Canada’s Cannabis-Cosmetics Queen

At 27, Brandi Leifso is a self-made beauty baroness courtesy her company Evelyn Iona. Last fall, the company sold 200,000 vegan Green Tea Primers before the product had even hit the market. The secret ingredient? Evelyn Iona products are made with less than .3 per cent CBD oil, meaning A) yes, they are legally available everywhere in the world and B) no, they won’t get you high. But Leifso’s not stopping there: on International Women’s Day, her company Evio Beauty Group announced a business-development sponsorship under the wing of Sephora and will launch Evio Community, a website for women covering cosmetics and cannabis, at a party at Toronto’s Love Child Social House tonight (in town? You should come!).

During an interview at Evio Beauty Group’s new 40th-floor HQ overlooking Lake Ontario, Leifso talked about how she went from living in a Vancouver women’s shelter to becoming a new kind of cosmetics CEO. “More common than not, I am the only woman in the board room,” she says with a grin. “And the youngest person by about 50 years.”

I was born on a dairy farm in Ontario. I left school when I was 14 and when I was 17 I moved to Vancouver on my own. I was a competitive ice dancer and then I started working in the entertainment industry managing international models.

When I was 21, I found myself living in a women’s shelter. It comes to a point when you recognize that you are not going to live much longer [if you stay with an abusive partner]. There is actually no choice to continue to live like that.

The first time I lived in a shelter was when I was a child. I thought that I had changed my life so drastically going from living on a farm to managing international models in Asia and New York, and my life was still the same. It didn’t make sense.

I started seeing the parallels in being able to create change. You create change through small intentional actions that you take every single day. Conscious actions that then eventually lead to something big. I thought, makeup is a product that women use every single day. I wanted to build an army of empowered women who were creating change through small, intentional, conscious actions every single day.

My focus isn’t necessarily the benefits of cannabis in topicals, although there are benefits. There’s omega-3, -6 and -9, so there are lots of great fatty acids in cannabis, which are fantastic, especially for combination skin. But we feel like it should be used like any other ingredient, like lavender, like avocado oil, like sunflower oil. Cannabis shouldn’t be treated differently.

My life is not figured out. Yesterday, I was going to an event and I said, I am here, my underwear is not, because I need to do laundry. But I think the key to life is resilience. For anyone who wants to get into the space, you need to figure out how to change your mindset. You are so much stronger than you think you are and often you don’t know that until you are backed into a corner. That’s when you learn the most about yourself and about what you are really made of.