DALLAS — As perfume and cologne bottles fly off the shelves every holiday season, there are some within the fragrance industry who’d like to see more inclusivity and diversity in the business.
Some people whistle while they work, but Chavalia Dunlap-Mwamba chooses to sing. She is a graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington with a degree in music and stands behind an organ — a perfume organ, nonetheless.
“I am the perfumer and nose for Pink MahogHany fragrances,” says Dunlap-Mwamba.
It’s a business she built herself after realizing how much she loves a good scent. Every scent included in her perfume line is her invention. It wasn’t until she pursued a career in fragrance that she realized how closely related music and perfume can be.
“There is a word called an 'accord' and in music you have 'chords',” she explained.
Similarities aren’t the only thing Dunlap-Mwamba is picking up on, and she notices the differences too. When Dunlap-Mwamba goes to networking events or seminars for people following the fragrance industry, she says she is usually the only Black person in those rooms.
"I'm an African American female [and] self-taught perfumer from the South. That's already niche on niche on niche," Dunlap-Mwamba said with a smile.
The lack of diversity in the industry makes Dunlap-Mwamba scratch her head as she says it doesn’t make sense. African Americans are known to spend the most money on perfume and other smell-good products, according to Neilsen data.
"Everyone within the industry knows this is something they want to change," says Linda Levy, the president of the Fragrance Foundation.
Levy's mission is to diversify the industry by recruiting people in places perfume companies may not look.
"It's about every color. It's about LGBTQIA+," Levy explained.
Other times, it's not hiring that's an issue.
"It's also about celebrating them when they're there," Levy stated.
Dunlap-Mwamba believes diversity elevates customer care.
"African Americans suffer from eczema. There are certain places where you are encouraged not to spray fragrances," Dunlap-Mwamba said.
While a great scent can turn heads, she wants to turn the industry into an inclusive one.