Category Archives: cosmetics industry

Hello, It’s Me I Was Wondering Why Her Foundation Doesn’t Match

I wanted to write this post months ago, but was scared because I know I will be ruffling some major feathers.  This is my blog, this is my truth, and the topic that I will be discussing frustrates me and many others so I am gonna type as fast as I can, get it out, try to be as respectful as I can be, and get something that has been bothering me off of my chest!

For months and in some cases years I have seen leading black women in politics, hollywood, music, and fashion look absolutely ridiculous while posing on the cover of major print publications, speaking on major national and international platforms like the Grammys, Academy Awards,  Golden Globes, and countless public forums for the world to see. Some of these women’s speeches “broke the internet”, and pulled at the heart strings of women of color worldwide because of how heartfelt and relatable they were.

Unfortunately while many women were crying their eyeballs out happy that these ladies beat the odds and defied the many roadblocks that are put in front of black women on an everyday basis, I was too busy trying to figure out how on earth their make up artists did their make up and thought that it was ok??!! Now we have all seen it!! One of my favorite “it ladies” has a super popular show on a major tv network, and is on the cover of one of the worlds most popular fashion magazines as I right this blog post.  Almost every single time I see her at an awards show or as a guest on a morning show, night show, talk show, etc … I am always left feeling uber frustrated and angry.  Her brows are never perfected, her skin doesn’t look dewey, or matte, or satiny, or anything special, the shadow never looks super perfected or messy in a high fashion way, her lipstick isn’t ever ‘popping’, and I could go on and on. She has amazing skin, large eyes (which means she has lid space to play with), great cheek bones, and naturally full lips, but always looks mediocre. Another woman I always cover my eyes before looking at has a deeper skin tone, and lovely natural hair.

She has certainly paid her dues in the world of theater and hollywood and is finally getting the recognition that she deserves.  I have seen her on countless occasions with foundation that makes her look either dead, muddy, or gray. I have seen setting powder make her look like a banana and sometimes even Casper, lashes that looked as if they were falling off of her eyes, lines of demarcation around her forehead and neck, and highlighting and contouring that would make a clown grimace.

The last leading ladies that I would love to discuss are both from the mother land.  One hails from West Africa and belongs to one of the proudest nationalities and ethnic groups on earth!  The other is East African and Ivy League educated.  Both flaunt beauty that defies the parameters of western beauty standards, and have earned their spots as “it ladies” in hollywood.  Just like the first two that I mentioned, their make up seems to leave me wondering if the artists had the skills necessary to complete polished and well executed looks on these women of color.

I know that some of the artist used by the women mentioned above have been in the game for over ten plus years, and have had these women as their clients for just as long.  Some of the artists that these “it ladies” use consistantly are published and represented by some of the  top makeup agencies in the country, some are men, some are women, and some are not of African descent.  That is all wonderful, and I wish them all the success in the world. My problem is that I need for them to be more critical of their work.  I need for them to take classes, ask questions, look at their work  from a distance, and practice on other women the same skin tone as their clients if they are not comfortable working with deeper skin tones, because it is imperative in this crazy world that often makes black women its ugly step children that these talented, hard working, beautiful women always look  amazing when they are accepting prestigious awards, gracing the cover of magazines, and slaying the red carpets everywhere they go!! They deserve to look the best that they can look and deserve make up artists who can deliver!!

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Slaying your dues

 

 

Today after a long day of work, I came home, lit some candles, and checked out what was happening on Instagram.  While scrolling down my timeline I could not help but wonder where all of the wonderful and fabulous “mua’s” came from.  I remember working for MAC cosmetics in 2006, and being able to tell other “mua’s” simply by the way they looked!  We were few and far in between, and we always were decked out in all black with cool hair styles, cuts, colors, tattoos, etc… The slogan if you worked for MAC was “once a MAC girl, always a MAC girl.” The significance of being a “MAC girl”in the nineties and early two thousands was that if you worked for that brand, it was assumed that you were a pretty good artist.

Before 2010 most cosmetic brands hired people to sell first, and apply makeup second.  In fact, just last Thursday I had a conversation with a few artists from a well known cosmetic brand where they all agreed that they were sales people first, and artists second. I am well aware that cosmetic companies cannot thrive on artistry alone, which is why social media is so important, but I cannot help but ask one question.  What makes a person an experienced, knowledgeable, talented make up artist?

Now companies like MAC cosmetics hire people from Craigslist, Toys R Us, Starbucks, and Chipotle with no previous make up artistry experience.  Social media platforms like youtube and instagram make women who do only their make up and post their looks daily millionaires. Cosmetic companies send hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of products to self proclaimed “beauty bloggers“, “beauty guru‘s”, “celebrity mua’s“, etc…  Everyday I look at my phone or turn on my computer another person has decided whether they have just finished eighth grade or had a traditional 9-5 for ten years that they too want to be a make up artist.

Unlike doctors who go to school for 20 years before they can really practice medicine or engineers who attend college for four and often times five years before they can call themselves engineers, mua’s can wake up one day and call themselves an mua.

Should there be standards set for people to meet before they call themselves professional mua’s?

How many years should a person have to practice before they are allowed to charge for make up application services?

Should an aspiring make up artist have to work for one or more cosmetics brands before calling themselves an artist?

Should your popularity on social media be allowed to validate you as an mua? Beauty blogger? Beauty guru? Brand ambassador?

Should you have to take certification classes on different genre’s of make up before you are allowed to apply make up on people professionally?

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!

Kings of Thrones

male mua

It seems like if you want to have any major success in the beauty industry you have to be two things, male and gay. This has been true it seems since time began! Think about it, most “celebrity MUA’s” that are catapulted to major success are men! Sam Fine, Scott Barnes, the late great Kevin Aucoin, Francois Nars, Reggie Wells, A.J. Crimson, Nick Barose, and new comers Renny Vasquez, Patrick Star, and Angel Merino all represent just a few of the men who have all had the amazing opportunities to touch the faces of many of the most influential women in television, film, music, and sports. When you enter the department stores and look at each specific cosmetic brand, they are all lead artistically and creatively by gay men as well. In my own personal experience, I have witnessed women unknowingly promote this dichotomy.nick barose sam finekevin aucoin

After years of trying to understand why gay males seem to have major advantages in the world of beauty, I have come to a few conclusions. My first theory is simple. We live in a patriarchal society where men are at the top of the food chain. While the beauty business is marketed towards women mostly, it is not exempt from a patriarchal norm. My other theory which still is linked to the first one is the “Lean In” initiative, or in most women’s cases the lack there of. Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In discusses how women lack the ability to take initiative in order to become leaders and decision makers in corporate America. Where women fall short, men succeed assuming that they always have a “seat at the table”, giving them the confidence needed to “lean in” and do whatever they please. With this theory (supported by tons of evidence) there is no wonder that in a  industry marketed towards mostly women, men reign supreme.sheryl sandberg

Another personal theory that I have is that women allow their insecurities to hinder them from receiving help from the same sex. The one thing that I have seen on a weekly and sometimes daily basis for the ten years that I have been a professional make up artist are the observations of women choosing men over women when it comes to doing their makeup- most of the time having absolutely no clue what their skill set is.

In 2006 I was working for a company who at the time, prided itself in hiring good/experienced make up aritsts. A part time retail MUA position was open and needed to be filled. An extremely charming, articulate, and well dressed openly gay man interviewed for the position. Not only did he charm the false eyeslashes off of the hiring managers, but he also charmed the whole staff including me! The staff agreed that if he could charm the pants off of us, he could sell makeup to anyone! While that assumption was true, there was one major problem. He did not know how to do makeup to save his life! His first day came, and of course he was his up beat, well dressed, articulate, and charming self. The women streamed in and like clock work, repeatedly told me and the other female staff members who greeted them and were ready to help that they were “waiting for him”. Whenever I greeted a women and received that response, I would smile and burst out laughing in my head because the new guy and I had an agreement. Because I was experienced and he was not, he would destroy their faces, and then call me over to fix all of the things that he did wrong. He and I had become friends, and so I had no problem helping him out. The look on the women’s faces when little ole makeup peasant me would have to come over and save the day was priceless and unforgettable. Fast forward to the present day and still like clock work if there are men and women behind the counter nine times out of ten, the female clients will go to the male makeup artists.

It seems like women, straight women at least have decided that since it is men they desire sexually that even if the MUA’s are openly and obviously gay they must be able to provide advice that may be helpful in aiding these “straight” women in finding a mate. Ive noticed women become complete putty in a male’s makeup chair allowing them to sell the women anything. I have even witnessed women be uncomfortable with the mans selling style because it is super aggressive, but still agree to spend hundreds of dollars.

Moral to this story? Don’t judge a makeup artist by their sex or gender! Some women are amazing and some men are terrible.

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?