Tag Archives: cosmetics

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?

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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”.

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.