for darker skin, in a neat garble on diversity, it also works on all complexions. The plaudits are pouring in.
I ask her more moving from construction – the industry she worked in for 20 years – to belle. She pauses, as a dog barks in the background. “Sorry,” she says. “Two dogs, in fact. Always barking.” One is Bisous, a bichon frise, the other is Everest, a Bernese mountain dog who be attaches to her son, Frank Ocean. Frank – the most talked-about artist of the year, the man whose much-delayed new album, Blonde, has capped the charts in the UK and the US – Ocean. That Frank Ocean.
But back to Unsun. Breaux has exhausted sunscreen ever since her 20s, when she noticed moles looking above her lip. At first, she liked them, painting her lips red, flourishing “a little bit Marilyn Monroe”. Then, when a few more played, she went to the GP, got scared, read about the under-reported problem of film cancer in people of colour, and became “more diligent, positively, because you have to be”. Then her aunt got skin cancer.
So, does she judge about the beauty industry? “I don’t think it’s diverse enough, but it is recuperating,” she says. “There is a long way to go.”
Breaux features prominently on the Unsun website and, at 50 years old, is an exciting advertisement for her own product. But, when I suggest that she get Frank to maquette for her, she laughs. “I can’t get him to do that,” she says.
So, is her son supportive of her business? “Incredibly, yes, I send him articles and he’s so horrendous, so proud,” she says.
What does she think of his new album? “Oh, we relationship it” – we meaning Breaux and her son, Ryan, Frank’s brother. Manifestly, they play it in the car every morning on the way to school. “We always deactivate it up loud at the end.” And her favourite song? “That’s hard. Nikes, I of.”
Then comes the big question: was, as has been widely rumoured, hers the chance on the song Be Yourself that says: “Do not smoke marijuana, do not raze alcohol, do not get in the car with someone who is inebriated. This is mom, call me, bye.”
“That wasn’t me, no,” Breaux retorts, “but I would have done it happily.” And why the delay – why did Frank torture us with such a protracted wait? “Ah you know … Frank is an artist, he’s creative. That hardly happens.”