Joseph Pettigrew of Emmanuel Skincare discusses mental health, setbacks, and entrepreneurship

FLINT, Michigan — Every novel needs a story and this is a story of a man who happens to be Black and queer, navigating through life and refusing to settle for anything less than what he feels he deserves. Joseph Pettigrew is a Flint native on the brink of graduating from Eastern Michigan University.

He currently works in the health field and this is ultimately one of the batteries that helps power his passion for mental health advocacy. He also advocates for anti-gun violence and partners with others from the community to organize awareness campaigns.

Talking with Pettigrew, there were pockets of silence during our conversations that were ironically not awkward or loud but nourishing and validating. We talked about entrepreneurship, advocacy for men’s mental health, and the limitless land of opportunities — the future. 

Pettigrew established his skincare business, Emmanuel Skincare, LLC, in 2022. His products include a face serum, lip scrub, face scrub, and body scrub. Things were on the up and up for Pettigrew as his product became a rising star after a strong social media presence and sold-out pop-up shop events.

Shortly after, like many other small businesses, the world’s reaction to COVID-19 caused a great pivot in his vision for his business. Flintside caught up with Pettigrew to talk about men’s mental health and how he turned what appeared like a dead-end into a detour. 

“A lot of men, or some men, think it’s feminine to take care of themselves, and I wanted to debunk that stereotype or false narrative,” says Joseph Pettigrew. Flintside: Where does your passion for men’s mental health come from?

Joseph Pettigrew: “I want men to know [that] it’s safe to talk about things. We tend to hold stuff to ourselves and feel we can handle it all. I think that [there] is a connection between violence and mental health. That’s the reason why I took the next step [in my advocacy to create spaces] and allow men, in general, to be free and be their most authentic selves without worrying about what other people think.”

Flintside: Tell us about the inception of Emmanuel Skincare company.

J. Pettigrew: “The idea started [when] I wanted to have my own cologne. A lot of the industry didn’t have men in it. It was women-dominated, and I felt men needed to be more confident or more open to caring about their bodies. So it started with skincare to start conversations about making sure you get early screening for cancer and high blood pressure. A lot of men, or some men, think it’s feminine to take care of themselves, and I wanted to debunk that stereotype or false narrative.”

Flintside: What challenges have you faced with your skincare line?

J. Pettigrew: “The challenges I have are connecting with my audience. Inside the city, and this is just my opinion, it’s hard to make that connection. I feel like a select few people are interested. [Lately, I’ve been thinking], should I push it back out or go fully online? Should I market [my skincare products] somewhere else or should I just up and move again?”

"I’m just at peace; I’m not trying to prove myself to nobody," explains Pettigrew on July 5, 2024.Flintside: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

J. Pettigrew: “Well, I say about 2 to 10 years, I want to be a world traveler, traveling to different policy agenda [gatherings]. I want to have a kid or two. I don’t know if I want to be married but I want to have something solid with somebody. I want my business to be in stores. I want to be able to take care of my family. Whenever possible, be able to travel with my friends, build new friendships and business partners, and build my network. And owning a home. The basic stuff.”

Flintside: Where are you mentally?

J. Pettigrew: “I’m not in a place in my life where I have to grind, grind, grind, and make my name known because that’s not really what I want to do. I want to be able to help people. You know what I’m saying? I try to be authentic and do things for purpose.”

Emmanuel Skincare was established in 2022 and includes a face serum, lip scrub, face scrub, and body scrub.
Flintside: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

J. Pettigrew: “I like to work out. I read a lot. I’m actually reading a book now about men’s mental health. I do yoga at home and hang with my family and friends. I try to eat healthy and go to bed at a reasonable time. I check in with myself a lot, too.”

Flintside: What other organizations/projects are you affiliated with or were you affiliated with, and what made you join?

J. Pettigrew: “I was a lead ambassador for Black Millennials for Flint. I am passionate about environmental justice and anything that deals with public health. The public health arena is so broad but anything dealing with public mental health, sexual health environment, all of that!”

Pettigrew is preparing to re-establish Emmanuel Skincare next year after he graduates. He plans to launch apparel alongside his skincare products. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram to support and stay connected. 
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