Category Archives: raceclassgenderbeauty

Fifty Shades of Black and White

Sooooo I have learned/been reminded of a very great lesson in the past few months.  I am going to elaborate on the lesson that I learned right now!! Like to hear it? Well here it goes!

A month ago, I was freelancing at a luxury beauty boutique in the nations capital and one of Obama’s right hand people came in with a friend.  She came in, and immediately I recognized her.  I was super excited, and imagined how our exchange would unfold.  I imagined that I would greet her, answer all of her questions, take her on a tour of the store, give her some samples of great products, crack a few jokes related to the awesome world of beauty, and then give her my business card knowing that she had a great experience and would definitely reach out to me later for my services.  I figured since she was a woman of color and African American to be exact that I was the best person to approach her and “look out”.

I was wrong, way wrong. I spoke to her, and a few other vendors spoke, and her response to us all with out opening her mouth was that we were mere peasants who were not deserving of her time.  I knew that it was not the typical “Im a political celebrity and just want to be left alone”response that I recognize and can identify before I even greet a person.  Instead, it was that ugly you can only talk to me if you pass the  “brown paper bag talented tenth college educated only upper middle class/upper class” look and attitude that she gave me which hurt my heart.  I have certainly experienced that attitude from countless black women, but she caught me off guard. I was extremely disappointed. She had stereotyped me the same way that most of my clients stereotype me, but I expect it from them.

Two weeks pass by and I have two more encounters with two different women that were the total and complete opposite of the one with”Obama’s helper”.  I was in the same store, different location, and a young lady who looked like she was in her mid to late twenties asked me for advice choosing a concealer.  She wanted a concealer that was easy to travel with so I decided to show her one from a line that just happens to not offer any darker shades for women of color.  I brought her over to the line, picked up the concealer, and before I could demonstrate how the product worked, she noticed that there were no colors for deeper skin tones.  I laughed and said that while I could not wear anything from the line, I liked it for lighter skin tones.  She said “that’s fucked up”, and followed that up with “show me something else, if there is nothing here for you, then there is nothing here for me”,  I went to another line, and sold her another concealer from another brand. We continued to chat and that was that.

The next woman I helped came into the same store but on a different night.  She was looking for a new foundation, I matched her, and somehow we started talking about cosmetic brands that made foundation shades for darker skin tones vs ones that did not.  She said that she didn’t understand how companies could choose not to create foundation colors for deeper skin tones, and was visibly passionate about this issue. When I asked her where her passion came from, she told me that she was a civil rights attorney.  I was surprised, we continued our conversation, she bought the foundation, thanked me for matching her, providing an interesting conversation, and exited the store.

The last two women showed compassion and empathy for the struggles that black women deal with on a daily basis when trying to find makeup in the prestige beauty market. They each expressed their disappointment and frustration with brands that only catered to a certain demographic racially, and they did not have to. They allowed me to do my job with out stereotyping and judging me based on the many stereo types that they could have chosen. They were the total opposite of the first woman and they were white! They reminded me not to judge a book by its cover by their actions, and for that I thank them!

 

 

 

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!!

The Invisible Woman

woc image

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

Madam CJ Walker

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

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

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

Am I really just a Stupid Makeup Artist?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Makeup in Black and White; An introduction, Sort Of

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

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

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