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Why We Need To Stop Praising White Owned Beauty Brands For Profiting From Diversity
The new age of diversity is brandishing both the good and the very bad. On one hand it’s nice to witness the space being made for women of color — particularly Black women — who’ve weathered centuries of invisibility while their White counterparts still enjoy unrelenting attention in every facet of the industry that’s instituted to serve them.
The landscape of television has made great strides in the last couple of years when it comes to adhering to the standards of inclusion by recognizing the talents of women who no longer have to be blonde/blue-eyed ingenues with love hangovers — in order to charismatically woo eager-minded viewers.
You can actually showcase Black women outside of the stereotypical renderings that delegate how angry and passionless we are when surrounded by the main cast of characters — that suck away any hope we have of being presented in the true light of our remarkable depth of emotional capacity.
The film industry may never get it right. Studio executives are constantly re-shuffling the formula for unwavering success — which explains the avalanche of franchises being re-franchised and the spinoffs that are spinning out of control. And of course when it comes to marketing an action film that boasts a Black woman in the lead role — complications will arise and ultimately derail any possibility of box office dominion.
The beauty industry never got it right. For as long as I can remember — the globally-renowned beauty brands have always relied on the strength and desirability of the White aesthetic — and when there was a need to shake up the narrative — “exotic types” were recruited to fill that quota.
Black women that look black with all the complications that come with that reality — including the dark skin, wooly hair, broad nose and the absence of doe-shaped eyes were never prominently featured on fashion magazine covers or ambitious ad campaigns. The pages of Vogue Magazine and all the others in that realm were always filled with White movie stars either being profiled or modeling the product they were assigned.
The Asian market is notoriously biased when it comes to the vision of beauty that is universally acceptable and revered. Your favorite Caucasian film and TV stars have been raking in the dough as spokesmodels for beauty products and luxury accessories for a mighty long time. Almost every actress from the eighties and nineties carries a resume that depicts their modeling days in Japan.
As a young adult — Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, Tomiko Fraser, Karen Alexander and Kiara Kabakuru were the handful of models that were quite visible — and of course Campbell was the leader of the pack. And decades later she still serves as the blueprint for the standard of “black beauty.”
So now enters the experimental phase of “diversity” — and instead of it being a positive progression — it has become the preferred method of cleansing for White owned beauty brands — that have spent centuries convincing us that White beauty is the only avenue to physical perfection.
We see the annoyingly redundant headline from media outlets that enthusiastically heap praises on companies like L’Oreal Paris for breaking barriers with their latest campaign — that dares to go where nobody would’ve ever ventured in 1998.
A model sporting a controversial accessory that proves how hair campaigns can be so much more meaningful than the versions we’ve been fed — that feature manufactured prototypes with shiny moveable tresses — obeying the wind that funnels though silky strands —constantly served as evidence of the power a superior texture wields against the less sturdier kind that can’t compete.
This time British blogger Amena Khan is being used as proof of how cosmetic giants are finally warming up to the fact that beauty is actually an open highway with countless detours that never lead to dead ends — because the variations of appeal are simply endless.
When Mexican-born Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o became the toast of the town right after her Oscar-winning role in the runaway hit — 12 Years a Slave — the hype surrounding her was infectious and also transparently embarrassing. Fashion and beauty editors stupidly thought that their sudden baptism into the religion of how richly defined dark skin can be against splashes of aquatic hues — was “breaking news.” And of course it didn’t take long for Lancome to jump on the bandwagon of “historic feats” by offering Nyong’o her very first ambassadorship.
All this to say that we really need to stop giving European-based beauty brands that have spent a lifetime avoiding the responsibility of unbiased representation — the recognition and praise they don’t deserve. It’s not hard to figure out the incentives behind suddenly propping up Hajib-wearing models or lithe templates that are as dark as night.
And this is when “diversity” does become that dirty word that breeds greed from White-owned companies that are only interested in maximizing the climate of change for profitable endowment. It has nothing to do with celebrating the differences in our appearances or accelerating the message of inclusion in the cover girls that still don’t model any hints of potent melanin.
When Fenty Beauty made its impeccable debut last fall — Rihanna became the rock star of the beauty industry and her meteoric rise had a lot to do with the supply of options that ranged from the very bright to the very dark. Such a straight-forward approach seems like a no-brainer — but to women like me — who’ve had to spend most of our existence accepting the erasure of ourselves in a market that boisterously refuses to cater to our sense of worth — being beautifully highlighted never gets old.
Companies like Estee lauder, Lancome and L’Oreal can try to desperately catch up to the “diverse universe” with stagey ad campaigns in an attempt to make up for lost time while also hoping that the numbers continuously add up — but it’s way too late to hide under the banner of awareness by pretending the last 100 years of prejudicial practices never happened.
Black was always beautiful — and furthermore all the other “unconventional” offerings were never too offensive to make the cut. And just because the age of diversity has ordained mandatory participation doesn’t mean we need to be inundated with click-worthy announcements of the latest buzz-worthy contracts.
It’s time to let these phony-ass cosmetic brands bleed to death as we receive the rise of Black owned businesses like Fenty — that are spearheaded by women of color — who are using their investments to profit from the magical results that can stem from the mass production of the right blend of concealer.
It’s already happening — and I have to say that my freshly-scrubbed face is here for it!