When I first interviewed for MAC cosmetics, I did tons of research on the company so that I would be prepared for my interview ( which turned into like five!). Anyway, while researching the company I learned that the slogan was “Makeup for All. All ages, all races, all sexes.” That slogan meant a lot to me mainly because I had never really seen women of color working for make up brands like MAC, Chanel, Bobbi Brown, Lancome, etc…until I moved to Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C in 2005 was still chocolate city, and because of the high population of people of color, I saw more diversity within the world of retail in D.C, Maryland, and Virginia than I had in my whole life! D.C also had a high population of gay, lesbian, and transgender folks who also came from various ethnic/racial backgrounds, and I saw all of the above working behind the counter at MAC cosmetics making their slogan legitimate.
Fast forward to February 18, 2016, MAC cosmetics posts a photo of a black woman with a deeper skin tone and full lips on their instagram page, and all hell breaks loose! Folks obviously not knowing the slogan for the company commented writing awful things like “fish lips“, “Jay Z lips“, and “N!gger lips“, just to name a few.
I couldn’t help but thinking about Kylie Jenner and the uproar that she caused when she started getting collagen injected in her lips so they could look similar to the model MAC posted on their instagram page a few days ago, and how subsequently she has been able to capitalize on her surgically enhanced lips and create a liquid lipstick line that sells out in seconds whenever they hit the internet. Not only that, after she revealed her “new” lips, young women everywhere started putting their lips in plastic bottles and other contraptions to interrupt circulation creating a temporary swelling effect that made their lips look larger. If we go back five to eight years, Angelina Jolie was celebrated the same way because of her naturally full lips. There are countless other examples of women of European descent being celebrated for having full lips, large butts, tan skin, etc… but comments still pop up like “N!gger lips” when women of African descent are put on platforms to celebrate their features.
What I would love to see happen are “lean in” conversations amongst people from all different racial backgrounds regarding this reoccurring phenomenon. There is an obvious double standard as it relates to celebrating African features on people of African descent vs. people of European descent, and the glaring question is WHY?? (nobody seems to have the answers Sway!)
Why do we think full lips on Kylie Jenner are beautiful but not on a women who is obviously of African descent? Why are Kim Kardashian‘s “box braids” considered trendy and fashion forward when women of color are often considered “ghetto” for wearing the same cornrows? Why did every man on the planet go crazy when J’Lo came on the scene with her large butt? If we truly sit down and attempt to come up with honest answers to these questions, we will inevitably face an ugly truth about the world that we live in. Admitting the problem/s is the first step right?