Paris McKenzie has the drive and ambition to succeed, that much is clear.

Just last month, the 16-year-old became the youngest beauty supply store owner in Brooklyn and she went viral online after posting a photo of herself in front of her new business Paris Beauty Supplyz.

 Paris McKenzie. Photo: Supplied.

“I’ve been getting a lot of support since posting online, so business has been good,” McKenzie said, adding she had already had a flurry of customers each day since opening.

Beauty has always been a part of McKenzie’s life. She grew up watching her mother, a Jamaican immigrant, work in her salon and boutique (her mother owns both Paris Runway Boutique and Paris Hair Studio across the street from Paris Beauty Supplyz).

Since she was young, McKenzie has refined her own skills in beauty, spending two years doing hair and nails at her mother’s salon. “Watching my mom taught me how to market certain products and how to know what a person wants right when they walk in,” she said.

When the previous owners of a nearby beauty supply store were looking to sell, McKenzie, with her mom’s help, jumped on the opportunity and used the money she had been saving to lease the space.

But it was never her goal to own a store, instead she said her passion lied in medicine. 

McKenzie is currently a senior at the High School For Health Professions and Human Services and has aspirations to have a career in medicine as an orthopedic pediatric surgeon.

“Owning a salon wasn’t really in my life plans. I jumped on this opportunity because I felt it could inspire people,” McKenzie said. “I always said I didn’t want to work in beauty like my mom, but it’s something that I was raised with.”

Paris Beauty Supplyz. Photo: Supplied.

When it came to challenges with owning a business, McKenzie said the biggest obstacle she had encountered was some customers’ opposition to supporting a Black-owned business. There were also many who doubted her abilities because of her age, but, she said, her success was just an example of how anyone was capable of achieving their dreams.

“I’ve had a lot of people be supportive, but there are still some people who see that the owners are Black, not Asian, and they don’t want to support anymore,” McKenzie said. “People will come in and complain about the prices, but it’s the same prices as before. But I’ve come to realize that everyone is going to find an excuse not to support.”

And her advice for other young people looking to follow their dreams? “You need to ignore people who might tell you that you can’t do it because you can,” McKenzie said.

“I’m an example of that. I’ve had so many people invalidate me because of my age, I don’t want others to feel that. I’m happy with how far I’ve come.”

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Yannise Jean

Yannise Jean is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor. Her work has appeared in publications like Okayplayer and Well + Good. Follow her on Twitter @yjeanwrites.

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