The cosmetics entrepreneur says without Williston, she would never have become an artist—or a punk
Nonie Creme says it’s no secret: she was a hell raiser as a teenager. Her parents hoped a new life away from her hometown of Houston, TX, would put her on a different trajectory. It worked, and Creme says her two years at Williston radically changed her life and cultivated her artistic streak and sense of style. Creme has been a widely successful entrepreneur whose first venture, cosmetics company butter London, sold in 2014. She recently started another company called Colour Prevails. Rather than targeting high-end customers, she’s going after the mass market and has signed an exclusive deal with Walgreens. She lives in Seattle with her daughter, though her office is based in Manhattan. This past May, she gave the school’s Commencement address.
What brought you to Williston?
I was a terrible teenager. After one of many run-ins with the police, my parents were like, You know what? This is not working out. I grew up in Houston. They thought that living away from home in a more structured environment would be a way to straighten me out. Becoming a boarding school kid was a fast track to adulthood. You got an allowance from your parents. You had to manage your finances. You got your $300 a month or whatever it was and you had to budget that. And that had to pay for any outings and your laundry. You had to learn how to be self-sufficient. You can’t go running and crying to your dorm parent over all these things. They have 50 kids to look after. It was a very important life experience for me. And it did straighten me out,
in the long run.
Who at Williston had a significant impact on you?
There was an art teacher named Marcia Reed, who ran the art department. We all know where that ended up leading: that I went on to Scripps and went on to have a career that’s very heavily based on art and fine art. Really, I can credit Williston and Marcia Reed for giving me a safe, open environment in which to become an artist and to explore art in a way that I had never done before. It was very life changing.
How else did Williston impact your life?
Williston made me extremely resourceful, and being resourceful is one of the best qualities you can have coming out of the gate into adulthood. I would not be the same Nonie Creme if I hadn’t been to Williston. If I had stayed at a snobby Southern conservative day school, I would never have become a punk. I would have never immersed myself in that music scene. I would never have learned the social skills that I still need and use every day. The list goes on. I feel like being a Williston kid changed me for the better.
What was your style at Williston?
It’s so funny. I recently had to have my photo taken for a publication. When I got it back, I thought, Holy s–t, I have not changed since Williston. There used to be in Northampton this funny hippy shop. It sold gothy jewelry and biker jackets and Doc Martens. I still have and still wear my Doc Martens that I bought at Williston and I’m 43 years old. I had never really been exposed to goth and punk culture, and I learned all of that from my East Coast friends. So the style that I really still have, which is kind of punky and a little avant-garde, and that persona really came into existence at Williston. I’ve always come back to this rocker punky thing, and I still feel the most comfortable in my skin when I have a Mohawk and a nose ring.
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs at Williston?
I think that young people are incredibly lucky these days because of the advent of the Internet. The ability to be an entrepreneur has never been easier. The world is really your oyster. Be prepared to take calculated risks, but those risks have to be significant. You have got to have real courage to succeed, whether it’s as a social media personality or a young hedge-fund guy. You have to really have some guts.