Category Archives: beauty industry

Pat McGrath the Mother of MUA’s

Today one of the most innovative, consistent, celebrated, and well respected make up artists in the world launched her second batch of products.  Pat McGrath who has served as the creative director for Max Factor and Proctor and Gamble launched a make up bundle, which is currently sold out, and included four colored eyeshadows, a black potted pigment, an eyeshadow brush, and a spatula to depot the items.  The items were not offered as separated pieces, and the whole thing sold for $240.

Pat McGrath 002 launch

While I love and respect Pat McGrath for everything she has done for the fashion and cosmetics industry, I can not help but to question the decisions to produce the products that she is selling currently under her own brand.  Two hundred and forty dollars is a steep price for four foiled eyeshadows, a brush, and some black stuff in a pot.  Not only that, but apart from the shadows looking very pigmented, they are not innovative.  This is really dissappointing considering these products are coming from a brain that has created looks where beads, feathers, pearls, construction paper, etc… have been used on models faces in the most beautiful and avant grade ways the runways and fashion publications have ever seen!

Part of me looks at this product launch, the one before, and the somewhat recent collaboration with Kim Kardashian as a way for McGrath’s team to make Pat more relevant without truly understanding her value in the fashion and cosmetics world.  She is a living make up legend that most serious make up artists respect and look up to.  Her work is amazing, creative, progressive, and consistent, and has been for decades.  I hope that in the future, her and her team decide to push the envelope on the products they create with the same knowledge they have used in the past. Besides because of the reputation and the legacy she has built, people will buy what ever she creates not because of the products but because of who she is and what she has done!

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The Invisible Woman

woc image

Within the past few months, articles have popped up discussing the rise of a globalized world, women of color, and their noticeable increase in spending power in the world of cosmetics. Beauty Inc magazine, a publication that provides a behind the scenes look at all things beauty in the U.S and other countries, fastcompany.com and bloomberg.com both, publications focused on  business, technology, and design have all published these articles to name a few.  Fast Company’s article, “The L’Oreal Chemist Who’s Changing The Face Of Makeup”, and Bloomberg Business’s article, “The World’s Biggest Cosmetics Brands Are Finally Courting Minorities” both mention that in 2014 the “multicultural beauty products market grew 3.7 percent in the U.S., outpacing the growth of the overall market for cosmetics and toiletries.  This data means what exactly?  About ten years ago, I remember reading an article in Essence magazine, a publication that caters to women of color and especially black women, that provided some very similar statistical data.  The article stated that women of color out spent every other demographic in the cosmetics industry by large margins. Lets take it back even more.

Madam CJ Walker

In 1905, Madam C. J. Walker went down in history as arguabley the first female millionaire in America.  She made her fortune off of you guessed it, the cosmetic industry.  Recently I learned that before she made her millions, she had a mentor who also was African American, and also, was a self made millionaire.   Both of these women made their fortunes off of creating, manufacturing, and selling hair care products to women of African descent.  For those of us who remember high school history class, we remember that on those two pages that covered black history in our American history books, that black folks were not doing so well economically in the early 1900’s.  I mean, there was the “discovering of America” by Christopher Columbus, a strange “disappearance” of Native Americans, which left none of the Native American women to buy cosmetics, and then us.  When I say us, I mean Africans brought over as slaves to “help out” on plantations and in urban settings leaving us strapped for cash to say the least.  Even given those circumstances, shortly after slavery, somehow black women all over the U.S were able to make not one but two black women millionaires and several of their employees financially “comforatable” by purchasing their beauty products.

In summation, I would love to give a great big You can’t be serious shout out to all of these publications and cosmetic giants that have finally decided to stop ignoring me and women who look like me.  It has been proven by a ton of geologists and archeologists and anthropologists that we all originated from Africa.  It has also been proven that the remains of the oldest human belong to an African woman.  What does that suggest L’Oreal and Estee Lauder? It suggests that when Cleopatra, also African, was busy enticing Ceasar we had incredible spending power. It suggests that when the queen of Sheba was busy running an empire, she might have wanted to even out her skin with some clay that matched her complexion.  It suggests that Madam C.J. Walker knew that if she created hair care products that worked on her self that she could probably sell them to other women whose hair texture was similar. It means that Lupita, Taraji, Traci Ross, Jennifer Lopez, Coretta King, Assata Shakur, Pocahontas, YoNasDa Lonewolf, Vera Wang, etc … all deserve to not be ignored!!

Last question, since our spending power is proving to be the main catalyst for major cosmetic companies to finally see us, does that mean that money trumps race in the world of cosmetics?

Am I really just a Stupid Makeup Artist?

Last year I worked at a super popular cosmetics counter located in downtown DC for both the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Congressional Black Caucus. Both of those week long events are for anyone and everyone involved in politics who is hispanic or black or conducts a lot of business with hispanic and/or blacks to come to DC and discuss challenges, changes, and progress affecting those two communities across the country.  It is also where folks network, party, network, and did I mention network?

Of course one of the major priorities with the women flocking to DC representing their various organizations including corporations, non profits, law firms, and political parties, etc… is to look good! With that being said, these professional educated women flock to counters and stores to make them look awesome for panels, hosting responsibilities, Gala’s, parties, and meetings.  I had the wonderful opportunity of doing several ‘important‘ women’s makeup for both CHC and CBC weeks and on each occasion both my clients and I learned valuable lessons.

The first person I had the pleasure of working with was a young African American women who was a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood out of New York.  She seemed extremely ambitious, driven, and also passionate about her work.  While I was doing her makeup, she was very direct in what she wanted, and seemed to be slightly nervous because she was used to having her makeup done by our counter manager.  I was a ‘new‘ face.  I totally understood her concern and convinced her to have faith in my skills. After all, I had been doing makeup for myself and others for about twenty years at that point, and doing a simple “day face” wasn’t an issue. After we established that I would be able to complete her makeup to her liking, I started up a general conversation about her organization, Planned Parenthood. I opened up about equating Planned Parenthood with the young college grads that stand outside of popular retail stores downtown soliciting money and support!  We both laughed, and she explained that she was surprised because most people associate Planned Parenthood with birth control and abortions.  I left that alone, because given the history of the organization with black women in particular, I knew that the conversation could have taken a turn for the worse.

She expressed her concern and challenges with trying to expose the general public to all of the other services that the org on the non profit side provides including sexual education, research, and other stuff.  I had an “aha moment“.  I suggested that the organization seek out smaller non profits that provide sex ed through mentorship, performing arts, etc to partner with to help re brand Planned Parenthood.  If those partnerships were made, and the smaller non profits worked under the umbrella of her organization, they could help change people’s opinion because then people would associate Planned Parenthood with other services which would be a far stretch from birth control and abortions.

After providing my suggestion, my client looked at me as if she had seen a ghost! I had recieved that look a gazillion times before, and I knew exactly what she was thinking. “I never in a million years would have expected a makeup artist to give me a great suggestion dealing with my job!”  Of course she had no way of knowing that I was a thesis paper away from having a MA in African Studies, that many of my friends outside of the cosmetics industry had started or work for non profits, or that I as a teen was part of a non profit that hired performing artists to act, sing, and dance all the while creating a show that would educate young adults about safe sex, gender, Aids and HIV, STI’s, teen pregnancy, and the proper use of male and female condoms.  Either way she put me in the “MUA Box” forgetting that I had the capabilitiy to be multidemensional  and think beyond blending eyeshadow and perfecting brows.

In the city where people ask you “What do you do for a living?” and “What school do you attend?” before asking what your name is, it is difficult to be an artist let alone a make up artist.  The assumption that goes along with working in the beauty industry in “ugly hollywood” is that you are not the most intelligent, are uneducated, are in articulate, and have no clue about the world outside of makeup.  People are often shocked at my intelligence, level of education, and general knowledge of the world.  My peers get the same reactions here in the nations capitol, and it is annoying.  I do my best not to believe the negative stereotypes that surround government employees and other nine to fivers that work in DC, Maryland, and Virginia, and it would be awesome if they did the same with my peers and I, and artists in general.

Makeup in Black and White; An introduction, Sort Of

For the last year, many of my peers, have suggested that I start a blog! (Oh what a surprise)  I had a blog in like 2009 when I was really into Janelle Monae and her Cindy Mayweather movement. My monicker was “Judy 5000” and the purpose was to “Save One Black Girl at a Time”. I guess I thought that by saving  black women I could also save myself. I wrote product reviews, discussed fashion trends, and also gave my two cents, well maybe twelve cents on culture, gender, and race. All in all, I had a good time writing it, but grew impatient with the outcome that I expected to come from my blog mainly because I had unrealistic expectations. I also forgot about the rule of consistency in being successful in the game of social media.

Fast forward to 2014, I’m freelancing full time as a makeup artist, I’m working for MAC cosmetics, Chanel, Anastasia, Laura Mercier, and myself. In my free time I taught private dance classes, studied cosmetic ingredients, became obsessed with perfume oils, buying them, and researching them, and became super determined to understand social media, and more specifically why I had ten plus years of experience in the beauty biz, a bachelors, a MA (almost), and was poor, and why some other “MUA’s” with 6-12 months in the game were cashing out! I also continued to use my job/art form to study people, brands, and the cosmetics industry.

I started writing a book with the same name as this Blog where I recount tales of my experiences working for brands where I discuss race, class, and gender at length.From then until now, I have loved discovering the intersections between race, class, and gender in the world of cosmetics.