Sometimes when you do what you love, even if it is on the fringe of convention, the world catches up with you. Tarot priestess and indie beauty founder Melinda Lee Holm makes magick for a living. Her tarot readings, classes, writing, and beauty products are all part of her master plan to connect people with the ability to take positive action in their lives while remaining rooted to divine wisdom.
A new gap in spiritual identity had driven many millennials looking elsewhere for a connection to something bigger than themselves. In recent years we have seen the mystical become destigmatized with Instagram feeds full of magickal vibes. The mystical services market is a $2.2 billion industry and growth, with practices like tarot, sound baths, and astrology, not long ago considered fringe or taboo, on the rise.
Melinda’s path began with her wandering through a suburban bookstore in Minnesota. The discovery of magickal texts and purchasing her first tarot deck set her on a lifelong study of and practice in the metaphysical arts. With a clientele that includes celebrities and style icons, MLH Beauty allows Melinda to share the power of magick through beauty to a larger audience. Attention to detail and intention are the foundation of MLH Beauty.
How did you find your way to the world of tarot?
I stumbled into it in a suburban mall bookstore when I was about 15. My life was very chaotic and tarot and magick gave me a lifeline, something solid outside of my situation to connect to. It helped me to not feel so alone and to feel like I had some power over my personal experience. Once I got into it, I was completely taken by the language of it, how all these symbols and numbers work together to tell the story of human experience, and how we can work with them to expand and empower ourselves and others. Tarot is a language and it takes many years to become fluent. I’m so grateful to my younger self for sticking to it. I cannot imagine my life without this gift.
You explain that tarot is a language and a gift. Can you explain how tarot or a tarot reading can impact a person’s life?
Oh, the impact is huge. Imagine you are lost in a forest and a map appears before you accompanied by a guide that can tell you how to use it, what to look out for, how to prepare. Your entire experience changes dramatically. Suddenly the forest isn’t this big, scary place full of danger and uncertainty—it’s a wonderland to explore and interact with. This is what tarot and tarot readings offer us for our lives. When you sit down with a reader who is fluent in this language, you are opening yourself to a revolution in your perception of your life. That’s the magick. It is completely transformative.
I also think that while technology has made us more connected to information than ever before, it has isolated us from human connection. Tarot helps bring that connection back—with ourselves, others, and the collective human experience. If you accept that the totality of human experience is embedded in this deck of 78 cards (and I do), then we can’t all be that different. To me, that’s an incredibly powerful and empowering way to view the world.
A gap in spiritual identity has given rise to a new embrace of the mystical, and tarot seems to be having a moment. What changes have you experienced in the perception of tarot?
Yes! It’s wild and wonderful. For many years, I felt I had to keep this part of my life secret, and now it’s celebrated. It seems like tarot is increasingly perceived as the tool for spiritual and personal development that it is and less as a tool of the devil. The biggest change is that people who once would have approached tarot and me as a reader with disgust and condemnation are now open and curious. I have clients from all walks of life, from all religious backgrounds, many who are very active in their religious communities. We’re not seen as that different anymore.
How is tarot related to beauty and wellness?
True wellness and beauty can only exist when all aspects of a person are cared for. We’re starting to hear more about inner beauty in an emotional and physical sense—dietary supplements, therapy, etc. Tarot and magick bring the energetic/spiritual aspect to the table. Both wellness and beauty are enhanced when you are connected into something bigger, something universal, tapped into greater wisdom and cleared of energetic static and sludge. Part of keeping the brand in alignment with these metaphysical standards is keeping everything clear in the physical plane as well—we are vegan, non-toxic, and cruelty-free, and use only reusable and recyclable packaging.
Do you consider MLH Beauty to be a fragrance brand?
In short, no. This is a beauty and wellness brand. Fragrance plays a major role because the fragrances we develop are formulated around active magickal ingredients and designed to evoke very specific moods and states of being. The function of the ingredients drives the fragrance formulation. We already have home and body products and are moving into skincare in 2020, so we’re much more than a fragrance brand.
You talk about magickal ingredients. What is that extra “K” and what makes an ingredient magickal?
The “k” at the end of magick is a convention used to differentiate practices and techniques for altering personal circumstances and reality from tricks done for entertainment. The ingredients we call out as magickal in our products are in my personal toolkit for ritual use and have traditionally been used for the purposes we indicate.
What differentiates MLH from other indie beauty brands?
At the risk of sounding arrogant, it’s me. I have been reading tarot and practicing magickal rituals for more than 25 years. Starting this brand has given me the opportunity to explore how we can carry the energies and power I work with every day into beauty and wellness rituals. We all anoint ourselves with creams and oils and potions every day. Now everyone has the opportunity to do so with products that support energetic and spiritual wellness as well as physical. For me, it’s incredibly moving to see how enthusiastically people respond to these creations that really feel like they came out of my own personal magickal apothecary. We really do make things that I feel are missing from my own cabinet, so what you’re getting is something that a person with decades of magickal practice and a lifelong beauty obsession deems worthy of production. That’s a high bar!
Another thing I feel very strongly about is putting the money into the products. We use stock packaging and simple flat-printed boxes we design in-house. Because of this, we’re able to offer exceptional quality prestige products that are not at the high end of the prestige price scale. I want people to know what we are most concerned with is the product they are putting on their skin.
In a time when many beauty start-ups are chasing funding, you have a very refreshing perspective of investment. Would you share your bootstrapping story?
I’d love to! First, mine is actually an anti-bootstrapping story. I grew up poor, I went to college on scholarships and financial aid, I always worked for a living, and now I have a business that we are growing at a self-fulfilling rate. But I see my entire life as a series of opportunities fueled by the investment of others. From the institutional investment of free school lunch, public education, and student aid to my university scholarships, to the personal investment of so many people who hired me, mentored me and cheered me on while I was making my own path. I paid attention. I listened. I watched. I worked hard. I earned trust for my ideas and my vision. One of my business partners is actually the woman who hired me to work in sales at Betsey Johnson when I was very young and under-qualified for a boutique sales position. She taught me a ton about business and retail that has been invaluable to the development of my own business. Funding doesn’t mean much if you don’t have a strong sense of self and the personal investment of trustworthy mentors to offer guidance on how to use it wisely. I’m incredibly fortunate in that regard.
What is your distribution strategy for the brand? Where do you envision it living?
We are a small company, but we have big goals. We are in the process of revamping our site and our direct business will be a major focus in 2020. For retail, we are choosing our partners carefully. I have hosted interactive workshops with Free People in Los Angeles, so we knew we wanted to have them as an early partner. We love specialty beauty doors like Shen Beauty and Veer and Wander and specialty magick doors like Spellbound Sky in Los Angeles. We are continuing to meet with owners/buyers of stores that have strong community footprints, where I may have more opportunities to meet with customers directly via trunk shows and classes.
How do you plan to bring the tarot experience to customers online?
I’ve been seeing tarot clients all over the world via video chat for years now, so that will continue. We plan to roll out some more virtual events and educational components in 2020 as well. I think we have a unique opportunity to engage directly with customers in a more personal way than tips for application or focusing solely on skin type or tone.
What are your plans to expand the beauty range?
Our first magickal profile is based on the Hierophant and Elemental Fire and we are adding energy-clearing products that make sense with Frankincense, Ginger, and Palo Santo. In 2020, we will move into a range of products that evoke ingredients I associate with the High Priestess with a slightly more receptive and introspective energy, featuring Jasmine, Pomegranate, and Myrrh.
What else can we expect from the magickal world of Melinda Lee Holm?
So much! We are rolling out skincare from MLH Beauty starting in March, and I have two publishing deals for projects I can’t talk about yet, but I can say that one is a tarot deck… Very excited to be able to share my vision with the world!
Photo: via Melinda Lee Holm