Category Archives: Oscars

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!

The Oscar Effect: Should I boycott certain makeup brands?

The Oscar Effect

A few weeks ago the nominations for the Academy Awards were announced and to many people’s surprise, there were hardly any people of color nominated! Oh what a surprise!!(sense my sarcasm?) Jada Pinkett Smith went on a social media rant proposing that people of color and especially black people boycott the show.  All this talk about boycotting had me thinking about my field and whether or not I should boycott the cosmetic brands that refuse to sell foundations for a broader range of skin tones, and what that would look like.  Most of the brands that I sell currently have many shades that would match any persons skin no matter what color, but there are brands that I have sold and sometimes still do that have nothing for darker skin tones.  I have had countless conversations with fellow retail make up artists, account executives, regional and national trainers, friends, and several other people about why certain brands offer no products for deeper skin tones, and the only answer that makes the most sense is that they just don’t want to!!

After reflecting even more about the brands that refuse to make foundation shades for deeper skin tones, the Flint water crisis, Donald Trump’s ideas on immigration, racial profiling and police brutality, and all of the other nasty things happening to brown and black people all over the world, my conclusion made sense.  I still wasn’t satisfied with my answer so I decided to start researching  brands one by one to find answers. I started with one that is extremely prestigious and offers a lot more than cosmetics.  This brand offers cosmetics, fragrance, clothes, shoes, and hand bags.  This brand is French and causes some women to skip out on paying rent to buy their hand bags. I have had several women tell me that they love using the cosmetics from this brand because pulling out the compacts make them feel luxurious!  Young teenaged girls also love this brand and the luxury and status that it promotes spending their parents hard earned cash on lipsticks just so they can pull them out of their backpacks and feel special.

The interesting thing about all of this is that luxury and status are important to many people no matter what color or how old they are.  In the era of Social Media striving for status seems to trump common sense so even if these brands that are so in demand care nothing about people of color, people of color still support them in droves! Some how if there was a “mass awakening” that caused folks of color to stop buying cosmetics from these companies that don’t really care about catering to them would it make a difference in these companies bottom line?  In the sixties when black folks boycotted the buses, those boycotts definitely hurt the transportation systems financially.

Would it help to create more brands specifically for people of color? I can’t help but think how black communities thrived during segregation.  Black Wall Street is a great example, so great that once they created their own educational and financial institutions among other things, the US government became threatened and wiped the whole community out!(just google the full story, I know your curiosity is itching to understand what I mean when I say “wiped the whole community out”)What would the effects be via social media? Would a successful boycott push brands to be more inclusive or not? Our current public school systems especially in poor and urban communities does not make the whole inclusive argument sound promising. Guess those are probably really similar questions that we can ask about the film industry right?

A Makeup Artists Two Cents: Concussion

Christmas day one of my good friends, who also happens to be a makeup artist, and I saw the movie Concussion.  We sat through it, and had tons of commentary. Im sure the couple in front of us wanted to get security to put us out, but they were nice enough to allow us to be ‘Chatty Cathy’ dolls.  We both related so much to the main character Omalu, a Nigerian doctor, played by Will Smith it was scary!  Now you may be thinking what do two  makeup artists have in common with a Nigerian doctor that discovered an awful disease which causes athletes that have had several concussions to experience symptoms like memory loss, hearing voices, and mental and physical pain that drives them to commit suicide?  Well lets point out the obvious similarities.

My friend is Nigerian, and I am African American, so the three of us are all of African descent.  My friend also has a brother that had a brief career in the NFL, who was obviously also Nigerian.  While I do not have any brothers that have played professional football, I do know black men who played football in high school, college, and the NFL.  Like Omalu, both my friend and I have advanced degrees, not eight like his character who was based off of a real person, but we have pieces of paper from institutions that are supposed to help validate our educational and social status in this country.  Also like Omalu, even when people know that we are educated, they still attempt to belittle us because of the color of our skin.  After seeing the movie, as I sat on a bench waiting for the metro, a woman rushed to take her purse off of the bench and push it behind her as if she was scared that I was going to steal it, also because of the color of my skin.

Any how, days after seeing the film, I came across a review about it written in the Washington Post.  The review was written by Stephanie Merry, and I thought she had done a decent job until I got to the end where  she said:

“”Concussion,” on the other hand, is a little more heavy-handed, especially in its handling of the narrative of a put-upon immigrant losing faith in the American Dream.  That thread only serves to overshadow a far more troubling story: one about the NFL’s stop-at-nothing smear campaign and how easily the public bought into it.”

When I read the paragraph above I was pissed, even without knowing officially that 2/3 or 68% of NFL players are of African American decent, Anyone could assume those statistics just from watching football on Sunday, Monday, and Thursday evenings!  For Merry to say that the story of the immigrant “losing faith in the American Dream” overshadowed the NFL smear campaign was just plain sad and predictable.  Omalu’s experience was just as important if not more because of the direct relationship that him and the 68% of NFL players have in obtaining the American Dream.  Omalu was a Nigerian immigrant, but Im gonna jump out on a limb and say that all people of African descent living in America are immigrants!  The only difference between Omalu and most of us African American’s is that he knows exactly what country he comes from.

None of our ancestors willingly volunteered to leave their homelands to travel on slave ships from West Africa to come and build a foreign country for free and witness the continual struggles of their off spring, but that is what happened earning us, the off spring, the title of immigrants. As far as his treatment in America is concerned, he is treated just like any other black man in this country.  Just from his appearance alone, the statistical data shows that he is more likely to end up in jail or dead when compared to his white counter parts, and just like me, when and if he is just walking down the street or riding the metro, eight advanced degrees or not, the same woman who was so quick to grab her purse when I sat down for fear that I would steal it would do the exact same thing to him.

As for the “immigrants” who play football in high school, college, or the NFL, the same argument can and has already been made for them.  Because the American Dream is so difficult for a person of color and especially a person of African descent to attain, tons of black families push their young men who are talented in football to be the best with the hopes that they go pro.  When those young men do, they are able to automatically take their families which are often poor from rags to riches.  Aside from the struggles that having dark skin in this country provide(Ferguson, Flint, Southside Chicago, South East DC) imagine whole families losing their men in their forties and fifties to a disease from the very sport that financially supported the family in the first place and helped to provide the “American Dream”.

I cannot help but thank the writers for showing an honest depiction of an African man trying to get his piece of the great American Pie.  It revealed for me that we are all in fact African and not American which is why the dream never quite happens for us the way we see it happening for our white counter parts( just ask Will and Jada).  It also made me think that Stephanie Merry needs to remind herself when she watches movies to check her own privilege.