To CeCe Olisa, "confidence" is both a noun and a verb. Confidence needs to be cultivated and practiced, just like self-care or self-love.
"Love is a verb. It’s something you do," Olisa says. "I think of confidence in the same way. It’s something you have to cultivate consistently."
Olisa, the founder of the new body-positive beauty brand Cocoa by CeCe, cultivates her confidence with recipes, rituals, and routines. "In my experience, confidence doesn’t build my daily routine; my daily routine builds my confidence."
For a multihyphenate like Olisa, daily and weekly rituals are an essential element of self-care. You may recognize her from Instagram, where she has 92.2K followers. Or you may know her as the co-founder of theCURVYcon, the plus-size fashion conference held during New York Fashion Week. She’s an entrepreneur, an influencer, an advocate for body-positivity, and an accomplished public speaker. Her TEDx talk, "How to Build Self-Confidence," is set to reach one million views this year, and her new beauty line was born out of her confidence-building rituals.
"After the success of my first company, theCURVYcon, I knew that helping women discover body positivity and build self-confidence was part of my purpose," says Olisa. Originally, she pursued that purpose via plus-size fashion. But when theCURVYcon went on hiatus in 2020 due to the pandemic, Olisa spent time reflecting on what else she wanted from life.
"I started flipping through my old journals and vision boards, and I discovered a vision I had to create a body-positive beauty brand," she says. "Cocoa by CeCe is that brand."
A Deeply Personal Product Launch
Cocoa by CeCe’s debut product is Doll Butter, a skin-softening body cream, and both the product name and the recipe are very personal to Olisa. "Doll" is Olisa’s favorite term of endearment on her Instagram account — she often addresses her followers directly with greetings like "hello, dolls!" — and the name Doll Butter is a tribute to them.
"A doll can be defined as 'a generous or considerate person,' and I am blessed to have thousands of generous and considerate women in my community, so I call them dolls," Olisa says. "I decided to name Doll Butter after my community because the women who support me are woven into the fabric of my success. It feels good to honor them in this way."
"To be a doll has nothing to do with what you look like or your size. It's about your character and who you are."
The Doll Butter formula was inspired by the hand-whipped body butter recipes that Olisa makes at home. Each 6.7-ounce jar features ingredients selected by CeCe, including tropical oils like apricot, argan, and coconut; plant extracts of aloe, hibiscus, rose and vanilla; shea butter; and the key ingredient, cocoa butter. "Cocoa butter is the most trusted ingredient in body care," says Olisa.
For years, cocoa butter has been an essential part of Olisa's beauty (and confidence) routine. Her weekly ritual involves a full-body facial, followed by a cocoa butter-based body butter to keep her skin soft.
"As a plus-size woman, there is so much focus that can be put on 'oh you have such a pretty face,'" Olisa says. "But how do you make sure your body is pretty?" For her, it's all about soft skin.
"I love it when someone touches my skin and says, 'your skin is so soft!' That helps me to know that my recipes, rituals, and routines are working — and I feel confident," she says. "I don’t care who you are. You want soft skin.”
Olisa's Before-Bedtime Ritual
In celebration of Women's History Month, House of Wise partnered with Olisa to create the limited-edition House of Wise x Cocoa by CeCe Sleep Bundle, which is available now.
While a lot of us moisturize after taking a shower, Olisa also stresses the importance of moisturizing your skin before bed as part of your wind-down ritual. She's an early riser, so she tries to get to sleep by 9 p.m., and she uses the window before bed to focus on her skin, her teeth, and her hair.
"My bedtime routine starts with taking a House of Wise Sleep Gummy at 7 p.m. and ends with massaging Doll Butter all over my body to soften my skin overnight while I sleep," Olisa says.
In between, she focuses on dental hygiene — "I'm trying to floss more!" — and her hair care routine. "I have natural hair, so I make sure to sleep with a bonnet on, or I'll use a silk pillowcase." The nighttime routine she practices before bed contributes to the confidence she projects the next day.
As for what comes next for the New York-based entrepreneur, she's still on a mission to create products and productions that help women build confidence. In addition to expanding the Cocoa by CeCe line — think "full-body facials" — she's also dreaming up different live events in the near future. Through it all, she keeps one core mission in mind.
"I want to be a person of integrity who makes impact and income," Olisa says. "Bringing confidence and body positivity to women is what I want to do with my life, with my purpose."