With the recent launch of Fenty Beauty, women of all shades have been rejoicing in the inclusivity of the brand. The line boasts 40 shades of foundation retailing at $34, but why aren’t more brands going this route? As a women of color, it has been a constant struggle to find a foundation that matches my tone and I finally hit the jackpot with Makeup For Ever’s Ultra HD Foundation (also available in 40 shades and predates Fenty Beauty). I have also been a huge advocate for CoverGirl’s Queen Collection, which was created with women of color in mind.
Research has showed that Black women alone spend $7.5 billion annually on beauty products and spend 80% more on cosmetics than non-black women. The lack of diverse beauty products on the market is the cause for the distress that women of color face when trying to buy a product that matches their skin tone and often results in having to buy multiple products to find the perfect pairing.
Beauty brands have partnered with women of color to market to consumers, but diversifying advertisements has not translated to the products on the market. For years we have been shown a Eurocentric standard of beauty despite the spending power of women of color, particularly black women. Kerry Washington became Neutrogena’s creative consultant in 2013, but yet the brand did not have a foundation for her skin tone. With the help of Washington, the brand expanded to include shades for women of color in 2016. These brands should explore formulas for all of their consumers prior to collaborations with celebrities. Are their corporate offices not filled with people of color to voice this disparity or are these voices being ignored?
The “one size fits all” mentality extends to editorials and marketing as well. The key to Fenty Beauty’s success was the inclusive marketing from inception. As a woman of color, Rihanna understood firsthand the neglect and need to have a diverse cosmetic line. Too often have we seen mainstream media exclude or alter women of color to fit what has historically been an unrealistic standard of beauty.
Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o recently slammed Grazia U.K. for altering her cover image by smoothing out her natural texture and removing her kinky ponytail. The Kenyan-Mexican actress has publicly expressed her concern with the magazine stating “I am disappointed that @graziauk invited me to be on their cover and then edited out and smoothed my hair to fit their notion of what beautiful hair looks like. Had I been consulted, I would have explained that I cannot support or condone the omission of what is my native heritage with the intention that they appreciate that there is still a very long way to go to combat the unconscious prejudice against black women’s complexion, hair style and texture.” The Vietnamese photographer, An Le, later issued an apology referencing his own ignorance and insensitivity to what women of color endure in the media. As a professional and photographer of color, Le should have exercised better judgment and presented the suggestion of altering to the magazine and Nyong’o. The fact that it took Nyong’o addressing this issue for the publication and Le to come forward reveals that there is a deeper rooted global issue that is problematic and systemic.
Representation matters in all facets of our day to day lives. Although the beauty industry has made strides throughout the years, there is still a long way to go to be fully inclusive. The lack of diversity in products and ads to consumers stems from the absence of people of color at the executive level for these brands. When the boardrooms become reflective of the population, only then will we start to see a shift in the beauty industry.