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Black-owned beauty brand in Pilsen has teamed up with superstars and superheroes

Black-owned beauty brand has teamed up with superstars and superheroes
Black-owned beauty brand has teamed up with superstars and superheroes 04:06

CHICAGO (CBS) -- As we celebrate Women's History Month, we want you to meet the force behind a Black-owned beauty brand based in Pilsen.

Rachel James is the CEO of Pear Nova, a luxury nail polish line celebrating all skin tones. This creative powerhouse has teamed up with everyone from superstars to superheroes.

James is making headlines while building Pear Nova, a luxury nail line for all skin tones, with products in all shades and colors.

"That's the beautiful thing about nail polish, because you have some that are muted, you have some that are bright and fun," she said.

But don't let the glitz and glam fool you. This beauty brand had some real humble beginnings.

"I started hand-mixing nail polish in my parents' basement," James said. "It was bad. There was one folding table, one folding chair."

But she still gave it a try, with no examples to follow. She couldn't find nail products made for darker skin tones, so she created them; starting a journey that would take her to the stars.

"During the pandemic, we got an email from Oprah's team," James said. "I thought it was a joke. I didn't believe; I'm like, 'Oprah, what? No she didn't.'"

Yes she did.

"We were included on Oprah's Favorite Things for 2020," James said.

And just a year later, James got another email she didn't think was real.

"It was from Marvel, and they mentioned that they were working on Black Panther 2, the movie; and wanted to know if we were interested in creating products for the movie," she said. "I'm looking at the women in the movie, I'm looking at their power, the garments, everything; the world of Wakanda."

With that fascination, and the help of famed Chicago nail artist Spifster, James created Wakanda-inspired press-on nails.

"I finally get to impress my kids, because they're not very impressed by nail polish," she said. "That partnership just felt so right. This is why I made Pear Nova."

And there's a lot to the name Pear Nova.

"Pear Nova was named after Nova Henry. She was a victim of domestic violence. I always call her my sister in love," James said.

Henry and her 10-month-old daughter, Ava, were shot to death in their South Loop home in 2009. The convicted killer was an attorney Henry had hired to represent her in a child support case against Ava's father, former Chicago Bull Eddy Curry.

"I always wanted to be like her. I wanted to dress like her. I just thought she was like the coolest, strongest woman I knew.

James took the pain of losing her friend and turned it into purpose, through community events at her nail salon in Pilsen.

"We have invited domestic violence survivors, or mothers of children who have passed due to domestic violence," James said. "It's not just about come get pampered, but also tell me your story, talk to me."

It's all part of James' vision for Pear Nova; reaching back as she builds a business now known around the world.

"I never imagined this," she said. "It's a blessing. It's all a blessing."

Pear Nova donates a portion of its proceeds from online sales to non-profits that help victims of domestic violence, and James said she hopes to expand workshops dedicated to Nova nationwide.

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