Markette Sheppard Had Fibroids. Now She’s Started A Company To Help Other Women Avoid Them
WORDS: JACQUELINE LARA
A serious health scare made this entrepreneur want to change what she and other women were putting into and on their bodies.
Every woman wants to look good, especially in an age when people feel pressure to alter their looks to achieve beauty. (Exhibits A & B: Azealia Banks and Lil’ Kim)
Great Day Washington co-host Markette Sheppard wants to help women embrace their natural beauty through her one-stop natural cosmetics and personal care company Messenger Beauty. Messenger Beauty carries everything from all-natural face cleansers, lipsticks, and mascara to cruelty-free makeup brushes, natural foot scrubs, and hair removers. All the products are organic, vegan, cruelty-free, and made from natural ingredients.
Sheppard is no stranger to a makeup chair: She claimed the crown as Mrs. D.C. in 2008. And in 2012, as an aspiring TV personality, she was a top five finalist in the national Live with Kelly co-host competition—she was the youngest and the only woman and person of color left standing.
Becoming A Messenger Of Organic Beauty’s Benefits
Though Sheppard has become the face of a vegan makeup line, she wasn’t always strict about her makeup and personal care products. Everything changed when she was in her early 20s, and forced to re-examine her diet and the products she used in her home and put on her body.
“One morning I woke up and I felt all of these hard lumps in my abdomen,” she says. “It felt like a miniature mountain range of cysts.”
Sheppard immediately scheduled a doctor’s appointment and was told it was severe constipation. But after seeking second and third opinions, an ultrasound revealed that she had 13 benign tumors growing inside her uterus called fibroids.
Doctors told her that fibroid tumors are common—about 1 in 5 women get them during their childbearing years. They're especially prevalent in African-American women, who are three times more likely to have fibroids than their white counterparts, according to The U.S. Office of Women’s Health.
After seeking counsel from a nutritionist, Sheppard cleaned up her diet by eating organic meats and growing vegetables in her backyard. She also switched to organic household cleaners and personal care products, but knew she could do more.
“What made my case rare was that I was under the age of 30, and some of my fibroids were the size of a lemon,” added Sheppard.
At the time, Sheppard had a family friend who had fibroids she didn’t know about while she was pregnant with twins. The fibroids were competing with the babies for blood supply. She ended up losing one of the babies; her surviving son was born with kidney problems.
“This was the final wake-up call for me to do something about my fibroids, and I had a myomectomy in 2011,” says Sheppard.
It took about a year after the surgery for Sheppard to feel normal again, and she went on to have a healthy baby boy in late 2013. After late-night feedings when all was quiet, Sheppard would research and educate herself about the harmful effects of toxic chemicals like parabens, endocrine disruptors, and phthalates that are commonly found in our cosmetics.
According to SafeCosmetics.org, a number of striking studies have shown that many of the chemicals found in cosmetics are absorbed by the skin into the body, and can cause organ-system toxicity, developmental and reproductive toxicity, and cancer. The length of time chemicals remain in the body varies from chemical to chemical and ranges from hours to decades. (A recent CNN report found that hormone-disrupting chemicals found in makeup can lead to endometriosis and fibroids.)
Without hesitation, Sheppard made the switch to all-natural cosmetics, but was frustrated by having to order products from multiple stores and sites. By this time, she had been living a green lifestyle for four years since her fibroid diagnosis, and knew there had to be a better way. As a stay-at-home mom for a year, Sheppard was inspired to add founder to her title. In late 2014, Sheppard established Messenger Beauty, and February 2015 marked its official launch as a one-stop retailer for women to order natural beauty products online.
“Building Something That’s Mine”
As luck would have it, shortly after Messenger Beauty’s launch, Sheppard was hand-selected to co-host Great Day Washington in the District. It was an offer she couldn’t refuse. But as she stepped into her new role as co-host, she was also determined to keep Messenger Beauty alive. As a one-woman operation, Sheppard primarily sells Messenger Beauty products online and at weekend tradeshows.
“TV hosting contracts don’t last forever, so it’s important to build something that’s mine,” says Sheppard.
Having a full-time job and a side hustle isn’t easy, especially with hours like Sheppard’s. Rising every day at 5 a.m., Sheppard arrives at the station by 7, and is ready for the live show at 9. She always applies her own Messenger Beauty makeup, and occasionally shoots makeup tip videos, meets with producers and guests before the show, and runs her lines. When the show ends at 10, Sheppard attends a post-show meeting, pre-interviews guests, and works on segments for future shows. After an action-packed day, Sheppard typically leaves the station by 3 p.m. Sometimes Sheppard attends or hosts evening work-related events, and cherishes the opportunity to tuck-in and kiss her son goodnight before heading out.
“As a mother, prioritizing is key,” Sheppard explains. “My husband, my son, and my job are my priorities. I’m lucky that my job understands my balancing act—when I’m off, I’m truly off.”
Living a green lifestyle comes naturally to Sheppard, and presents itself in all aspects of her life, work, home, and everything in between. Along with furthering her company, Sheppard has her eyes on developing a crowdfunding campaign for a TV show that discusses different issues in the world of natural beauty.
“I’ve learned to look every challenge in the face and aim for success,” Sheppard says. “If I educate someone on the benefits of natural beauty products, I’ve done my job as a global citizen to use less chemicals and not hurt animals.”
Jacqueline Lara lives in Silver Spring, Maryland with her husband and two young sons. As a PR consultant, she develops messaging and conducts media relations for nonprofits, artists, and entrepreneurs. Lara also explores creative processes and blogs about the intersection of art and business.