“Cancelled plans” were two words in many people’s vocabulary over the last year. But while people all over the world experienced disappointment and loss because of cancelled plans, those words hit differently for Olympic hopefuls.
Maya Stephens, the founder of Moment Beauty, can commiserate. She began running track in high school and earned herself a scholarship to attend St. John’s University in New York City. Once she graduated, she returned to Canada and began running professionally for Team Canada. She had been training for the 2020 Tokyo summer Olympics when the pandemic hit and changed everything.
Maya chose to lean into the moment rather than be disappointed by it. “When the pandemic hit, it gave me the opportunity to look outside of myself and see who I was beyond track, which I hadn’t had an opportunity to do since I started at around 14 years old. I sat down and I thought about all the things that I wanted to accomplish outside of track,” Stephens says.
Something she identified early on in the lockdown was her ability to re-focus on self-care. “I battled with body image issues and anxiety growing up. One thing that helped me build up my confidence was taking care of myself and doing the things that I loved.”
With a cancelled training schedule, a ritual from her childhood flowed back naturally to fill the ample amount of time she now found herself with, “I started making body scrubs when I was seven years old. During the first lockdown instead of perfecting my banana bread recipe, I perfected my body scrub recipe. I was using it and I would send pictures and videos to my friends and to my boyfriend and every single person, including my Mom was like, you should really sell this.”
In those homemade scrubs, the idea for Moment Beauty began to take shape. When Stephens launched her brand in July, her entire line of exfoliation scrubs and body butters sold out within the first 24 hours, and again a week after restocking—which way exceeded Stephens’s initial goal of selling 20 scrubs. “I really owe it all to the people around me because there was not a lot of buzz around the release of the company. Our success was through just word of mouth and the people that I know who were reposting it and telling others to buy it.”
Stephens cites the importance of self-love and slowing down as a big reason why she began Moment Beauty. It’s now a key component to her branding, “I have been training nonstop for years now. When the Olympics were cancelled, it was a pause I didn’t really know I needed. I feel like some of us athletes are afraid to say it (because of course the ultimate goal is to compete in the Olympics), but I do think the pause served its purpose and helped. A lot of us came back refreshed. Moment Beauty’s credo comes from focusing on the importance of self-love because it wasn’t until I took that pause that I realized how little I was taking time for myself and all the things that I needed spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically.”
When it comes to Canada’s engagement in Black History Month, Stephens has some poignant words to share. “I feel like sometimes as Canadians, we glaze over how Black people have been and are being treated in our country. Black Canadians absolutely have a rich history as well. For example, the Scotians in Nova Scotia to this day still face a lot of injustices and discrimination. Canadians love thinking about our country as the sweet, younger sister of America and America is the bully, but we do have to take accountability for the treatment of Black people in Canada.
Aside from education, supporting Black creatives and entrepreneurs is another way to show your support. “I know a lot of different black creatives who are doing amazing and they don’t get a lot of recognition or support. If we’re really that amazing sweet, younger sister of the United States, let’s show it.”
As for the 2021 Olympics, Stephens says she’s still training for it and believes she has a very strong chance of being on the team.