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Muri Muse: Esthetician and Plant Medicine Advocate Shae Johnson

Muri Muse: Esthetician and Plant Medicine Advocate Shae Johnson

Muri Muse: Shae Johnson

From our very first call with Shae Johnson (@northandstate_estheticsstudio) — esthetician and founder of natural skin services destination North & State — it was apparent we had met someone as passionate about plants as we are.

A staunch advocate of hemp’s ability to holistically heal mind, body and skin, Shae is part of a new wave of estheticians bringing plant medicine into treatment rooms and using it to repair clients’ compromised skin.

We caught up with Shae for conversation on self-care, feeling beautiful in your skin and how our favorite flower helps skin thrive. Read highlights from our chat below and during September tune into our Instagram for exclusive education, tutorials and a behind-the-scenes facial with Shae.

Muri Lelu: For those who aren't familiar with you or your work, please introduce yourself! 

Shae Johnson: Hi yes, my name is Shae and I am an Esthetician specializing in plant focused and natural skin care services at North & State - a private studio outside of Minneapolis, MN. My focus is relaxing and healing facials as well as brow art! 

ML: How did your journey into being an esthetician begin? How did you end up opening your practice today? 

SJ: So I always say I grew up in the industry & my mom is still a practicing barber/cosmetologist of 40 + years! I became fascinated by the work of Estheticians as a young adult when I first learned it was such a niche group of service providers at the time. I really liked the dynamic of the Estheticians I began to know in the industry. I started out in makeup (of course) and quickly realized I was way more intrigued in advancing my practice beyond just making people look and feel beautiful with cosmetics.  

Muri Muse: Esthetician and Plant Medicine Advocate Shae Johnson

ML: Muri Lelu is all about unlocking the holistic benefits of all botanicals, including ones that have been overlooked or considered taboo. For a plant like hemp which (unfortunately) still carries a stigma, how do you typically get your clients to begin considering its beautifying benefits? 

SJ: It’s so funny because I think it’s ridiculous that people can legally smoke cigarettes knowing what we know but then we still have to regularly defend a plant with more healing benefits than you can keep track of. And that’s exactly how I explain it to my clients and to anyone who will listen really. So many mainstream commercial brands and products out there are either using plants, or more often synthetic ingredients that act like plants - it makes more sense to me to use ethically harvested plants with proven potent benefits to cure and heal us vs synthetic ingredients or animal derived chemicals that don’t even preform with the same efficacy. 

ML: What types of skin would you typically recommend products with full flower hemp for? As an esthetician, what do you see as the most impactful benefits of this super ingredient? 

SJ: I regularly suggest that anyone use full flower hemp, or at least try it in their skincare routine if they have not. It’s so effective in what it can do for dry or sensitive skin but I also suggest clients to use [it] for hydration and and balance - keeping that outer layer of our skin healthy and bright. It’s also sebum balancing - so we know if someone is over producing bacterial oil, full flower hemp can help regulate that. I really do believe anyone can use [this plant] for healing skincare purposes. 

ML: You champion the healing powers of plant medicine across both your esthetician practice and your own wellness and self-care practices. What drew you to more holistic modalities of healing and what were some of the easiest things you did to begin making a more conscious shift in your daily routine? 

SJ: So I think every year I feel a little more connected with nature than the last. Growing up and still to this day, my mother takes great pride in gardening. She always instilled in us the importance of eating things from the earth. We spent a lot of time in the garden and outside as kids and I grew akin to trusting plants and nature as being the most beneficial things for our body. The “easiest” shift for me was quitting alcohol! I know that sounds extremely difficult - and it is in this world - but when I quit drinking I started to become more and more interested and aware in the ways of preserving my body and caring for myself. 

ML: The definition of self-care continues to expand and shift, sometimes drifting far from what it is at its core: a well-rounded practice of replenishing the self. When you strip it all back, what do you consider essential acts of self-care? 

SJ: At the absolute core of self-care to me means caring for your nervous system, your mind and body. Massaging your face for even 60 seconds a day can shift your mood and mental well being. Being given a facial massage for 60minutes can reset your nervous system and calm your anxiety. Of course rewarding ourselves with acts of kindness and the occasional material possession is instant gratification, but to deeply care for yourself and/or schedule time to be taken care of, is invaluably beneficial.  

ML: When do you feel most beautiful in your own skin?

SJ: When I am in the water and in the sun! I always feel my best externally and internally when I am near or in water for sure. 


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Muri Muse: Author & Perfumer Tanaïs

Muri Muse: Author and Perfumer Tanaïs

Author & Perfumer Tanaïs, at home in Brooklyn
Image Credit: Chanel Matsunami Govreau
It’s hard to remember when we first came across Tanaïs.
Perhaps it was in hearing about the release of their second novel In Sensorium: Notes for my People, or perhaps it was in seeing a glint of the shimmering pink lip oils from their namesake beauty brand. Or maybe, it was after taking in a first, deep inhale of their Heart Chakra fragrance — a lusciously layered perfume grounded in the delicious funk of cannabis’ signature terpene profiles.
But in that moment, we instantly knew we had found a kindred spirit.
A gifted artist, Tanaïs forges new pathways for storytelling, self-exploration and self-celebration with each new creative medium they take on. We caught up with our latest Muri Muse at home in Brooklyn to trade beauty secrets, talk the art of fragrance, and spark it up.
Author & Perfumer Tanaïs, at home in Brooklyn
Image Credit: Chanel Matsunami Govreau

Muri Lelu: For those who aren’t yet familiar with you or haven’t read your books In Sensorium: Notes For My People or Bright Lines, how would you introduce yourself and your work? 

Tanaïs: Let's start with my name, or renaming, I should say, Tanaïs, a portmanteau of my birth name, Tanwi Nandini Islam, which tells you a lot if you know what you're listening for. I wanted to evoke these specific spiritual, religious and cultural lineages of Bangladesh—Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim—in a single breath. I am a writer, but I've been a community organizer, a domestic violence advocate, a youth theater arts educator—I have always centered my work on brown-skinned queer and femme people. I have always wanted to show the power of our interconnected quests for liberation, our queerness, our beauty, our artistic and intellectual endeavors. The way we are disregarded by the dominant culture is simply not real—it is violently upheld—and I want us to be free.

I'm interested in exploring the raw messiness of sex and sexuality and spirituality, the way desire and annihilation are intertwined, unraveling toxic inheritances of colonialism—borders, white supremacy war, nation-states and nationalism, capitalism. My people died for their liberation, and also enacted violence in the name of it—working with the complex, the contradictory turns me on as a writer. I want to write toward freedom and solidarity, a world where class, caste, race, religion, gender, ability, sexuality and color is not weaponized against us. Perfuming is a wordless, boundless, borderless, liquid and sensuous version of all that I am interested in writing.

Muri Muse: Author & Perfumer Tanaïs
Image Credit: Chanel Matsunami Govreau

ML: In Sensorium is a powerful exploration of your identity as a queer, Bangladeshi Muslim femme. Does your brand continue that work by forging safe spaces for celebration and affirmation? 

Tanaïs: There is such a profound beauty I see in my people, the way our ancestors have mixed across ethnic groups over eons leaves an imprint on us today—I want to share that with the world. I often work with models who are Bangladeshi queer and femme people, but I think it's so important to dialogue and create community beyond this "representation matters" rhetoric, which actually centers the most privileged folks in the South Asian diaspora. I want to highlight folks who own their own center, even as they are relegated to the margins. I love to throw parties where we dance and celebrate with each other, where we feed and nourish each other. 


Muri Muse: Author & Perfumer Tanaïs

Image Credit: Chanel Matsunami Govreau 

ML: Our brands share a similar fascination with the mesmerizing aroma of cannabis... in fact your HEART CHAKRA collection is dedicated to it. We love it because of its potential for multidimensional healing — as a storyteller, what does this beautiful flowering plant reveal for you?

Tanaïs: Heart Chakra and Muri Lelu are definitely kindred body elixirs, which I love! I smoked, nibbled and tinctured so much weed while writing my book during the pandemic. I needed the medicine, I needed to be held by nature and go into dream states where I felt my imagination go a bit wild. Weed for me is about undoing structures that bind us, it reinvigorated my appetite which I lost when I had COVID. It's funny, right now, I'm actually on a little hiatus from smoking to heal my lungs and be present in my raw feelings, raw-dogging reality, as they say. The beauty of marijuana for me starts with choosing the right strain, the way it smells in the air-tight bag. I love cannabis funk, the terpenes of pinene, limonene, linalool, and recreating a batch of weed as a perfume was such a fun experiment. My Beauty Director Talysha Monée gifted me some homegrown herb she named Quarantine Dream, and I replicated this as a perfume with grapefruit, balsam pine, lavender, rose and jasmine notes. Each batch of Heart Chakra has its own smell, akin to the way each strain has its own distinct aroma.

Muri Muse: Author & Writer Tanaïs

Image Credit: Chanel Matsunami Govreau 


ML: What does your daily skincare routine look like? 

Tanaïs: At 39, my skincare ritual is a source of joy for me now, which is not something I felt a few years back when I was struggling with hormonal acne, this transitional skin between your 20s and 30s that can be very jarring! 

I wash my face with MS Skincare MANTRAa cleanser with tulsi, turmeric, neem and it's gentle but strong enough to wash away makeup. I always double cleanse my face with MANTRA. Afterward, I use RANAVAT Royal Refresh Jasmine Mist, which smells like a night blooming jasmine garden and prepares my face for MS Skincare ENLIGHTEN, a gentle re-texturizing glycolic treatment that resurfaces skin, fades pigmented spots and sloughs off dead skin cells, something that gets harder as you get older. When those dead skin cells clog your pores, you get acne, so it's super important to exfoliate. I find gentle acids work best for me, rather than scrubs.

To moisturize, I mix my MURI LELU Mauvaise Herbe Indica oil with a pearl-size amount of MS Skincare Rosewater Cream and massage this on my face and neck, making sure to stroke up my cheeks, neck and forehead to stimulate blood flow. No matter how tired I am, I make sure I do this every single night and I do it all again in the morning!

My favorite SPF is EVEREDEN Sheer Botanical Facial Sunscreen - it's mineral based, not chemical based, but once you rub it in, it does not leave a harsh white cast (especially if you mix it into your foundation) which is a miracle for those of us with brown skin!

Muri Muse: Author & Writer Tanaïs

Image Credit: Chanel Matsunami Govreau 

ML: Beauty (and fragrance in particular) is notoriously gate-kept... many of the people working at the upper echelons of the industry are white men. How has creating your own brand empowered you to subvert and challenge that establishment? 

Tanaïs: When these gatekeepers, Masters and classically-trained experts don't even know you exist, don't even know the power of what you create—you're free to imagine your own version. I honestly smelled my way through natural essential oils, resins and absolutes first, as if I didn't have the right to work with fine perfumery aromachemicals—that's how awful imposter syndrome can be, it can keep you from even trying. But when I wanted to expand my perfumer's palette, I knew I wanted to incorporate aroma chemicals, which took my work to another level, where I learned to deepen notes,  extend the way a perfume lives on the body. My perfumes evoke very distinct places—a flower garland shop in New Delhi, the waxy narcotic notes of tropical flowers on Kauai, fresh citrus and pine cannabis terpene notes —and they are not restricted by dominant white French perfume culture ideas, they're drawn from scent cultures that pre-date that European mode. 

ML: Favorite Flower? 

Tanaïs: I love hibiscus. They don't smell fragrant like so many flowers but they' re gorgeous, showy and tropical, all my favorite ways to be!


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Muri on the Move: June Events Recap

Muri on the Move: June Events Recap

Muri Lelu: High Teas & Infusions Collection Launch Event
In the lead-up to Muri Lelu's 2nd year anniversary — and in celebration of our limited-edition High Teas & Infusions Collection launch — we took advantage of the gorgeous start-of-summer weather here in New York to curate a few beautiful moments in collaboration with some of the friends we've made since our launch. 

As a brand that debuted during the early days of COVID-19 pandemic, much of our community has been home-grown online and across digital channels. To say we were inspired to finally meet friends old and new that have supported us along this journey in person is an understatement! Join us as we recap all the joy sparked in June. 
Muri Lelu High Teas & Infusions Launch in conversation with The Black Beauty Club
Tea and conversation flowed effortlessly on a perfect afternoon in June at the official High Teas & Infusions Collection launch event, hosted in collaboration with The Black Beauty Club.  The group of beauty lovers, industry insiders and tastemakers reflected on how important it is to invest in ourselves, and how rituals of self-care can empower us to engage in meaningful community care.  
Hosted at The Little Shop (a secret speakeasy in the back of a bodega), we created a floral wonderland for the afternoon with cakes by Pelah Kitchen piled high and beautiful bouquets by Kindred Twines
Muri Lelu High Teas & Infusions Launch Event
Muri Lelu's Founder in conversation 

Cakes by Pelah Kitchen 
Muri Lelu High Teas & Infusions Launch Event
Muri Lelu High Teas & Infusions Launch Event
Our Chai Tea Blend on tap 
Muri Lelu High Teas & Infusions Launch Event
Our Founder & The Black Beauty Club 
Muri Lelu High Tea Service at Scout by Jenn
Garden High Tea & Infusions Party at Scout

We hosted an afternoon of tea service at the boutique Luminous in Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ that evolved into an open and emotional conversation around shattering the lingering stigma around flower and other plant medicines. Luminous founder Erika Menanteaux is always down to get educated and push the boundaries on conversations of self care, and this event did not disappoint! 

Muri Lelu x Luminous
Our Founder & Erika Meanteaux of Luminous
Later in the month, we co-hosted a tea and rose garden party with our friends Madame Gabriela at the stunning Scout by Jenn boutique in Pound Ridge, New York. Founded by celebrity makeup artist Jenn Streicher, it's a haven for beauty lovers to play, experiment and discover new clean brands. We sipped on our High Tea & Infusions blends and mingled with some of our long-time customers.
Mingling at our High Tea Garden Party at Scout
Mingling with some of our long-time customers at Scout! 
Celebrity Makeup Artist Jenn Streicher enjoying tea and treats
Celebrity makeup artist Jenn Streicher with tea and treats
Muri Lelu was on display in a big way at the best-selling author and chef Andy Baraghani's book celebration in New York! We teamed up with our friend DeVonn Francis of culinary collective Yardy to support the moment — a banger of an event that was covered in Vogue. 

Muri Lelu Seen and Spotted 
Seen & Spotted at NY Times Best-Selling Author & Chef Andy Baraghani's Book Launch
Andy Baraghani's best-selling The Cook You Want to Be 
DeVonn Francis & Andy Baraghani 
Cakes by Yardy 

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