Category Archives: business

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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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!!!!

Planet of the Apps/A Retailers Worst Nightmare 

With on demand beauty apps popping up in the already super saturated beauty industry, retailers will have yet another force to reckon with. “What we think is never going to stop is the acceleration of the adoption of technology” says Shiseido’s global chief digital officer Alessio Rossi, and I could not agree more! 

The truth is that if brick and mortar businesses want to have a standing chance against this “acceleration of the adoption of technology”, the in store experiences are gonna have to be innovative in the way technology can be used to enhance the customers in store experience as well. Besides that, companies are gonna have to dust off their customer service training manuals and retrain all employees working on the sales floors. 

Customer service seems to be a fleeing thought in the minds of big beauty brands, and even now when we are moments away from being able to live like The Jetsons, customer service was, is, and will always be the most important factor helping consumers determine where and how they will spend their money. Now let’s examine some of the things retailers can do to provide impactful customer experiences to compete with these on demand beauty apps!

First things first! Many employees that are now hired by makeup brands with beauty counters and stores do not hire people with previous makeup artistry experience. I repeat they do not have any prior experience! Now I know you are probably thinking wtf??!! While everyone these days claims they are an artist, it is difficult to find enough talented ones who are willing to work crazy hours including holidays, nights, and weekends for little pay and subpar health benefits or none at all. Those factors force brands to hire non artists who sometimes have little to no retail experience to work at brands like MAC, Bobbi Brown, Lancôme, etc…

There are obvious implications here, but let’s just deal with the most obvious one. How can a beauty counter compete with on demand beauty apps if their “artists” are not artists? Simple answer, they can’t. 

Beauty brands across the board need to really focus on artistry programs that define their specific aesthetic (nothing grinds my gears more than when I walk past a Bobbi Brown counter and the staff looks like they are competing in RuPauls Drag Race!), and train them on how to replicate that aesthetic on clients of all I repeat all ethnic backgrounds, ages, and skin types. 

Along with basic makeup application skills and techniques, customer service has got to be stepped up. I have witnessed more cellphone calls, Snapchat videos, and selfie taking while ignoring customers, and it has got to stop. I have also seen clients come in wanting their makeup done and witnessed the staff refuse them because they didn’t feel like doing it! Nobody is perfect, but in today’s society where getting anything is an app away, there is little to no room for error. 

The next thing that companies can do to strengthen their employees ability to gain loyal customers is introduce technology in effective ways. Sephora is a reigning champion when it comes to this because they have created a device that you hold to a clients skin to determine a foundation match in every brand they carry. 

Lancôme just introduced a new machine that customizes and mixes a clients foundation right at the counter for $80. 

Those simple things provide a new innovative experience on counter. What can brands do that do not have gizmos and gadgets? Allow their employees to use cell phones to do the work! After matching a client for a foundation they can use either their phone or the clients to take a photo to check and make sure there is no flashback, weird undertone, or ashy cast on the skin. The cell phone could also be used to pick looks that clients choose from for makeup applications. Oh and let’s not forget the social media beauty gurus! Our lovely millenials live and breathe social media and in some cases will not make a purchase or let anyone touch their face unless the product or technique has been endorsed by a social media personality. 

Since that is the case, clients should be trained on the latest trends and products used by the top 20 influencers so they can be prepared for the questions regarding them. Cell phones should also be used to communicate all of these things because they can provide visuals for these trends and products leaving no room for error.

I will continue to provide suggestions for what beauty brands can do to compete with beauty apps in part three of this post. Thanks for reading, and see you next week!

To like or not to like that is the question 

One of the reasons I write this blog is to discuss topics that nobody else wants to discuss out loud, with people other than their friends and folks they trust. The problem with staying quiet about the politics behind liking someone’s posts on social media can be life changing career wise so I’ll take one for the team and write about it. Like to hear it? Well here it gooooo!!!

I am a very honest extroverted introvert. Before I say how I feel, my face says it for me, I really only like to engage in conversations that go beneath the surface, and have to work really hard at small talk, I am a premillennial artist so I struggle with the new definition of an artist and the onslaught of all the folks who are now apart of the club, social media doesn’t quite come second nature to me all of the time, and as far as friends and aquaintences are concerned if you really piss me off or disrespect me I will dissmiss you from my life forevvvaaa!!(in my Cardi B voice) With all of that being said, I realized something extremely important recently, and that is my personality sucks as it relates to having social media success! Some folks may ask well “Why”? I’ll tell you!

I am a visual artist that uses makeup artistry as my platform. I get many requests from potential clients to view my Instagram page not only to see my work, but to see how many followers I have, and also to see how many likes I get on my photos. In 2016, my work can no longer just speak for itself! In fact, no ones work can. In order to get the all important “likes”you have to like everybody else’s stuff! There is no room for complete honesty! Hey you follow a ton of makeup artists? Cool, like their work. Don’t like the way they do brows? Skin? Shadow placement? It does not matter, like their work anyway! Have they disrespected you or said something you don’t like, but liked one of your posts and left a comment? Comment back if you can! Go back and like their stuff! Now to some folks this may sound like a lesson in “how to be phony and fake 101”, but it’s actually a lesson in office politics for the wonderful and beneficial world of social media. 

I have tons of friends, family members, mentors, acquaintances, etc… that discuss how they have to deal with people less qualified, who are rude and nasty, rascist, sexist, and a whole bunch of other stuff, but these folks deal with it and become pros at dealing with it, because they need their jobs. They also become pros with office politics because they know that it is often a rights of passage of sorts for them to get from point A to point B in their careers, and in their salaries. 

The moral to the story is the world is one big gigantic high school, and while I know some of us loathed high school it is the truth!Old school protocols do not exist to some, and their is no time for your feelings, opinions, or pettiness ( I am working on all this stuff as we speak! Lol) You have to like every bodies photos and comment on everybodies posts mainly because you NEED them to do it back! In 2016 as a doctor, lawyer, makeup artist, nail artist, painter, Hvac specialist, teacher, photographer, real estate agent, model, activist, chef, filmmaker, musician, reality star, hell even an “Indian chief”(I know that the correct term is Native American chief)it matters that you are relevant/lit/popping on social media.

Simply communicating with people in a positive manner via social media can and will affect your life for the better. It can get you followers, clients, opportunities, money, products, etc… take it from someone who has had to learn the hard way, be like Nike and just do it!! 
Sincerely,

The makeup artist formerly known as Petty Murphy!

Can You Beat a Face or Nah?Should there be a platform put in place to hold artists accountable for poor artistry?

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When I went to college, I chose to audition to become a dance major.  It was a decision that I made based on my talent and drive.  I thought I was a pretty good dancer, and once I was excepted into the dance program, what I thought about my talent was challenged in every single way.  I danced from sun up until sun down, I danced on the weekends, and I danced during Christmas break.  While my college buddies who had “regular” majors were chilling in their dorms or sleeping in, I was either in class or rehearsal.  My professors pushed me to the max, some to help be get better, and some to break my spirit.  Even still, I knew that I had to deliver.  My goal by senior year was to be in the highest level classes my dance department offered.  By achieving that goal meant that my artistry levels had improved so much so, that I earned the right to be in the most advanced level courses.  I endured a lot of sweat and tears, muscle soreness, lack of sleep, split toes, short fall, Christmas, and spring breaks, etc… to make it.  I also endured the constant critique of my teachers, but I knew that all of those things were what was necessary in order for me to be the best dancer that I could be.

Fast forward to my life presently.  I am a full time freelance makeup artist living in a world where social media reigns supreme, and the more Instagram followers and You Tube subscribers you have, the more clients want to work with you.  If you read my last sentence again, notice there is nothing mentioned about talent or skill.  Makeup artistry requires a certain level of skill in order for you to start practicing your artistry on other people, and charging for your work.  In the day and age where anybody can purchase a bunch of makeup from a drugstore, department store, makeup boutique, or online, create an Instagram page, and say they are open for business, there are not a whole lot of checks and balances.

Besides the “new” mua’s there are also “old school” mua’s that worked their way to the top of the celebrity makeup artist food chain by selling a ton of products for a specific brand, and using their networking skills to help solidify their place in line.  Notice I mentioned nothing about talent or skill in that sentence either.  Many artists that have been in the game for a while talk amongst themselves and critique their own work as well as the work of their peers, and the work of every one else proclaiming to be a mua via social media.  The conversations range from praise to sheer disgust.  Sometimes I have even seen images of celebrities posted by their “celebrity mua’s”, and the clients eyebrows are uneven, the color of the foundation looks wrong, the liquid eyeliner isn’t straight, the eyeshadow placement is off, etc…  The worst part about all of this is that the artists that makes these mistakes will never know because people are often too afraid to provide constructive criticism.  Unlike my days in college, there is no team of professors who have mastered the art of makeup that will grade you on every makeup application and provide you with feedback on how to improve.  So my question is, how do we start to hold ourselves and others accountable to set a general standard for all of our clients including celebrities?  It is only fair that when we start to charge people for our services that we provide the best service, so accountability is neccessary.

The National/International Makeup Artist, Does anyone still care about them?

In todays “What I Think Wednesday“, I want to delve into an idea that has puzzled me for quite some time.  I have had the opportunity to work for several major department store brands, and have observed “national/international” artists that work for those brands and wondered whether those roles are still relevant in this day and age.  Let me explain a little more.

In 2006, I joined MAC cosmetics as a full time artist.  I was excited mainly because I was leaving a retail job where I had a management position, way too much responsibility, and and a tiny salary!  I applied to MAC because the people always looked like they were having fun, and they got to apply and sell makeup, and that was it!  Now of course when I started, I learned that there was a lot more to it than just “having fun, and selling makeup”.  I also learned that just like any other company there was a hierarchy, and that I was at the bottom.

About six months in, I learned about the “pro artist” position which sounded like it could be up my alley and secretly aspired to have that position.  I happened to work with one of the most talented teams I think the company has ever seen, one went to school to learn special effects makeup and has done Project Runway and several covers for major magazines including Vogue, Marie Claire, and Bazaar, one was responsible for providing makeup and male grooming services for Puff Daddy and the family’s Bad Boy Reunion tour which just ended, another has done makeup for some feature films and several reality stars from Love and Hip Hop New York, another has done several reality stars from Love and Hip Hop Atlanta and designed a clothing collection featured on a recent televised BET fashion show curated by the super famous and talented stylist to the stars, June Ambrose. My makeup partner in crime just did half the cast of Beyonce’s Lemonade video for the VMA’s, and makeup for tons of other super talented CEO’s and celebrities for the Soul Train Music Awards, Black Girls Rock, BET Hip Hop Awards, and this years Democratic National Convention or the DNC as most folks refer to it.(i worked it too!)  So needless to say, I learned from some of the best damn people in the industry, but none of them were”national artists” by MAC’s standards, and neither was I.

 

So about eight months after working for MAC, a friend of mine who also happened to leave the company and do amazing things in make up, asked me to look at the roster of national artists and tell her what I noticed.  As soon as I researched what she had asked, I noticed that there were only about two to three black national artists.  I also learned that the company used agency artists to do many of their major campaigns.  From those two pieces of information and my observations that sales reigned supreme and that artistry came second, I felt 100% discouraged from trying to really go after becoming a pro artist for MAC cosmetics.  After about a year of working for the company, gaining about 20 pounds, drinking like a fish to keep the stress of making sales goals at bay, and having nightmares about what would happen to me if I did not make my goals, I quit!

After that, I went on to freelance for several other companies observing that most of the “national/international/pro artists” seemed to have their positions for decades.  Many of them were/are men, and they seemed to keep these positions with their respective companies until they decided to retire.  I also learned that outside of very specific events in certain locations where companies provided their bio’s to help garner clients to make appointments to have these premier artists do these women’s makeup, they were invisible!  Most of them are middle aged men, which means they did not come up in the age where social media is a necessity.  They have little to no social media following, and literally travel from state to state making appearances at events to enhance some customers makeup.(because of the number of attendees, it is impossible for them to do full faces on every woman that sits in a chair)

Now I have worked some of these events and watched the “national artists” do the exact same look on every woman they touch no matter what age or race the women were!  I also have had several women tell me that they would prefer me to complete their look from start to finish because they didn’t know or trust the guest artist for that day!  Besides those issues, there is still one glaring concern.  With hundreds of thousands of sales people aspiring to be artists with these brands, if the majority of the “national/international/pro artists” are middle aged men who take up these coveted positions and never seem to leave to go on to do other things in their careers, how can these hundreds and sometimes thousands of aspiring artists have a chance at these positions?

With each of these companies there are tons of regular sales and management positions, and few positions open for pro or national artists.  On the flip side, with the right videos on youtube, enough subscribers, and Instagram followers, many people, and especially women have broken through the glass ceiling that traditional cosmetic companies have created with the “pro artist” positions and have become popular, sought after, and paid!  Makeup Shayla, Am Reezy, and Mac Daddy, are all former artists from MAC cosmetics who have risen to the top! According to thefashionspot.com, they each make at least,get ready for this, $14,000 a month!!(why did i bother going to grad school?)  Tons of brands have sought after them to use and feature their products on their social media platforms(which they get paid for, but I ain’t mad), have taken them on expensive trips to exotic places, etc… I have only named three, but there are hundreds if not thousands of these “make up marketers” that companies have made the focus of their attention!  Now lets revisit the traditional “national/international/pro artist”.

With social media “make up marketers” killing the game and taking home hundreds of thousands and some times millions of dollars, traveling the world on cosmetic brands dime, getting more free makeup than they could ever use on themselves, their clients, or give away, and tons of other perks, why on earth would any one aspire to be a “national/international/pro” artist for a cosmetic company with a salary that caps off at about six figures if you are lucky?  The answer is pretty simple, while the famous Youtube “makeup marketer”role seems like an easier route, it isn’t.  The amount of work that goes into shooting video’s, editing video’s, having the right equipment, products, back drop, outfits, etc… is hard as f##k.  Not only that, being consistent with posting to various social media platforms is also extremely difficult, especially when you factor in your life! ( I have a hard time posting once a week!) Learning the best times to post, types of posts, number of posts, and hashtags can also be overwhelming. The bottom line is that  when you decide to become a youtube personality, you decide to be a filmmaker/entrepreneur, and everybody is not cut out to for work for themselves. That sobering revelation brings all sorts of relevancy to the more structured “national/international/pro artist” position with a cosmetic company.  In order for these positions to stay relevant with their audiences i.e customers, companies have got to restructure these positions.

The first thing that companies should do is make these positions a certain amount of years with six being the cap, two to learn the job, two to execute the job, and two to transition out of the role.  If companies do this, it would allow more artists to compete for these coveted positions.  That competition would mean better artistry and better sales from more employees equaling more revenue in general.

The second thing that companies need to do is make the the people who have these positions more visible via social media.  I think it is downright embarrassing that I have more followers than some of my trainers!  These are people that are supposed to be respected and admired, but if they have little to no presence via social media, their credibility goes down the drain.(this ain’t right, but it is the truth in this age where social media reigns supreme!)  Companies should offer training sessions for their national, international, pro artists, and trainers to equip them on how to create larger social media presences for themselves so that their knowledge is respected just as much as a mega Youtubers like MakeupShayla or Am Reezy.

The last thing that major cosmetic companies should do is create new positions for their special artists when they complete their term of being a “national, international, or pro artist”.  Their expertise could be used for product development, packaging, customer service, artist development, training, and tons of other things.

My fear is that these positions which were once worshipped and coveted will become ignored and forgotten.  Before any of that happens, I would love to see companies acknowledge the times and make these positions relevant again!

 

 

What I Think Wednesday:Nigerian Weddings and the Nigerian Economy: Can one save the other?

In 2005 I moved to DC to go to grad school for African studies at Howard University.  In the two years of course work, one of the things that I remember vividly are all of my professors, i repeat all of my professors who happened to each be from a country in Africa saying that all of Africa was waiting for Nigeria to step up to the call/challenge of being the African super power to help lead the continent out of colonialism and debt and into real political freedom, progress, and economic security.  It makes sense, Nigeria is the most populated country on the continent, its people are amongst the most educated in the world, and the country itself has tons of natural resources including oil, petroleum, natural gas, zinc, limestone, etc…

Fast forward to 2016, Nigeria’s economy is suffering immensely, and according to Dan Steinbock from Valuewalk.com, “without aggressive economic moves and harsh security measures, the economy could face a disastrous free fall.” One of my best friends, who happens to be Nigerian has shared stories with me of brick and mortar businesses being bulldozed by the government without warning to the business owners because of unpaid rent.  In some cases, the rent had been paid, but the landlords of the properties never gave the Nigerian government their cut, so innocent business owners are now taking the hit literally!  International investors are fleeing, the naira is about 315 to a US dollar, and people’s human security needs i.e. food, water, shelter are not being met.

Im sure that folks who are reading this are going, “Okay Michanna, what does this have to do with the beauty industry or makeup?”  My answer? Its bigger than makeup!!  Over the last year and a half, I have had the wonderful opportunity and privilege to work side by side a well respected Nigerian American make up artist and provide artistry services for some Nigerian weddings that make the wedding scenes in my favorite movie Coming to America seem like a little shot gun wedding with a $100 budget!  From the decor, to the locations and venues, designer dresses, suits, and shoes, etc… the money spent on these occasions is just mind blowing. According to bloomberg.com, $17 million US dollars have been spent on parties in Lagos, Nigeria over a five month period this year so far, and at least one fifth of them were weddings.  Forget about the parties,  I have heard of brides paying some Nigerian makeup artists $1,000-$1,500 just for doing their makeup alone!  Now before all of you start packing your kits and purchasing tickets to Nigeria, please note that the market over their is already over saturated, attorney’s and doctors have quit their full time jobs to open makeup studios, and it has become a survival of the fittest environment.

nigeria1

While I have observed all of this with my own two eyes, I also have observed something else.  Every Nigerian bride and groom that I have met doing the makeup for these weddings are educated with great careers.  They are doctors, lawyers, engineers, bankers and economists, and have attended great schools either in the US or Europe.

Back to Nigeria being a super power.  When I put all of these things together a very glaring question always comes to mind.  What if Nigerians who were preparing to spend thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars on their wedding figured out how to somehow funnel the money back into their own economy with checks and balances for how the money is managed?  With all of the education, and money, and number of Nigerians having these opulent weddings, surely it could make a difference!  Lets look at this thing in more detail.

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When I am doing makeup for some of these wedding I notice that the whole wedding party has designer shoes, I mean there are “red bottoms” everywhere!  Lets say that on average, the bridal party is 16 people and at least 12 of the women in the bridal party have designer shoes.  If each pair of shoes equals roughly $500(i googled average cost of designer shoes in 2016) and you multiply that by 12, that equals $6,000 and 1,890,000 naira! If you add another $6,000 from the groomsmen which is another 1,890,000 naira, that is a nice sized chunk of money, and all that we have calculated were shoes!  Based on the stats of money spent on shoes alone, I think that my point has been made for how much money is spent on Nigerian weddings.

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Now no diss to Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo, Chanel, or any of the other European designers, but the last time I heard any of those companies discuss police brutality(Nigerians who live in the US no matter how educated can be pulled over because of the color of their skin too), inequalities in education for people of color, brain drain on the continent of Africa, or the failing Nigerian economy was … let me see… um never!!  Way back in 2005 when my professors said that Nigeria had the potential to be a super power in Africa, they got it wrong.  Nigeria has the potential to be a super power for the whole entire African diaspora!  Right now people of African descent are having to rethink many things, one of those being whether or not we want to continue to live in a country  where we risk being gunned down for trivial things like driving, selling loose cigarettes, and walking down the street no matter whether we are educated and can afford expensive weddings or not. In the large scheme of things, if Nigerians started to really plan and focus on channeling some of the money from these opulent weddings into the Nigerian economy where they could control how the money is managed once it gets there, that could very well be the start of an economic revolution!

Imagine if young couples getting married organized a way to do this by only supporting Nigerian vendors abroad and stateside for everything including dresses, shoes, fabric, photography, cakes, food, planners, rings, venues, airlines, hotels, travel agents, and  all entities involved agreed to invest a portion of the money made back into the economy in a controlled way weeding out mismanagement of funds.  International investors would come back, jobs would be created, and the young couples could essentially create a new infrastructure dismantling corruption, and the absence of checks and balances.  As it is related to those of African descent like me who may be looking for a new place to reside, Nigeria could be the place to be!

Now I know that I am being very opportunistic, but our countries have to be our priority.  It  saddens me to know that while we spend billions of dollars to celebrate one day, a potential super power of Africa and of the African diaspora suffers greatly.  It is time for us to be selfish and support our own!