Category Archives: black women

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.

Sincerely,

@makeupinblackandwhite

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Blackish: Why There Are Hardly Any Black Women Who Do Major Celebrities Makeup at Award Shows

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!

Hidden Figures:Why Black Women are Flocking to Makeup Brushes Like Black Men Flock to Basketballs

We are three days into 2017, and this post is long over due!  Now some of you might have read the title of this post, and thought to yourself “Now what in the hell does the movie Hidden Figures have to do with makeup or basketball?  My answer is pretty simple, one word even.  The word is exposure.  Keep reading to smell what I’m cooking!

I went to high school in the suburbs of Chicago, and when it was confirmed that I was going to that suburban high school, I was not excited.  I had gone to public schools in Chicago for most of my life, and I was afraid to attend school in a totally new environment.  Luckily I had a mother who was very active in my life and made sure that I went to good public schools with magnet programs and teachers that cared about their students.  I also had classmates that were mostly black, and came from middle class backgrounds like me.  Now I was considered a little different because I was a dancer and occasionally traveled to perform in different states and in one instance outside of the country, but other than that and my natural hair (got my first “perm” in the eighth grade) everything was gravy.  I wasn’t the smartest kid in my class, but I was one of the smartest, and we had several teachers, who also happened to be black, who pushed our little brains to their capacity. Long story short, I was privileged and I ain’t even know it!  I had educated teachers who looked like me and cared about me, and at this point we all know that is not common in many urban cities especially as far as children of color are concerned.

Upon entering high school in the burbs, I had to take a placement exam so that I could be “placed” in the proper classes.  I tested well, and it was recommended based on my results that I take a few honor classes, English and Science were two.  While my test scores said one thing, my white female counselor sang a different tune.  She argued that because I came from a city school that perhaps the level of education that I had was not up to par, and that I should take all basic level courses.  Chile, she clearly did not know my mother! My mom came up to the school, demanded that I be placed in the classes I tested to be in, and that was that.  I ended up taking honors English, and I cannot remember what happened with Science.  Even though I knew that there was an attempt to deny me a certain level of education at this new suburban school, I still did not grasp all of the implications of what had occurred.  Some time in grade school I had gotten the idea that  because I was a girl, could dance my ass off, act, write poetry, and sing if forced, that math and science did not matter as much. I heard someone say that if you were good in reading and english that you often were not good at math and science, so thats what I chose to believe.  Oh and I also learned that girls were mostly good at those first two subjects, and boys were good with the later.  Anyways, I took highschool somewhat seriously, but I was lazy. Real lazy.  I remember taking Chemistry my sophomore year and daydreamed pretty much every class.  I never did my homework on time, I never really studied for pop quizzes, and I did just enough to get by.  The one saving grace was that somehow I always managed to get A’s or B’s on the mid terms and finals.  I remember my white male teacher always looking at me with a ton of dissappointment in his eyes, and I knew that it was because he wanted me to put forth more effort.  He must have seen potential in me(which went way over my head), but he never articulated his frustrations in a way that I could understand.  I was a teenager kind of going through the motions to get through high school, and graduate.

I was an artist!  Everybody who knew me knew that while I kept to myself, and did not have a ton of friends, I could out dance/perform anybody, and I was cool with that.  While my mom did not allow me to slack too much, she made it very clear to me that the choices and decisions that I was making as far as my academics were concerned were mine to make and that I would have to live with the consequences of those choices and decisions.  She also made it very clear that I would be attending somebodies college immediately following high school graduation, so I knew I had to get it together, or I would have hell to pay!  My mother did not play!

Fast forward to 2017 I am a full blown freelance make up artist living in the nations capitol, which also happens to be one of the most expensive cities to live in. Technology via social media has changed the whole entire landscape of what I do and many other creatives, and people are flocking to the creative fields and  becoming make up artists faster than you can say highlight and contour!  The most celebrated make up artists or “make up marketers” as I like to call them have millions of followers, and tons of brands clamoring to get their products in these social media gurus hands.  Many women now rely on Youtube and Instagram tutorials to teach them how to be “self taught muas”, drugstore brands are now creating cosmetics that can compete with and in some cases surpass high end department store brands for a fraction of the cost making makeup way more accessible, and reality stars and celebrities have given make up artists who in the past lived behind the scenes and in the shadows the biggest spotlight the world as we know it has ever seen!  With so many people and especially black women seeing make up artistry as this new golden hustle, we have started to flock to make up like flies flock to honey.

To be a make up artist in today’s world, you just need some money to purchase a “kit”, a strong selfie game, a decent camera, and access to social media.  As a black women who may come from humble beginnings or  be an “artist” in high school that could care less about math and science classes, this make up artistry game is our basketball otherwise known as our way out.  The “golden hustle” is not why I started doing make up.  It was just a natural progression from the other art forms I practiced, and while I think the physical part of make up artistry is cool,  it is also hard and ridiculously competitive.  The retail jobs that you used to be able to depend on to make a living in the past are drying up due to Department stores not being able to compete with the internet. With so many people seeing make up artistry as this new golden hustle there is more supply than there is demand.  Enter the importance of the movie Hidden Figures.

About eight years ago  I started teaching myself about ingredients in skincare and makeup.  I became obsessed!  I would read magazines like Allure and New Beauty because they would always have amazing articles about these new technological advances in skincare and ingredients, and would explain in lay mans terms why these “breakthrough’s” were a good thing. I would visit the Library of Congress and read medical journals about certain skin issues and case studies just because. Now I hoard Beauty Inc magazines which only come out quarterly because I have to know about the new beauty innovations, gadgets, and formula’s, as well as the changes to the retail landscape because of social media, millennials, the economy, etc…While I still rely on make up application to make my living, my interests are shifting and have been shifting for a long time.  I have become extremely interested in what I know now as cosmetic chemistry, aesthetics, coding ( I feel like I could have created at least ten apps by now), and mechanical/ electrical engineering (I once took steps to create a device that would make make up artists jobs much easier but didn’t have the capital to follow through).  I am also interested in business as it pertains to the beauty industry at large, and would love to consult.  What has frustrated me for at least a year are the “what if’s”.

What if in grade school I was told that I could be great at reading, english, and math and science?  What if it were made clear to me that even though I was an artist,  there was still room for me to flourish in other areas of study?  What if my high school chemistry teacher had taken the time out to express to me how great I was at chemistry even though I didn’t know it at the time?  What if I were in high school or better yet grade school when the movie Hidden Figures came out?  I didn’t know that there was such a thing as cosmetic chemistry until I was in my late twenties.  It did not occur to me that I could go to school to become an engineer and make all the cool beauty gadgets my heart desired until I was thirty.  Sadly, I know that many of my fellow black sisters  do not equate science, technology, engineering, or math to beauty, and while Hidden Figures was about three black women who used S.T.E.M fields to send the first American to the moon and outer space, their story could have and will plant seeds in the minds of women all ages and races.  In an extremely over populated industry, I hope that many of us start to embrace the subjects I know we were never encouraged to embrace and create products, and apps, and gadgets, and companies that can compete on a global scale!  There is always more to do and learn, and for all the folks flocking to the new “golden hustle”, know that hidden behind make up artistry can be a window to something much bigger, more valuable, and more profitable i.e figures.

 

 

 

On the Black Hand Side:Why Black Women Should Consider Voting for Hillary

Last July was one of the most amazing times in my life.  I went on a “real” vacation for the first time in eight years and got to work an event where the first woman to be elected the democratic nominee for president happened. I was chosen by Diane Stevens, a fabulous hair stylist and salon owner of Cole Stevens salon and my great friend and amazing makeup artist Lola Okanlawon aka @lolasbeautymark to be apart of the official Democratic National Convention glam squad. The experience was life changing to say the least. When I arrived I had no clue what to expect, the first day I met the rest of the squad, and received three security badges giving me the freedom to move around the Wells Fargo center and go wherever I wanted which was a huge deal.

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Everybody who had anything to do with politics and the democratic party was there.  Bloggers, celebrities, senators, state representatives, congressman and women, mayors, athletes, former presidents, the current president, rappers, comedians, you name it, they were there!  As far as the glam squad was concerned, I was one of two black female makeup artists, and several of the black women who came backstage to be glammed up were shocked as hell to see two black bald girls dressed in all black ready to slay them(I could not resist) with our skills.  It was obvious that having black artists or hair stylists at these type of events was not the norm, and my counter part and I observed that fast.  It wasn’t my first time filling the “only black girl” role, so I did what I always do, and I kept it moving.

The first day I provided my artistry skills for a very diverse crowd of men and women.  When asked who they were, or what they did, they all had some amazing stories, and were extremely passionate about the work that they were doing.  I guess they had to have been, because these people had been invited to stand and speak at a convention in front of thousands of people and potentially the first female president.  Later on in the afternoon, a group of black women, noticeably all aquaintences came back and sat in myself and Lola’s (the other black girls) chair.  They seemed to be just as excited to see us as we were to see them, and from that day on, we became their personal glam squad.  They were mayors, news correspondents, state representatives, congress women, senators, etc… Besides those titles, they were smart, funny as hell, very candid, and intimidating to those who needed to be intimidated.  The were also well educated, and focused on one main goal which was to handle their roles within the democratic party and convention, and get things done.

These women in the four days that I had the pleasure and honor of doing their makeup worked around the clock doing television interviews in what seemed to be every news station in Philly, preparing speeches, delivering those same speeches, cleaning up Wikileaks spills, and strategizing all while dismissing ignorance and racism when those things came in to play.

My makeup chair allowed me to witness a group of women who looked like me, sounded like me,  and shared my same tastes in music and humor take on the world like a bunch of female warriors fearlessly chopping down barriers with amazing wardrobes, hair, and makeup.  They were humble and kind and even with their hectic schedules, took the time to get to know me and my story, and share a little of theirs.  Given the challenges that I know this group of women faced as individuals and as a group based on the color of their skin and of course their gender,  they  gave me a reason to strongly consider voting for Hillary, not necessarily because “I’m with her” but more so because I see a lot of myself in them.  

So to Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, current mayor of Baltimore, MD, Donna Brazile, political analyst and interim chair at the 2016 DNC, Marcia Fudge, State Representative for Ohio, and Karen Carter Peterson, senator from Louisiana, and countless other black women working extremely hard behind the scenes I thank you all!!

What I Think Wednesday:Gifts With Purchase, Do Black Lives Matter?

Given everything that has happened in the last week, well past 300 years, my heart is pretty heavy.  The only way to be triumphant in anything is to keep pressing.  Since my blog is called “Make up in Black and White” and addresses gender, class, and race as those topics apply to the vast world of beauty, I thought it would only be right if I discussed race this week.  I  am going to be very specific, and discuss one uber frustrating thing.  Gift with purchases that major companies give out for earning points, birthdays, holidays or for spending a certain dollar amount never include products that women of color can use when it comes to color!

Every year when Christmas season pops up, I am always working in a retailer that provides amazing goody bags chock full of skincare, haircare, and makeup.  When ever I service a client that has a deeper skin tone who has earned one of those goody bags, they always ask if the bag is even worth them spending the extra money to earn.  Depending on what brand/retailer I am working for, the bag is 25-75% useful, and obviously if they can use only a small fraction of the products, they choose to pass on the gift or GWP as we call them in the retail world.

Out of sheer curiosity, I would love to know how much it costs a company to make lets say a tinted moisturizer sample?  I happen to freelance for a company that makes the best tinted moisturizer but when ever there are samples made it is always in the third to lightest shade that the company offers.  Realizing that the shade is the most popular, I can’t help but to wonder what would happen if that same company made a test run of a deeper shade, put it in magazines geared towards women of color i.e. Ebony and Essence to see what kind of return on the initial investment of making the samples in the first place.  I tell people all the time that just because you build it doesn’t mean “they” will come.  So for all of the cosmetic companies that offer make up for deeper skin tones, samples must be made in a broader range of shades, and marketed specifically to the demographics that speak to those women who have deeper skin.

To put it plainly, all lives matter so companies should do whatever they can to accommodate all people who do and could potentially become loyal supporters of their brands.  This for many of these companies would appeal to demographics that have tremendous spending power and have the ability to positively impact their bottom lines.

Bottom line?  Make the samples in a broader range of shades and market the hell out of them, its time!

My Natural Journey…or not!

This past couple days have made me aware of one major thing that I never really put much energy into.  I realize that because of the color of my skin, and the texture of what is on top of my head, my last statement is almost blasphemous!  If you haven’t figured out what “topic” I am speaking about, it is my hair!! I have avoided writing about this topic for a long while, because while I know it is a hot topic for so many women, I give it about five minutes a day!

A few days ago, a random guy came up to my friend and I while we were just walking down the street to congratulate us for being “natural”.  He gave us this long speech about how he loves and values “natural black women”, and how he “would only marry a black woman who was natural”, etc…

The very next day my same friend and I decided to grab a bite to eat for lunch at a popular restaurant and this sweet young black woman asked us in a whisper if we were on a “natural journey”, and wanted to know tons of details about this “journey”.

The last “naturalvention” happened while I was watching a show that I decided to watch mainly because of where the show was filmed.  Several of my friends and clients talk to me about The Housewives of Potomac, so with my two days off I decided to watch the show and see what all of the fuss was about.  As far as the topics of race, ethnicity, culture, and hair texture there were fireworks everywhere honey!! After each episode I found myself asking all types of questions.  Surprisingly, I ended up appreciating this show mainly because it pushed the participants and viewers to grapple with difficult topics like race, ethnicity, culture, and hair texture all based around western ideas. The unfortunate thing in the show which happens too often in real life is that when folks are forced to discuss touchy topics dealing with race, ethnicity, skin color, or hair texture, conversations are dropped and/or swept under the rug instead of hashed out completely.  I have been guilty of avoiding the “Black girl hair” conversation for many reasons, but feel compelled to say my piece.(or is it peace?)

I was super lucky to have been born into a family that never talked about being dark or light, pretty or ugly, or about having good or bad hair.  My grandmother was a hairstylist among many other professions, and always could make anyones hair look great.  As a result, my mom was also great with hair, and ultimately the “do hair gene” was passed down to me!  I honestly think that because we always knew how to “fix” our hair, our opinion on black hair was simple, we knew what to do to have the styles, length, and texture we wanted.  I didn’t learn until fourth or fifth grade that my hair texture was considered “good” because my fellow classmates told me.  I didn’t understand until I was a grown adult that my hair was considered “a good grade” because when I put gel, jam, water, or hair lotion it had an obvious wave/curl pattern depending on the hairstyle that I wore.

I remember the first time a class mate told me I had “good hair”. I was kinda nerdy, had natural hair which was unusual because most of my classmates had relaxers or “perms” as we used to call them, and this girl that I could not stand screamed across the room “Hey, you got some good hair.  I bet it would be real pretty if you had a perm.”  At the time I was just confused because the term was so foreign to me. I was raised by a mother who was/is a performing artist that put me in a West African dance company where everything African was celebrated.  It was super important to me to have natural hair because the styles that I wore for performances looked more authentic, and I fit in with my fellow dance peers.  Most of us had parents who embraced their African heritage and passed it down to us making West African food, music, languages, clothing, religion, and education the norm.  Because I valued dance and my dance community more than my peers in elementary school, I didn’t mind not fitting in.

Now as a grown adult I am learning from several other women that I am lucky to have had the unique childhood experiences which helped to establish my views on my own hair.  High school was another story, but we will discuss that in the next post!! Peace and a bottle of hair grease!! lol