Tag Archives: retail

“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”.

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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?

Am I really just a Stupid Makeup Artist?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Devil Wears Ruby Woo

The past three years of my make up artistry career, I have freelanced for several cosmetic companies including a very popular brand, and witnessed tenured artists jump ship from the company like it was the Titanic. There are many reasons why it was and is happening. I plan to explore many of those reasons in other posts, but one is upper management.

Prior to the most recent district manager there was one who had an industry wide reputation for being an aggressive unrelenting tyrant. Apparently people feared her so much they would lose their appetite,  feel nauseous around her, and try to avoid her like the plague. My first encounter with her was interesting. I was on my third or fourth interview (which was a surprise to me because I thought I was hired after my second) and I had to complete  one more with the store manager at the location where I would start if I were to get the job. I go in for my interview, and to my surprise there are two people instead of one. This second person is tiny in stature, and has a very monochromatic look with a very angular haircut. She looks a bit androgynous and very severe. At any rate I greet her and the store manager and anticipate doing well on what I hope to be my last and final interview.

The questions start, and one of them was in regards to customer service. I used the company where I was currently working as a reference, described my approach to customer service using my current companies guidelines, and before I could finish my thoughts, the “Tyrant” interrupted. She said, “Well I have visited that store several times, and I have never experienced that customer service that you speak of.” True to her nickname she was nasty and inappropriate. Here I was trying to do well on an interview and answer a question properly and truthfully, I mean I had gotten promoted from a part time seasonal employee to full time assistant store manager, so I must have been doing something right, and here she was trying to throw a curve ball in my interview! Luckily I ignored her rude outburst, and kept answering questions like a champ eventually landing the job. While I witnessed many other people cry, quit, get fired, lose their appetite, and curse her name, I never had another negative run in with “the Tyrant.” Unfortunately for her, her reputation finally made its way to corporate and before she could get the ax, she quit.

The ‘lesson’ in this story is that retail is hard enough on every one involved.  You work long hours, deal with tons of different people and personalities, and have responsibilities and goals to reach that at times seem unachievable.  Even with all of that to carry, you are expected to always be on your ‘a game’, leave your personal problems at the door, and deliver.  In a perfect world cosmetic companies would recognize these things and would provide checks and balances for upper management to insure that they know how to properly and effectively communicate to their staff without using intimidation, profanity, discrimination, favoritism, and out right disrespect to meet their bottom lines.

Makeup in Black and White; An introduction, Sort Of

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

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

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