Idris and Sabrina Elba on Launching a Beauty Line With ‘Coupledom‘ at Its Heart
Idris: It’s the basic essentials. For me, I work long days, long hours. I’m not unfamiliar with skin routines because in film and television every day I have makeup on. But for me, in my everyday life, it needs to be nice and simple, and it needs to be effective. I want my face to feel clean. I need a moisturizer that doesn’t look ashy at 12 o’clock in the afternoon. I didn’t realize after-shave has lots of fragrances, [which is] probably bad for your skin. It’s been marketed to us that you put Old Spice on and you’re good to go. But actually—especially for Black skin, melanated skin—that can be very problematic for your [razor] bump. So having something that is a little more gentle and works, I feel very liberated understanding that a little bit more now.
Sabrina: We’re looking at traceable ingredients, which was so important to us. To know that the shea butter market isn’t being damaged because we’re putting it in our [products]. Qasil, which is in the cleanser, is an ingredient that Somali women have used forever. To us, we see opportunity in [creating a line] that speaks to us as human beings and as Black women, Black men. That’s what we want to be a part of.
Africa isn’t typically seen as this beauty powerhouse, and I’ve never really understood why. How do you hope the launch shifts the narrative?
Sabrina: It’s true because you grow up seeing K-beauty and the very Western idea of beauty. Then that leads, unfortunately, to a misuse and abuse of products that come out of Africa because maybe they’re not seen as powerful, impactful. You see shea butter in bargain bins. And I’m like, these are ingredients that have been sustaining women for a very long time, who, by the way, have great skin, and there’s a reason for that.
It just makes me so excited to highlight ingredients, which really is the focus of our brand. We kind of started backwards when we were developing the skin care, like, “What do we want to use?” I love baobab. I have memories of sitting under a baobab tree with my mom, and her going, “It’s good for everything.” I just want to share that with the world and reframe that conversation because we all recognize that these ingredients are so powerful and don’t get enough shine. And so much of us is in this product. We’re both headed towards a vegan path, and it was important to it to be vegan, gluten-free, non-comedogenic, and natural. Not because we just wanted to be a part of all those buzzwords, but genuinely.
You both are really private people. How does it feel to be a bit more vulnerable with these endeavors?
Idris: Listen, I’m very fortunate to be alive, period. And I’m in a position where my talent that’s been given to me affects lives. I can’t do it from a veiled place. I need to be a lot more open. Before, my wife and I [kept our] business and philanthropic work under the radar. I just didn’t need it to be outward-facing. I grew up in a West African culture, and I’m just kind of like, “Less is more—don’t let everybody see your business.”