Category Archives: Women of Color

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!!

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: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!

Lips that broke the internet: MAC’s Instagram page and the image that revealed everything

Lips

When I first interviewed for MAC cosmetics, I did tons of research on the company so that I would be prepared for my interview ( which turned into like five!).  Anyway, while researching the company I learned that the slogan was “Makeup for All.  All ages, all races, all sexes.” That slogan meant a lot to me mainly because I had never really seen women of color working for make up brands like MAC, Chanel, Bobbi Brown, Lancome, etc…until I moved to Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C in 2005 was still chocolate city, and because of the high population of people of color, I saw more diversity within the world  of retail in D.C, Maryland, and Virginia than I had in my whole life!  D.C also had a high population of gay, lesbian, and transgender folks who also came from various ethnic/racial backgrounds, and I saw all of the above working behind the counter at MAC cosmetics making their slogan legitimate.

Fast forward to February 18, 2016, MAC cosmetics posts a photo of a black woman with a deeper skin tone and full lips on their instagram page, and all hell breaks loose!  Folks obviously not knowing the slogan for the company commented writing awful things like “fish lips“, “Jay Z lips“, and “N!gger lips“, just to name a few.

I couldn’t help but thinking about Kylie Jenner and the uproar that she caused when she started getting collagen injected in her lips so they could look similar to the model MAC posted on their instagram page a few days ago, and how subsequently she has been able to capitalize on her surgically enhanced lips and create a liquid lipstick line that sells out in seconds whenever they hit the internet.  Not only that, after she revealed her “new” lips, young women everywhere started putting their lips in plastic bottles and other contraptions to interrupt circulation creating a temporary swelling effect that made their lips look larger.  If we go back five to eight years, Angelina Jolie was celebrated the same way because of her naturally full lips.  There are countless other examples of women of European descent being celebrated for having full lips, large butts, tan skin, etc… but comments still pop up like “N!gger lips” when women of African descent are put on platforms to celebrate their features.

What I would love to see happen are “lean in” conversations amongst people from all different racial backgrounds regarding this reoccurring phenomenon.   There is an obvious double standard as it relates to celebrating African features on people of African descent vs. people of European descent, and the glaring question is WHY?? (nobody seems to have the answers Sway!)

Why do we think full lips on Kylie Jenner are beautiful but not on a women who is obviously of African descent?  Why are Kim Kardashian‘s “box braids” considered trendy and fashion forward when women of color are often considered “ghetto” for wearing the same cornrows?  Why did every man on the planet go crazy when J’Lo came on the scene with her large butt? If we truly sit down and attempt to come up with honest answers to these questions, we will inevitably face an ugly truth about the world that we live in.  Admitting the problem/s is the first step right?

 

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!!