All posts by michanna

Q: What do race, class, and gender have to do with the beauty industry? A: Everything

Dear Fashion Fair…, An Open Letter

Dear Fashion Fair,

When are you gonna step up to the plate and be the black version of Estée Lauder, LVMH, or better yet the beauty industry’s answer to “Wakanda”?

It is the last day of Black History Month, and while I have spent months thinking long and hard about the importance of having more than just representation and inclusivity for blacks in the world of beauty, I can not help but think about you!

Fashion Fair, your company started in the Windy City (my hometown), and in 1958 you hit the ground running! You created a traveling fashion show which showcased black beauty all over the world ( even my cousin had an opportunity to slay the Fashion Fair runways)and from your super successful fashion shows you created a cosmetics brand.

Your products were distributed in Macys, Dillard’s, Belk, and several other high end department stores which was no small feat! That accomplishment was major because your brand was the first and only brand created for and by people of African descent that was showcased and distributed by major mass department stores. Your cosmetic counters showcased beauty campaigns with beautiful black models and hired black women and men as makeup artists making women of color feel welcome in an otherwise cold industry where people of color are often ignored. You always had an amazing shade range in complexion products which still in 2018 is a major problem in the beauty industry at large.

In the last five years I have witnessed the sad decline of your brand including watching your loyal customers be forced to shop with other brands because they grew frustrated and tired of not being able to purchase their Fashion Fair products on numerous occasions due to stock issues. I have also watched your counters be removed from many Macys stores, which to my surprise has left me with a personal feeling of defeat. Recently, I grew angry and frustrated when I learned about Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty partnership with LVMH because I could not help but think of what that partnership could have looked like if it was with you, and what it could have done for your brand.

The movie Black Panther and the fictional African nation, “Wakanda“, helped me and many people of African descent across the globe understand that ownership over representation and inclusion is of great importance, and it also gave us a visualization of what that ownership could look like.

I know given your amazing history, and great products, that Fashion Fair cosmetics has the potential to be our “Wakandan” version of a large beauty conglomerate, and I am writing this open letter to let you know that you have many beauty soldiers willing and ready to help your brand do what is necessary to realize your fullest potential!

On this last day of Black History Month, I truly hope you read this letter and absorb all the love and concern that I tried my best to articulate.



The Help or the Talent?

Working in a majority female dominated industry means a few things, and one thing for certain. If you are providing a service like doing hair, makeup, or nails, you have to play your role. People may read this and say ” Well what the hell does she mean by that?” I plan to explain exactly what I mean in these next few paragraphs.

Back in the day before you could become rich and famous off of doing your own makeup using different products everyday, filming the activity, and posting it on YouTube, as a beauty service provider, your job was simple. You learned your craft, bought the best possible products, and worked hard to gain a good, loyal clientele by word of mouth, business cards, and establishing a relationship with people who could get you more clients.

If you were lucky enough to have celebrity clients or high profile clients, you had to follow some protocols like knowing never to ask for photos, being available at any time of day, and being prepared to do way more than whatever your job description described. There is one more rule that people didn’t really talk about then or now, and it is beyond necessary to address, I can sum it up in two simple words. Dress code. It’s story time people!! 

About five years ago when I was freelancing for the most popular cosmetics brand out there I freelanced for a store manager who wore bodycon dresses, and six inch designer shoes everyday to work. She always looked like she had a tan from a fabulous vacation she had just returned from, her hair was always pulled back in a tight bun, her makeup was always bronzed and smokey, and she always came with accessories that Miranda Presley would envy. Whenever she would work on the sales floor sometimes I would sit back and watch wishing I had some popcorn because the looks/stares/snarls that she would get just for being her self and looking a certain way and wearing certain things caused so much attention.

The one thing I learned in that experience as well as several other is that as the help, you cannot out shine your clients.  The bottom line is that we as women have so many insecurities around how we physically look and how we are perceived, sometimes the last thing in the world we want is for our “help” coming in providing a service looking like they just stepped out of Essence magazine! Call me crazy, but I know I’m telling the truth! 

I have heard stories where clients questioned my peers and I for having nice watches, jewelry, home ownership, college education, a graduate degree, designer shoes and handbags, etc… The assumption that many clients have is that we are literally the help, we live modest lives, we make ok money, and that we enjoy living in the shadows. Now with social media the reality has changed dramatically!! 

Now you can literally be “the help” and the celebrity all at the same time!! Depending on your social media influence, number of followers, and relationships to brands, you can make well over six figures, take lavish vacations, own tons of designer clothes, shoes, and accessories, and still manage to make your celebrity clients, brides, and whoever else feel and look special. The awesome thing is that some clients welcome the newfound attention and celebrity status that their makeup artist/hair stylist/nail technician has. If you want money from those that cannot quite wrap their head around “the help” being also the celebrities then you have to know how to scale it down!

Here are a few rules to follow.

1. If your client is married, do not go to their house with tight clothing on and your face “beat to the gods” with hair draping down to where your butt and lower back meet. You might look amazing that way, but guaranteed they will never invite you back! 

2. Only disclose how fabulous your life is if asked! Even if God has blessed you to live this fabulous life, your client may not be so lucky and may not be able to hear how wonderful your life is going if hers is not also golden.

3. Learn to stroke your clients ego, and always make the experience that you are providing about her unless she is secure in life and is genuinely interested in helping you reach another level in your career. 

Listen it takes a lot of growth and maturity to get to a place where you are secure enough in your own skin to want to help other women, compliment other women, and celebrate other women’s accomplishments. I will be the first one to admit that even as the “help”! To ensure that we can provide the best service to all of our clients the ones who applaud us being our true selves and those who would prefer we “stay in our place” we have to know how to play the game to win!

Stocks, Bonds, and Lipstick 

For the last five years I have been wrecking my brain trying to figure out what I want to do to generate enough wealth for my mom and I to just say “eff” it, and travel the world worry free because both sets of our bills would be paid from now till eternity! lol I have thought about developing helpful beauty gadgets to help my fellow makeup artists and enthusiasts alike, I’ve thought about blogging/vlogging (I mean who hasn’t? Hello!), I thought about creating a beauty oriented show that could eventually be picked up by a network, etc…

The whole time I was wrecking my brain, I was also studying cosmetic ingredients. I was studying those ingredients because I still work part time in a retail sales environment where I have to know basic ingredients in skincare and makeup to be able to answer questions from customers, and also because I just love the new innovations and technological advances in cosmetics and the “Super ingredients” that are born from those advances. 

In all of these years and thousands of dollars later, a light bulb finally clicked. I could just start investing in the very cosmetic ingredients, products, and companies via the stock market and make my money that way!  

So many of us enjoy products and certain brands and spend enough money on them that we actually should own stock! Now is the time!! I decided to google the stock value on two ingredients that have intrigued me over the last year and my findings were unbelievable!

I have been into hylauronic acid for its skin plumping and joint lubricating benefits, and activated charcoal for its teeth whitening and acne clearing magic.  Both of these ingredients are ones to invest in both short and long term. 

According to Business Insider the global market for hyaluronic acid raw material is supposed to reach 7.25 billion USD by 2024, and was already worth 8.3 billion in 2016. I don’t know about you guys, but with the amount of beauty products I see flooding the market highlighting hylauronic acid as the main ingredient, and an increase in its use in injections for joint pain and dermal fillers, etc…this ingredient should be a must on your stock investment list! 

Activated charcoal is also a stand out ingredient having been worth 4.74 billion two years ago according to with expectations by analysts to double in value within the next few years. With its numerous uses over the cosmetic, water treatment, medical, and pharmaceutical industries it goes without saying that buying stock in activated charcoal as a raw material would also be a smart investment to make.

There are tons of other ingredients like Shea butter, argon oil, ascorbic acid (vitamin c), retinol (vitamin a), jojoba oil, moringa, maca root, olive oil, talc, mica, squalene, etc to invest in. Instead of us makeup artists,makeup junkies, beauty bloggers/vloggers, hairstylists only participating on the consumer side by purchasing the finished products made up of these raw ingredients, we should also be apart of the profit making side by investing in the raw materials, and the companies that use them to make brands and products that we cannot live without!


Get Out; What Does the “Sunken Place” Have to do With my Work Environment?

By now I am pretty sure all the folks that planned on seeing the movie “Get Out” saw it, and the rest heard enough to form several opinions and assumptions about the countless lessons and harsh realities that the uber successful film delivered.

For those that have absolutely no clue what I am even talking about I will provide a brief explanation.

 The movie “Get Out” was about an interracial couple going home to the (white) girlfriends parents house for the (black) boyfriend to meet the parents and entire family. While visiting the girlfriends parents, the boyfriend learned that black people were lured to the house by his girlfriend to be auctioned off for whatever part of their body a family member wanted. In order for the black peoples bodies to be completely taken over, the girlfriends mother hypnotized each victim putting them in a “sunken place” by stirring tea in a teacup with a spoon. The “sunken place” placed the black victims in a state of mental purgatory where they stayed conscious enough to witness what was happening to them, but not conscious enough to physically be able to do anything about it.

The last sentence brings me to the point of this post. While sitting in the movie theater, I realized that the “sunken place” was a very real place that I have experienced almost everyday of my life. 

I work in one of the most educated and heavily gentrified (DC used to be one of the countries “chocolate cities” that boasted an 80-88% black population in years past)cities in the United States, where most of the homeless folks who also happen to suffer from mental illnesses  are people of color, the new transplants moving into the new astronomically priced developments are not, and CVS stores, trendy restaurants, and Starbucks seem to be replacing all the old buildings and businesses that had culture, black culture to be exact.

During all of this gentrification, I cannot help but observe the dampening of black folks spirit and an obvious journey to “the sunken place”.  The scariest part of all of this is realizing how often I voluntarily have to put myself in the “sunken place” in order to keep my job and pay my bills! I deal with racism every single solitary day whether it be overt or via micro aggressions, and most times I stir the tea cup mentally myself! 

I am well aware that I work in the service industry where I am considered the help. I am also aware that most folks because of what I do assume that I am uneducated and not necessarily well read or well versed on current events or world affairs. Combine that with me being African American and a woman, and it is the perfect recipe for me to voluntarily put myself in the “sunken place”. 

I have to help customers after they snap their fingers at me rushing me to help them with brands I don’t work for, I have to constantly show clients where the trash bins are when they hold out their snotty tissues for me to take and throw away, I have to sometimes bite my tongue so hard it bleeds when they attempt to tell me they aren’t racist because they grew up with an interracial couple down the street from them, I have to even listen to folks tell me they wish they had my skin color so that they didn’t have to spend so much money on self tanners (we all know that if the option to trade in pale skin and the  privilege it brings for permanently tan skin was on the table, folks would just stay pale), I always have to play the “guess how old I am” game even though it has been scientifically proven that black people typically age 10 years slower than whites, and that melanin protects our skin from age spots, premature wrinkles, etc…Point being if I truly threw out a number, the people asking me to play the game would be pissed! 

Sitting in the movie Get Out made me super conscious of the fact that I and many other black folks and people of color for that matter live in a sunken place where we do not have complete control of our minds, bodies, or spirits especially in the work place. I realized also why many people of color including myself aspire to be entrepreneurs. Life is really short, and I pray that most of my life is spent living out loud rather than living in a place that is sunken! To all of my fellow entrepreneurs I say keep fighting the good fight, because dumbing down and pretending to be less than we are for other peoples comfort is straight bullsh$t!!

Shether: Why the Nicki Minaj and Remy Ma battle has everything to do with Female MUA’s

I live in the DMV area i.e DC, Maryland, and Virginia. While I am aware that makeup artists come a dime a dozen around the world, I am pretty positive they come a penny a dozen around here! lol 

When I first started working as a “professional Mua”, I worked with a team of about 20 people. There were a few men, but mostly women. Most of the staff had at least a bachelors degree, and despite the constant pressure of sales, we all got along as one big family. If one of us made our goal for the week, we gave our sales to the next artist. If one of us got engaged, we threw them a bachelorette party! We went to dinner across the street from where we worked almost every Sunday together, and we provided constructive criticism as well as artistry tricks and tips to make our team of artists better than any other. As a result of all of that, several of those artists that I had the pleasure to work with and learn from have gone on to become leaders in our industry doing everything from Vogue, Elle, and Allure magazine covers to your favorite reality television and music award shows. Looking back on my experience with that particular staff and that brand/store, it all seems like a fairytale.

Fast forward ten years to the Nicki and Remy beef, and unfortunately for me it is all too familiar. The beauty industry is afflicted with the same problems that female rappers have! Jealousy, envy, and gossip seem to reign supreme, and for the most part, most of us don’t want to see the next artist surpass us in talent, job opportunities, or earning potential. We tend to divide ourselves into cliques based on brand,race, gender, etc… and it really has turned into one big nasty non progressive mess! 

At times I have definitely played my part in the nastiness, and have recently been a victim of it. Guess what? Neither participating nor being a victim felt good. You know what else doesn’t feel good? Watching all of these male makeup artists band together and kill the game being brand ambassadors, celebrity make up artists, trainers, national artists, etc… Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of women killing the game as well, but many makeup artists that I know personally, even if their talent is amazing are not where they/we want to be.

A team is always better than an individual, and I encourage all of us Mua’s to do the individual work (praying, doing yoga, working out, finding your own happiness and peace, controlling your tongue, saying no to gossip and lying, building your self confidence and an impeccable work ethic, practicing your craft, engaging in productive conversations, and minding your own business) necessary so that one day we can work together, share our talents and skills, and progress the way we want. I for one am tired of all the unnecessary bs that keeps me and many folks I know from moving forward and have started my personal Journey to get what I know I deserve, and I cannot help but to think how awesome it would be to have some like minded women join me! To us I say a day after International Women’s Day, let’s do the unthinkable, band together, and win!!

FUBU:Black owned beauty brands that could change the game with support from the masses!

Ever since January 1st, I have been really thinking in black. Whenever I go into a Sephora store or other beauty boutique, I cannot help but think how amazing it would be to have a black version filled with tons of products made by people who look like me. Every time I see a new on demand beauty app, I think about how cool it will be to see the first one that launches and caters to women of color. Now, whenever I am discussing current challenges with brands that don’t quite have the right products for women of color, I think “we need to make it ourselves”. 

The beautiful thing that has been happening is that these brands have started to pop up out of nowhere! Every week I will randomly discover a brand that specifically caters to women of color, and I am so excited to highlight them here! 

Now I know that the amount of money women of color and especially black women spend at Sephora is mind boggling. I am pretty positive that if I googled those statistics some astronomical amount would pop up making my stomach hurt. While I enjoy visiting Sephora and other beauty boutiques that are similar, I would love to support a black owned one. 

Enter Vivrant Beauty, a Beauty boutique started by a black female former attorney Desiree Verdejo located in Harlem, New York. With amazing brands like Cane and Austin, The Lip Bar , Becca Cosmetics, and Ren, visiting this stores website and brick and mortar to drop a lot of dough would be super easy! 

I would love to see Vivrant Beauty expand into other cities to give stores like Sephora, Space NK, and Blue Mercury some good old fashioned competition and also provide folks like me, who do not live in New York an opportunity to support the business in person. 

Another major discovery for me in the world of beauty as it relates to STEM (my new obsession) is a black owned chemistry lab located in my home town, and founded by a black woman! Hidden Figures no more!! As I listened to my mom tell me about this woman’s story, my face literally turned into one giant heart emoji!! Linda Boasmond owner of Cedar Labs is responsible for mixing up tons of potions for major companies including Boeing, the company that makes jets. 

She also has a mentoring program for young girls that partners them with women in STEM fields which exposes them to tons of different careers and entrepreneurship. 

With these two entities, I can not help thinking about all of the major what ifs??!! What if make up artists like me with ideas falling from my ears, nose, mouth, and everywhere could meet with both of these women to create an incubator for folks to create and manufacture from Cedar Labs, and sell at Vivrant Beauty helping these platforms become as big as LVMH, L’Oréal, and Estée Lauder? Can you imagine the shade ranges offered in the cosmetics lines that would come from it?!! A girl can dream!! Ok but seriously, this could happen and in order for it to happen, we as in women of color have to reach out to these business owners and support them financially, and by giving them as much exposure as possible! I plan to make that a personal goal for myself this year, and I hope that someone who reads this does the same.

We are responsible for making us great, and by supporting the amazing things we create we push ourselves forward.

Planet of the Apps/ How Big Beauty Brands Can Level Up

Alright so I’ve written about how on-demand beauty apps are about to change the world of beauty as we know it, and I have not talked about how large beauty brands can retain clients during the disruption. The answer is super simple!! All major beauty brands that have stores and counters need to do is create apps of their own to compete!! (Major key alert) 

In last weeks post I talked about how many brands have a certain aesthetic, and how people choose what brands they buy, and what artists and counters they visit based on that aesthetic. It is only fitting for brands to pimp their aesthetics out, train special teams of artists, and develop on demand beauty apps for their specific brands to allow these special artists to create their aesthetic and expand and strengthen brand awareness!

The problem that all of these new on demand beauty apps face is that the general consumers who can use them don’t really know if the people that will be sent to provide hair, makeup, or nail services are any good. If the app was a Mizani app, women of color would be all over it because it is a known fact that Mizani specializes in multiethnic hair. 

Imagine if MAC cosmetics had an uber like app, where you could request an artist to come to you! If you were participating in an avant-garde photoshoot you would feel comfortable with the artist because more than likely the artist that they would send would have several artistry certifications under their belt making them a perfect fit to handle any style of makeup you want. 

If you know you dislike heavy unnatural looking makeup you could request services from a brand like Bobbi Brown or Laura Mercier. If you wanted a step by step approach where everything was organized in one makeup planner, you could use the “Trish McEvoy mobile beauty app”. 

Let’s face it, Macys stores are performing terribly and will be closing between 60-80 stores this year, Nordstrom has also started closing stores, and if it wasn’t for Sephora, JC Penny would have gone bankrupt all together. People are not shopping in department stores any more, so all of these department store brands have to start hiring newer, fresher minds to think fast and think outside of the box! 

Right now is the survival of the fittest, and one of the ways that the well established department store brands can compete is to create on demand beauty divisions of their companies!! Ready, set, goooo!!!!