A few nights ago I watched snippets of the Golden Globes on television, and on Instagram. Every time I saw a black female celebrity come across my screen, I looked at how she was dressed, I looked at her hair, and lastly I looked at her makeup! After I looked at all of those things, I immediately researched all of the people responsible for creating the looks, and just like all the years before, I failed to see black women’s names.
Traci Ellis Ross took home an award for her show Blackish (see what I did here?), and neither her makeup artist or stylist were black women. Kerry Washington’s makeup artist was not a black woman, and Simone Biles, the gymnast who stole the show at last years summer Olympics did not use a black makeup artist or hairstylist. Last but certainly not least our beautiful and amazing flotus for ten more days, who has been the epitome of black female excellence to many for the last eight years, consistently uses a makeup artist who, you guessed it, is not black or a woman.
Many reading this may ask, well why the hell does any of this matter? It matters because of the same reason seeing the movie Hidden Figures matters. Black female representation at the top of all professions matters. Black women on major platforms supporting other black women matters, and you know what? Sometimes a black female makeup artist that has had years of experience working with deeper skin tones would be better suited for the job! Yes, I said it. Now back to my first point.
There is a tall glass ceiling for black female makeup artists as it relates to agency representation, and being in a union. I experienced a ridiculous amount of discrimination first hand by non black makeup artists who were pissed that I was able to work a major union event side by side with them. For the few days that we shared a work space, they critiqued my appearance, my personal makeup, and my makeup kit. While they could find nothing negative to say about any of those things, they resulted in relying heavily on some old raggedy tired black women stereotypes and complained to the key makeup artist that I was “not friendly” and “distant”. Now would you be close to someone or some people who made you feel unwelcome and grilled you on your experience, brands you worked with, your kit, and personal appearance?While this was one example of the challenges that I personally go through on my road to the top of my field, it saddens me to say that my experience is common place amongst my black female peers. Racism and gender discrimination towards women exists so heavily in the world of celebrity makeup, one of the easiest ways to help solve this problem is for black actresses and celebrities to request black female makeup artists, hair stylists, clothing stylists, and clothing designers.
Now switching subjects, I mentioned earlier that sometimes black women can be better suited to do black female celebrities makeup because of experience. In all of the years that I have worked in the cosmetic industry I have seen sooooo many examples of this play out. I have been personally set up by countless non black artists at trainings, I have seen many black women be set up and done wrong at beauty counters, I have seen it go wrong at huge celebrity filled events, and I have seen it play out for the world to see with many black actresses, politicians, celebrities, and even flotus on occasion.
The common sense factor is this. Typically, where you work is what you learn and practice. If you work in a location where there are no people of color let alone a ton of black women who have deeper skin tones, you won’t ever have to use products or learn to use products to do a person with a deeper skintone. Mastering the art of makeup on a woman any shade takes practice! It also takes mastering color theory, understanding face structure, and understanding cultural nuances as they relate to women’s makeup preferences. Last week I participated in a makeup audition, and I had 20mins to execute a look. I chose a black woman as my model, and after I was done, and the administrator over the audition approved my work, I went back to my models face to sculpt her brows. Why? It’s simple, many of my black female clients like a sculpted brow.
There are several black women killing it in entertainment, politics, and education. I would love to see them look their absolute best when they go before the world to be celebrated for their accomplishments. To further represent black excellence and bring everything full circle, it would be awesome if I saw more black female glam squads providing them with the best hair, clothing, and makeup! Blackish the television show is great, but not as it relates to our leading women!