Sierra Gates personifies luxury. Watching the Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta fan favorite on the popular VH1 franchise, it appears she’s always lived a glamorous lifestyle. The boss babe has multiple businesses, has been featured in Forbes for making major money moves; but Sierra’s life hasn’t always had a plush pink lining.
Despite becoming pregnant at 15 with every odd stacked against her, Sierra overcame homelessness to build her own beauty empire, make a million before the age of 30 and now she’s ready for her next business endeavor, the Bo$$ Up Babe palette.
Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Sierra proudly reps the westside of Atlanta for making her who she is today. Full of culture and Blackness, it shaped her whole being. The beauty maven was raised in a loving home and didn’t want for anything growing up. But that changed when she learned she was giving birth to her first child at a young age. “That’s when my whole life took a turn,” Sierra revealed in a candid chat. Fifteen and pregnant, she was forced out of her childhood home, and at the time it felt like the end of the world but she now proclaims that it was the best thing that could have happened to her. “She put me out into the jungle and I came back lion. It forced me to boss up really fast. Once you have a child, that mother instinct kicks in and you do the impossible, especially, because your kids are looking at you wondering what’s next?” Sierra didn’t know what was next but she was determined to be successful.
With survival on the brain, she dropped out of high school so she could take care of her daughter. On a bus ride headed to the South Dekalb Mall with her best friend, Jody, she attempted to map out her life but was filled with anxiety. The teen mom feared no one would hire her because of her age and lack of experience. Before she knew it, she was the owner of a makeup counter. “The owner asked if I knew how to do makeup and I said ‘Yeah,’” Sierra explained. “Did I know how to do makeup? ‘No.’ I was always girly and prissy and growing up, my mama always kept me so cute. I used to draw and braid hair so I knew I was great with my hands, but I didn’t know how to do makeup.”
During the impromptu interview, Sierra proved herself by showcasing her makeup skills on the spot. A school friend, who happened to be in the vicinity, was looking for someone to do her makeup for a birthday celebration. In an instance, Sierra found herself wielding Q-Tips and painting her friend’s face full of color. And just like that, she got the job. The selling point was Sierra’s brows. That’s how she got her start and that’s when she realized she had a gift.
The Come Up
Since then, brows have been her staple. “Eyebrows have always been my big thing. When I started doing makeup, everybody came to me because I did real soft glam. Everybody loved how glamorous my makeup was, but the brows stood out the most. Right then and there, it was stamped and certified that my hands are anointed.”
From there, Sierra started doing makeup in the back of the strip club, The Foxy Lady. Sierra defied attempts to persuade her to dance because she didn’t feel that was her path. While she was beating faces, her best friend was selling dance outfits. If get it out the mud was a duo, it was Sierra and Jody. They hustled and worked to stack their money up in hopes of being something bigger. Each shift, she gained a new appreciation for women at the club that fueled her love for sisterhood and their unyielding strength of a woman. “I feel like as women, we are so overlooked and underestimated. I’m an advocate for women so bad because I’ve heard so many different stories throughout my whole life. It’s so easy for us to judge and look down on different situations, but you don’t know people’s stories because everybody came from different walks of life.” She added, “I was a young girl getting all of this information. I did makeup for women that had been abused, who didn’t feel beautiful and they would get out of the chair and they would just cry because they had never seen themselves look that good.”
That was her motivation: making women feel beautiful. From the makeup stand to the strip club, the reality TV star believes God ordered every single step. She had to have a baby at 15. She had to struggle. God handpicked her to tell her testimony and empower other women.
Sierra was only 18 when she first met her ex-husband in the back of the club. He was adamant about getting her away from that atmosphere but Sierra was hesitant. It was all she knew and she had grown to love the stability it provided. But she stepped out on faith and opened her flea market booth. One of her new clients, Winifred, would always tell her, “God is waiting on you. He needs you. You need to come to my church. God has a word for you.” She eventually made her way to church. As Sierra walked into the sanctuary, she spotted Winifred who predicted Sierra would be a millionaire by 30, that she would be on television and God was going to use her to bring millions of women closer to him; she was a vessel. She was in disbelief because how could a high school dropout who made $150 a week at a flea market booth become a millionaire? Winifred instructed her to be obedient and watch God move. So Sierra began paying her tithes faithfully and within months she saw her life transform. She transitioned from the flea market to owning her shop in the neighborhood where she grew up. She was so proud of her first shop because it was something that belonged to her.
“I started making $2,000 a week. I was like, oh my God, so you telling me the only thing I gotta do is be obedient. Once I started doing makeup in my shop in the West End, which is in the hood, I started getting really good at it. And my name started growing. I remember different celebrities would reach out to get their makeup done, but they were scared to come to my shop and it would bother me.” Of course, that barrier made her want to boss up. That’s when she moved to the Black Hollywood of Atlanta: Peters Street. Businesses like Kandi Burruss’s Old Lady Gang Southern Cuisine and Rasheeda’s Frost Bistro & Bar are located in this area so it has always been the place to be. Sierra said, “The doors started opening up. I started doing all of these different celebrities and then it took a turn for me. And it was great. I loved everything about it. When I got my shop, I didn’t know how I was going to put the furniture in it, but God made a way again.”
The Glam Shop
The Glam Shop housed nineteen hairstylists and two makeup artists. Sierra knew that it was the talk of the town for years because it was a one-stop shop for all your beauty needs. Amid her success, she couldn’t help but be thankful for how far she had come. In the same breath, she yearned for more. So she asked God to open up another door. “I’m not being ungrateful, but I was ready to take my career to the next level. So I ended up taking a microblading class after my client, Ming Lee, suggested I look into it,” Sierra said.
Right before taking the microblading class, she had an experience that would change her life forever. A new client entered The Glam Shop requesting for Sierra to do her makeup. It was one of those days where she was exhausted and didn’t quite feel like doing it but she did it anyway. As she started doing the new client’s makeup, they talked about her life and how she got to where she is today with a shop full of clients. As the conversation starts to end, the client revealed that she was a casting producer for Love & Hip Hop and that she believed Sierra would be an amazing addition to the Atlanta cast due to her rags to riches story and authentic Atlanta persona. Without thinking about it, she said ‘Yes.’ “And in the midst of me doing it, I took the microblading class and I swear 2017 my whole life changed.” The ATLien started doing microblading tours where she taught the technique and helped countless women make millions of dollars. Now on her sixth year of touring, Sierra has taught over 7,000 women who have gone on to start their businesses.
When the pandemic changed the game, the single mom found a way to pivot since there were no more microblading tours and filming for Love & Hip Hop. She created Money Monsters, an entrepreneur’s guide to starting a business from beginning to end. “I remember when I was coming up and trying to start a business, people didn’t wanna help me so I created Money Monster Academy. I also made million-dollar eBooks where it shows you exactly how I made my first million dollars,” Sierra says.
Growing up, the beauty entrepreneur loved MAC cosmetics because of their pigments and it was the go-to brand for it girls. While the definition of beauty continues to evolve, Sierra believes that it is truly in the eye of the beholder. “I feel like with Instagram and so much stuff going on, it kind of messed up the real definition of beauty because I look at women and I love the beauty of women. Like it’s the nose, the face, the hair, the personality. I don’t just look at a person like, ‘Oh, she’s cute because she got a nice shape’ or whatever. That’s not beauty to me. It’s everything surrounding that that makes a person beautiful.”
And more than anything, beauty isn’t one size fits all. That’s what Sierra wants the world to know. “Beauty is different for everybody. I’m always telling somebody how beautiful they are. I’m always complimenting women and I try to be as transparent as possible. I’m an open book. My following knows I had my breasts done. If I didn’t like something about myself, I was always very open with what I was doing and why I was doing it.” She continued, “And I always want to let them know that they don’t have to follow in my footsteps because it’s so many young girls, that’s looking up to a lot out of us to have these platforms. And I feel like sometimes we are selling them the wrong thing.” By keeping it real, she empowers more women to redefine beauty in a way that makes them feel beautiful.
Building an Empire
Despite the common misconception that the beauty industry is oversaturated, Sierra believes that “it’s enough money for all of us.” She always knew what she wanted and she was determined to prove all the naysayers wrong. Above all, using her platform to elevate other aspiring beauty entrepreneurs is what brings her joy. “I feel like it’s important because for one I used to be broke as hell and I know what it feels like. And I feel like if God did it for me, he can do it for somebody else. I also know the feeling of what it feels like to struggle and it’s so many African American women that don’t know how to get to the next level. So it’s important for me to always push for them. The girl next to me is my sister, not my competition. I genuinely get a kick out of seeing other people winning.”
When Sierra made her first million, she remembers sitting in the middle of the floor crying. It reminded her of the scene from Set It Off. More importantly, it reminded her that she was always destined for greatness. Whether it was the prophecy spoke over her or God’s divine plan, she was always going to win.
Enter her new venture: The Bo$$ Up Babe Makeup palette. Made up of bold colors like the ones she adored at MAC Cosmetics, Sierra created an eyeshadow lineup sure to help manifest a life you’ll love through stylish pigments. With shades like, “Millionaire” and “Blessing”, the beauty boss was extremely intentional with this new creation continuing to empower women. When we asked Sierra what’s next she says, “I just want to continue to grow my girl power empire and continue to motivate women to get money and boss up from a situation. I wanna open up a training university to show girls how to do everything from microblading to micro shading to body sculpting and teeth whitening. I just wanna have a big university where people can just come learn from me.” Keeping with building an empire, she also wants to expand her makeup line with foundations and a brow kit.
The newly engaged beauty has never been happier. Her businesses are thriving and she will soon be married to the love of her life, Eric Whitehead. This past Christmas, he dropped down on one knee and surprised her with a massive rock from Cal the Jeweler, a Black jeweler from Atlanta. “I was opening up gifts. And so I’m looking down, looking at my gifts and then I look up and he was on one knee. I’m like, ‘oh my God!’ It was very intimate and it was perfect. My mom, my sisters, and my grandma were there and it was just perfect.” According to the bride-to-be, it was all a dream, especially the ring. Her happily ever after is happening right before her eyes.
Sierra Gates is a testament to walking in your purpose even when it feels like you should give up. For most of Sierra’s life, she has had to fight for what she wanted. Now, she’s able to reap the benefits of every seed she sowed. Here’s to Black women taking up space and redefining beauty standards to make room for all of us to show up as our full selves. Here’s to you, Sierra Gates!
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Cover Story: @joce_blake
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