Tag Archives: makeup artistry

Dear Fashion Fair…, An Open Letter

Dear Fashion Fair,

When are you gonna step up to the plate and be the black version of Estée Lauder, LVMH, or better yet the beauty industry’s answer to “Wakanda”?

It is the last day of Black History Month, and while I have spent months thinking long and hard about the importance of having more than just representation and inclusivity for blacks in the world of beauty, I can not help but think about you!

Fashion Fair, your company started in the Windy City (my hometown), and in 1958 you hit the ground running! You created a traveling fashion show which showcased black beauty all over the world ( even my cousin had an opportunity to slay the Fashion Fair runways)and from your super successful fashion shows you created a cosmetics brand.

Your products were distributed in Macys, Dillard’s, Belk, and several other high end department stores which was no small feat! That accomplishment was major because your brand was the first and only brand created for and by people of African descent that was showcased and distributed by major mass department stores. Your cosmetic counters showcased beauty campaigns with beautiful black models and hired black women and men as makeup artists making women of color feel welcome in an otherwise cold industry where people of color are often ignored. You always had an amazing shade range in complexion products which still in 2018 is a major problem in the beauty industry at large.

In the last five years I have witnessed the sad decline of your brand including watching your loyal customers be forced to shop with other brands because they grew frustrated and tired of not being able to purchase their Fashion Fair products on numerous occasions due to stock issues. I have also watched your counters be removed from many Macys stores, which to my surprise has left me with a personal feeling of defeat. Recently, I grew angry and frustrated when I learned about Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty partnership with LVMH because I could not help but think of what that partnership could have looked like if it was with you, and what it could have done for your brand.

The movie Black Panther and the fictional African nation, “Wakanda“, helped me and many people of African descent across the globe understand that ownership over representation and inclusion is of great importance, and it also gave us a visualization of what that ownership could look like.

I know given your amazing history, and great products, that Fashion Fair cosmetics has the potential to be our “Wakandan” version of a large beauty conglomerate, and I am writing this open letter to let you know that you have many beauty soldiers willing and ready to help your brand do what is necessary to realize your fullest potential!

On this last day of Black History Month, I truly hope you read this letter and absorb all the love and concern that I tried my best to articulate.

Sincerely,

@makeupinblackandwhite

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What I Think Wednesday:Nigerian Weddings and the Nigerian Economy: Can one save the other?

In 2005 I moved to DC to go to grad school for African studies at Howard University.  In the two years of course work, one of the things that I remember vividly are all of my professors, i repeat all of my professors who happened to each be from a country in Africa saying that all of Africa was waiting for Nigeria to step up to the call/challenge of being the African super power to help lead the continent out of colonialism and debt and into real political freedom, progress, and economic security.  It makes sense, Nigeria is the most populated country on the continent, its people are amongst the most educated in the world, and the country itself has tons of natural resources including oil, petroleum, natural gas, zinc, limestone, etc…

Fast forward to 2016, Nigeria’s economy is suffering immensely, and according to Dan Steinbock from Valuewalk.com, “without aggressive economic moves and harsh security measures, the economy could face a disastrous free fall.” One of my best friends, who happens to be Nigerian has shared stories with me of brick and mortar businesses being bulldozed by the government without warning to the business owners because of unpaid rent.  In some cases, the rent had been paid, but the landlords of the properties never gave the Nigerian government their cut, so innocent business owners are now taking the hit literally!  International investors are fleeing, the naira is about 315 to a US dollar, and people’s human security needs i.e. food, water, shelter are not being met.

Im sure that folks who are reading this are going, “Okay Michanna, what does this have to do with the beauty industry or makeup?”  My answer? Its bigger than makeup!!  Over the last year and a half, I have had the wonderful opportunity and privilege to work side by side a well respected Nigerian American make up artist and provide artistry services for some Nigerian weddings that make the wedding scenes in my favorite movie Coming to America seem like a little shot gun wedding with a $100 budget!  From the decor, to the locations and venues, designer dresses, suits, and shoes, etc… the money spent on these occasions is just mind blowing. According to bloomberg.com, $17 million US dollars have been spent on parties in Lagos, Nigeria over a five month period this year so far, and at least one fifth of them were weddings.  Forget about the parties,  I have heard of brides paying some Nigerian makeup artists $1,000-$1,500 just for doing their makeup alone!  Now before all of you start packing your kits and purchasing tickets to Nigeria, please note that the market over their is already over saturated, attorney’s and doctors have quit their full time jobs to open makeup studios, and it has become a survival of the fittest environment.

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While I have observed all of this with my own two eyes, I also have observed something else.  Every Nigerian bride and groom that I have met doing the makeup for these weddings are educated with great careers.  They are doctors, lawyers, engineers, bankers and economists, and have attended great schools either in the US or Europe.

Back to Nigeria being a super power.  When I put all of these things together a very glaring question always comes to mind.  What if Nigerians who were preparing to spend thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars on their wedding figured out how to somehow funnel the money back into their own economy with checks and balances for how the money is managed?  With all of the education, and money, and number of Nigerians having these opulent weddings, surely it could make a difference!  Lets look at this thing in more detail.

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When I am doing makeup for some of these wedding I notice that the whole wedding party has designer shoes, I mean there are “red bottoms” everywhere!  Lets say that on average, the bridal party is 16 people and at least 12 of the women in the bridal party have designer shoes.  If each pair of shoes equals roughly $500(i googled average cost of designer shoes in 2016) and you multiply that by 12, that equals $6,000 and 1,890,000 naira! If you add another $6,000 from the groomsmen which is another 1,890,000 naira, that is a nice sized chunk of money, and all that we have calculated were shoes!  Based on the stats of money spent on shoes alone, I think that my point has been made for how much money is spent on Nigerian weddings.

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Now no diss to Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo, Chanel, or any of the other European designers, but the last time I heard any of those companies discuss police brutality(Nigerians who live in the US no matter how educated can be pulled over because of the color of their skin too), inequalities in education for people of color, brain drain on the continent of Africa, or the failing Nigerian economy was … let me see… um never!!  Way back in 2005 when my professors said that Nigeria had the potential to be a super power in Africa, they got it wrong.  Nigeria has the potential to be a super power for the whole entire African diaspora!  Right now people of African descent are having to rethink many things, one of those being whether or not we want to continue to live in a country  where we risk being gunned down for trivial things like driving, selling loose cigarettes, and walking down the street no matter whether we are educated and can afford expensive weddings or not. In the large scheme of things, if Nigerians started to really plan and focus on channeling some of the money from these opulent weddings into the Nigerian economy where they could control how the money is managed once it gets there, that could very well be the start of an economic revolution!

Imagine if young couples getting married organized a way to do this by only supporting Nigerian vendors abroad and stateside for everything including dresses, shoes, fabric, photography, cakes, food, planners, rings, venues, airlines, hotels, travel agents, and  all entities involved agreed to invest a portion of the money made back into the economy in a controlled way weeding out mismanagement of funds.  International investors would come back, jobs would be created, and the young couples could essentially create a new infrastructure dismantling corruption, and the absence of checks and balances.  As it is related to those of African descent like me who may be looking for a new place to reside, Nigeria could be the place to be!

Now I know that I am being very opportunistic, but our countries have to be our priority.  It  saddens me to know that while we spend billions of dollars to celebrate one day, a potential super power of Africa and of the African diaspora suffers greatly.  It is time for us to be selfish and support our own!

 

 

What I Think Wednesday: Trish McEvoy and her Credit Card Palettes

I have spent a ton of time talking to my peers in the makeup world about cosmetic companies and what I think they can do better in terms of training, product development, hiring, social media, etc… Finally I realized that talking to my peers is pointless.  I also realize that talking to company executives can also be pointless especially if you meet them in a store or counter setting.

I have observed that most executives dismiss ideas that company members who work behind counters have which is a huge mistake!  Social media has much more weight, so I will be speaking directly to companies every Wednesday in the hopes that at some point my voice is heard! Now on to Trish!!

At this point, we all know that palettes reign supreme.  Eyeshadow palettes, blush palettes, lip palettes, foundation palettes, etc… Consumers would rather spend money on palettes because they give you variety and provide you with more “bang” for your buck.  Trish McEvoy, known for her planners sometimes will put these little credit card eyeshadow palettes in her limited edition planners, and I have started to collect them, because they are tiny ( I love tiny things), super pigmented, have an array of eyeshadows and powder eyeliners, and blend like a dream!

The problem is that these credit cards only come out every once in a while in a limited planner making it impossible to purchase them individually at the consumers convenience.  As a makeup artist I really feel like I need every credit card that Trish has ever created, and no that I will be impossible for me to obtain them all.  I have a few suggestions.

  • Relaunch the credit cards in their own special planner as a limited edition sort of thing to see how well consumers respond to the idea of being able to have all of the credit card palettes.
  • Offer the credit card palettes online to give consumers an opportunity to purchase them individually
  • Market the “credit card planner” using some cool wording maybe drawing associations from the Urban Decay “naked palette” the slogan “Plan to be Naked” would be risky but could work.
  • Market to a wider demographic including but not limited to millenials making a point to appeal to beauty bloggers, and youtube and instagram makeup artists!IMG_2662

These things are definitely kit worthy, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if Trish were to make these credit card eyeshadow palettes a focus, they would sell!

Daaaamn Pat! Back at it again with Kim K!

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A friend told me a couple weeks ago that he read a statistic that fifteen hundred new makeup artists enter the beauty market a month in the U.S, and I believe that statistic 100%!  Social media makes all art forms these days seem easy and fun to start and participate in, and it also makes them seem easy to make money from.  I have already written blogs about this and because this is not going to be another one of the same blog, I will stop here.  This blog is really about me trying to figure out the balance of integrity vs. popularity and fame one should have when trying to promote their artistry and perhaps products.

At the end of last week, the God Mother of Makeup Artistry, Pat McGrath, promoted a “new” highlighting product that she will be selling with using an image of her highlighting none other than the famous for being famous, famous for having a sex tape leaked by her mother, famous for being Kanye West’s wife, famous for having a huge obviously fake derrière, famous for having a show, famous for having the face that most makeup artists on Instagram that have had major success either look like naturally or sculpt their faces to emulate, etc… Kim Kardashian as promo.

As a tenured makeup artist that is making my way in the social media world because I know the power of marketing that using those platforms creates, I am really struggling here.  Generally, I am not narcissistic, I do not fill my Instagram, twitter, or Facebook accounts with tons of selfies, my outfits of the day, my new hair, my new shoes, etc… I don’t because I value my own individuality and privacy and enjoy having my life experiences be just that, my life experiences.  I realize that the world that makes up social media loves people who are narcissistic,  post pictures of themselves everyday, their outfits of the day, new designer purses, etc… and you know what?(in my Tamar Braxton voice) I think that is perfectly fine!! What I don’t like is that I notice that the people who become the most famous from these types of posts all look the same.  They have the same skin tone, bone structure, eye shapes, hair, body types, and style.  The people who “slip through the cracks” don’t have those things naturally but use makeup, plastic surgery, waist shapers, hair extensions, colored contacts, and clothing to make themselves look like the prototype.  What does all of this have to do with Pat McGrath and Kim K? Everything!

Kim K is the prototype!  If I scroll through 30 images on Instagram, 10 images are of makeup looks, outfits, or women who look like they have been inspired by Mrs. West!  The irony is that Pat McGrath, her image, her body of work, etc are the complete and total opposite!  Ms. McGrath is a full figured British women of African or Caribbean descent(i.e. African) with a deeper skin tone that seems like she has never worn makeup in her entire life!  From a marketing stand point, I totally understand why Pat (one of the best mua’s the world has ever seen in my humble opinion) and Kim (a women whose mother successfully pimped out the whole entire family for crazy sums of money that continues to grow exponentially) would get together, but what does that say for lil old me?  Does it say, “hey girl, I know your family taught you that hard work gets you where you want to go, but perhaps you should start doing it by any means necessary“?  If that is the case, my strategy would totally change!

  • That strategy would mean that I stay on social media for at least eight hours a day.(a typical shift at any job)
  • It would mean that I take selfies at least 20 times a day and post at least 3-5 of them a day.(this may include on boarding a side kick to take these photo’s which is what I have seen a few people do)
  • It means that while I wear black at least 5-7 days a week, I post my outfits of the day.
  • It means that when I am in the car with friends I turn on music and record myself mouthing the words with fish lips to post.
  • It means that I step my waist training and flat tummy tea drinking game up because those things all seem like successful keys to marketing yourself on social media.
  • It means that I do tons of makeup swatches on new makeup and skin care products like liquid lipsticks and highlighters.(where will I get the money to keep up?)
  • It means I must start buying body con dresses in bulk to wear as part of my outfits of the day to post. (Instagram boutiques here I come!)
  • It means that I must associate myself with celebrities, athletes, and people who have a large social media following to get more followers for myself
  • It means that I may have to buy followers because the more followers you have the better your chances of being able to attract cosmetic companies to pay you to advertise their stuff or become brand ambassadors or become chosen to provide input on new products
  • Adopt a genre of makeup often seen on instagram to do on myself that includes, a strong sculpted brow, glitter eye shadow, at least one pair of lashes, major highlighting and contouring, and a matte lip to post.(most other genre’s of makeup do not get as much play)

The list is not terrible, but not quite me.  It is also not really feasible for several other amazing, tenured, talented makeup artists I know.  Some of the artists I know love to spend time with their children and husband when they are not working, some love to travel, go to the beach, and play with their pets. Some love to sleep, work out, spend time with friends, and travel.  Do these “normal” activities make them any less worthy of having success in a field they have already given a decade or more to? Does the list above represent one of the only ways to have success as a makeup artist/make up marketer?(it seems impossible to just be an mua with out being a make up marketer) Do you have to look like, dress like, or associate yourself with Kim Kardashian in some way shape or form to have a certain level of success?

Last question, What do tenured makeup artists do in a world where tenure, talent, and experience do not matter?   I would love advice and it looks like Pat could use some too.

 

 

 

 

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”.