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Let me just preface this by saying this is not intended to offend any brand, spokesperson or concerning party that has been a part of this whole “inclusivity” wave in the beauty industry. I appreciate all of the relationships that I have fostered with brands as a writer and I’m genuinely always excited to see representation put at the forefront of the beauty industry. However, with inclusivity being “trendy”, now is a better time than ever to ask if it’s genuine or just a quick way for brands to gain some extra cash by tapping into a forgotten demographic.
I don’t know about you but I spotted this inclusivity trend from a mile away
It all started with my retail cosmetics days when all the brands on the floor were asked to swap out the light shades of foundation on display for darker ones. I can say confidently at that time (back in 2012) it was coming from a good place and done in efforts to show women of color who were routinely left out of shade ranges that yes, we got you. At the time, drug store brands were slowly heading in that direction but I wasn’t going to hold my breath until it happened.
I attended an event early in 2019 for a brand and their inclusivity efforts. When I looked around the room , there were two more black women–none of which were behind the scenes decision makers for the brands making these “progressive moves”
This is something that I experience every now and again as I’ve grown as a beauty writer. In the past year or so, I’ve attended events for brands amongst multiple categories in the beauty industry and for the most part the people behind the scenes rarely ever look like me. Some of the most popular and highest paid beauty influencers are not of color. If I didn’t know better I’d think that people of color didn’t exist in the beauty industry, as consumers or as the people behind the scenes.
It goes without saying, Rihanna has had the beauty industry shook since day 1 with Fenty
Every time I write a news story or a review for a brand that, has either launched a super inclusive shade range or extended a previous one, I have to bring up Fenty Beauty. It’s no secret that Fenty did not come to play with these brands when they pulled up fresh on the scene with 40 shades of foundation from jump. Were they the first brand to have 40 shades of foundation ever? No. Were they the first to have them from the beginning in a well thought out fashion that pretty much nailed all parts of the color spectrum? Pretty much. Since the “Fentification” of the beauty industry, brands have been in a chokehold to follow suit making it harder to decipher if the beauty industry took it as a wake up call not driven by its monetary benefits.
What Fenty did in 2017 was show us that there’s no excuse for brands to have poor shade ranges. Black women spend billions of dollars a year on beauty yet for decades we’ve done everything but get down on our knees and beg to be included in an industry that we keep afloat. One brand, Fenty, saw the importance before they ever made a dime while others have been in the game 10,20, 30 years strong and are still dragging their feet. Why is that?
Social media has been a powerful force and intermediary between POC and brands to say “enough is enough”
In my humble opinion, if it weren’t for social media a lot of these brands will still think they could slide with their 5 color shade ranges. Social media has become somewhat of a powerful weapon. Because of it and influencers in a position of power such as Jackie Aina, Alissa Ashley and other influencers of color that don’t mind calling out brands on our behalf have used their platform to whip the beauty industry into shape. And of course, consumers don’t mind dragging brands that they feel slighted by. Brands are recognizing it and in turn are acting accordingly.
The one problematic thing about social media as it pertains to inclusivity in the beauty industry is the cancel culture targeting brands that don’t cater to WOC. They’ll be cancelled on Monday but by Friday everyone forgets and the cycle continues. Social media has the memory of a goldfish and for this reason results from cancel culture don’t have longevity. After a brand puts out some type of apology the anger will be short lived then we move onto the next.
In my opinion, there’s only a few ways to truly differentiate between fake love and genuine intentions to cater to WOC
One is by more cosmetic brands being developed for us AND by us–simple as that. Another is more POC as key decisions makers for these already existing million dollar brands out there. Can we truly believe that the strides towards inclusivity are coming from a good place when no one calling the shots knows first hand what underrepresentation feels like? If you’re not a part of the group that is routinely left out it’s very possible that you don’t see the problem in the first place.
I’m not saying to be distrusting of every brand that is screaming inclusivity. However, you need to be weary of those brands that are using inclusivity and women of color as a way to compete for dollars. Our skin color is NOT a trend and should not be catered to because of it’s profitability. As we’ve seen with some recent brands that have tried to catch a come up off of women of color, we recognize it and your efforts will be totally dismissed. I can’t speak for all black women but for those brands out there that are genuinely trying to right their wrongs we recognize you as well. Keep that same energy and we’ll know it’s real.
What are your personal thoughts on every brand and their momma making inclusivity their goal?