Category Archives: women of color

My Natural Journey…or not!

This past couple days have made me aware of one major thing that I never really put much energy into.  I realize that because of the color of my skin, and the texture of what is on top of my head, my last statement is almost blasphemous!  If you haven’t figured out what “topic” I am speaking about, it is my hair!! I have avoided writing about this topic for a long while, because while I know it is a hot topic for so many women, I give it about five minutes a day!

A few days ago, a random guy came up to my friend and I while we were just walking down the street to congratulate us for being “natural”.  He gave us this long speech about how he loves and values “natural black women”, and how he “would only marry a black woman who was natural”, etc…

The very next day my same friend and I decided to grab a bite to eat for lunch at a popular restaurant and this sweet young black woman asked us in a whisper if we were on a “natural journey”, and wanted to know tons of details about this “journey”.

The last “naturalvention” happened while I was watching a show that I decided to watch mainly because of where the show was filmed.  Several of my friends and clients talk to me about The Housewives of Potomac, so with my two days off I decided to watch the show and see what all of the fuss was about.  As far as the topics of race, ethnicity, culture, and hair texture there were fireworks everywhere honey!! After each episode I found myself asking all types of questions.  Surprisingly, I ended up appreciating this show mainly because it pushed the participants and viewers to grapple with difficult topics like race, ethnicity, culture, and hair texture all based around western ideas. The unfortunate thing in the show which happens too often in real life is that when folks are forced to discuss touchy topics dealing with race, ethnicity, skin color, or hair texture, conversations are dropped and/or swept under the rug instead of hashed out completely.  I have been guilty of avoiding the “Black girl hair” conversation for many reasons, but feel compelled to say my piece.(or is it peace?)

I was super lucky to have been born into a family that never talked about being dark or light, pretty or ugly, or about having good or bad hair.  My grandmother was a hairstylist among many other professions, and always could make anyones hair look great.  As a result, my mom was also great with hair, and ultimately the “do hair gene” was passed down to me!  I honestly think that because we always knew how to “fix” our hair, our opinion on black hair was simple, we knew what to do to have the styles, length, and texture we wanted.  I didn’t learn until fourth or fifth grade that my hair texture was considered “good” because my fellow classmates told me.  I didn’t understand until I was a grown adult that my hair was considered “a good grade” because when I put gel, jam, water, or hair lotion it had an obvious wave/curl pattern depending on the hairstyle that I wore.

I remember the first time a class mate told me I had “good hair”. I was kinda nerdy, had natural hair which was unusual because most of my classmates had relaxers or “perms” as we used to call them, and this girl that I could not stand screamed across the room “Hey, you got some good hair.  I bet it would be real pretty if you had a perm.”  At the time I was just confused because the term was so foreign to me. I was raised by a mother who was/is a performing artist that put me in a West African dance company where everything African was celebrated.  It was super important to me to have natural hair because the styles that I wore for performances looked more authentic, and I fit in with my fellow dance peers.  Most of us had parents who embraced their African heritage and passed it down to us making West African food, music, languages, clothing, religion, and education the norm.  Because I valued dance and my dance community more than my peers in elementary school, I didn’t mind not fitting in.

Now as a grown adult I am learning from several other women that I am lucky to have had the unique childhood experiences which helped to establish my views on my own hair.  High school was another story, but we will discuss that in the next post!! Peace and a bottle of hair grease!! lol

 

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Black Models Matter!!(Zac Posen says so!)

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After Beyonce shocked America with her political Super Bowl performance, Zac Posen decided to make a statement of his own.  During this months New York Fashion Week, Zac Posen made the choice to use mostly black models for his show proving that black models are just as valuable to the fashion world as any other.

Like Viola Davis said in her speech at the 2015 Golden Globes, “The only thing separating women of color from everyone else is opportunity.”She followed by saying “You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”

In this case, roles are replaced by runways, but the message is still the same.  Zac Posen you are appreciated!!

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?

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!!

“Just being white, you will win!”

This morning I woke up to a text from my brother with an artice attached where the headline read exactly what the title of this blog post reads.  It was written by Wilfred Chan at CNN and covered a Thai beauty ad promoting a pill that prohibits the production of melanin, a bleaching cream in pill form.  As I write this post, I struggle with how honest I am going to be, and I have decided to be extremely honest.

When I  clicked on this article, I did not feel any anger, or outrage.  I thought it would be great content to use for this blog, and I also thought about how awesome it was that my brother finally understands what it is that I am trying to do, came across an article, and thought enough about me to send it!  Now the disturbing part!!  The article didnt really “shock” me because I know it to be true.

Yesterday I had a lengthy conversation with a   colleague about a woman we know who received a promotion in her company after a history of  calling out at least three times a month (which never can happen in retail), little to no product knowlege of  items  carried in her store, horrific leadership skills, non existent training skills, etc… Each time my colleague and I would discuss her, we would think long and hard about why she was promoted, and the only feasable answer we could  come up with was her skin color.  Let me take it back to my own  college experience.

I went to a big ten university in the  cornfields of the midwest. For my freshman orientation, I had two different ones. I had a ‘regular’ one, and one specifically for students of color.  Once the administrators started passing out pieces of paper with professors names on them with instructions never to enroll in their courses because they would fail us, I knew exactly why the ‘special’ orientation was neccessary.  The truth was that because of the color of our skin, certain professors hated us so much that they would give us a failing grade.  This was only 16 years ago!  It was at that school where I started to hear  constantly from fellow students of color and professors and administrators that we had to be three times as good as white students to even be considered for the privileges, grades, jobs, etc that our white  counterparts received. Now back to the world of beauty.

When I moved to Washington, DC in 2005, I immediately started working in the cosmetics industry.  I worked for a  company that offered a plethora of foundation shades for all women of color and because DC was so diverse at that time, I had the opportunity to work with women from all ethnic backgrounds each and every day.  Coincidently I was in an African Studies graduate program at Howard University at the same time and little did I know that what I was learning in the class room would be played out right in front of my eyes when I went to match 80% of my  clients from colonized countries!  They all would insist day in and day out on me matching them for a much lighter or ‘clearer’ foundation.  This request would come from tons of African and Asian women.

Sometimes West African business men  would come into the store and request all powder foundations in ‘clear’ colors for their wives, mothers,  and daughters back home. I would encounter tons of Indian women complete with  colored  blue or gray  contacts with the same request.  Lastly, I cannot leave out my Asian  clients.  Many women from different countries like China, Korea, and Thailand would come in with eyelid tape pressed on their eyelids to simulate a “double eyelid” which is more ‘western’, looking for porcelain colored foundation too! Sometimes fighting back tears, I would muster up the strength to ask these women why they wanted light  colored foundation, and the answer was always the same. “Just being white, you will win”.

The Invisible Woman

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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?