Tag: Body image

Women of Colour vs. The Beauty Industry – who’s winning the battle?


Nykhor Paul’s Instagram post probably made some so-called make-up ‘artists’ blush when she put them on blast a few days ago! The South Sudanese model has put race and make-up back on the catwalk in a post she put on her Instagram page: @nykhor

Dear white people in the fashion world!

Please don’t take this the wrong way but it’s time you people get your shit right when it comes to our complexion! Why do I have to bring my own makeup to a professional show when all the other white girls don’t have to do anything but show up wtf!

Don’t try to make me feel bad because I am blue black its 2015 go to Mac, Bobbi Brown, Makeup forever, Iman cosmetic, black opal, even Lancôme and Clinique carried them plus so much more. There’s so much options our there for dark skin tones today.

A good makeup artist would come prepared and do there research before coming to work because often time you know what to expect especially at a show! Stop apologizing it’s insulting and disrespectful to me and my race it doesn’t help, seriously! Make an effort at least!

That goes for NYC, London, Milan, Paris and Cape Town plus everywhere else that have issues with black skin tones.

Just because you only book a few of us doesn’t mean you have the right to make us look ratchet. I’m tired of complaining about not getting booked as a black model and I’m definitely super tired of apologizing for my blackness!!!! Fashion is art, art is never racist it should be inclusive of all not only white people, shit we started fashion in Africa and you modernize and copy it! Why can’t we be part of fashion fully and equally?

Nykhor Paul instagram dear white people, make-up in fashion for balck women in not equal
Thousands of people seem to agree…

There isn’t much I can really add to this apart from, YES! Nykhor Paul sums up the frustrations of many women of colour (WoC) with vivid memories of scouring make-up counters for products that complement their shade but to no avail.

Within the mist of this ethnic beauty discourse, it’s important to remember that make-up does not make women beautiful. Confidence and embracing your own natural beauty is the foundation; make-up just enhances natural beauty (which is already present) and is fun to experiment with it.

I don’t wear make-up often but I do have those memories of walking into stores, seeing a shade and hoping it will compliment me. I’ve sat in the make-up chair (as you do) allowing the shop assistant to brush all over my face and then it comes…. that sinking feeling when the mirror is flipped around and I think; “this looks terrible”.

There has been an increase in brands catering for darker skin tones but due this frustration, I became numb to make-up adverts; experience has taught me that ‘I don’t really fit’ with many of these products.

Jourdan Dunn said makeup artist wont touch black skin

However, one of my clearest memories of make-up advertising that made me actually walk into a shop and spend money without hesitation was as I strolled through Herald Square in NYC, and saw an advert for Maybelline with Jessica White. When Lupita Nyong’o became the first black ambassador for Lancôme, a brand which had never even entered my mind (to use for myself) i thought “hmm that looks good on her, so it could look good on me too”…

Lancome Air De Teint (shade 13)
Apparently Lancôme’s Air de Teint foundation comes in various shades for all skin tones.
Picture: Lancôme Paris

Two years ago Jourdan Dunn, who earlier this year became the first black model (since Naomi Campbell in 2002) to have a solo cover on UK Vogue Magazine, spoke about how a make-up artist felt uncomfortable doing her make-up because she was black. Like any profession make-up artists should hone their craft, especially if working in the international fashion industry and should be prepared to work with all types of models. View the video below from 7:28 seconds:

Nykhor Paul’s condemnation is of make-up artists who are supposed to be at the top of their game, highlights the psychological hurdles black models face when going to fashion shoots, where they have to worry that a make-up artist will prefer not to work with them making them feel that there are ‘wrong’ in some way, where their white counterparts can just turn up, without that extra worry. It’s a psychological slap in the face for WoC who have to become adept researchers when buying make-up, otherwise left feeling like they are the problem, their skin is wrong because it doesn’t fit. Any woman can feel like this regardless of social status.

In a recent article by Reni Eddo-Lodge in Stylist Magazine, I came across the UK based website Brown Beauty Talk providing a platform where WoC can find, make-up tips, events and much more. Sites like this can be a saving grace, providing a space where WoC don’t have to apologise for the ‘inconvenience’ of the skin tone. In the same article, Stylist declared their beauty pledge, promising to work with modelling agencies to ensure that women who appear in the magazine have a variety of skin tones and hair textures. To do this, they want OUR help; by telling them how this can be achieved (email: faceofbeauty@stylist.co.uk). Just like Nykhor Paul and many women who have spoken out about this issue, the rest of us need to do the same, if we don’t nothing will change.

make up for dark skin
Make up for dark skin is still an issue in the beauty industry.
Picture: Google images

Even if the beauty industry starts to listen by adding more variety to their palettes, this ‘problem’ can become an opportunity for WoC to empower themselves:

Become the cosmetic scientist who develops beauty products…

Become the make-up artist who applies these beauty products…

Create the magazines and forums which discuss these beauty products…

Set up businesses that sell these beauty products, creating reasonable prices for the consumer…

One of the basic concepts of economics is supply and demand. When a product such as foundations for darker skin tones is scarce, but demand is high, the the price of that product will be high. This is why many WoC, complain about having to spend more money on premium brands who provide suitable products. If supply increases to meet demand over time, prices for the consumer will be more competitive.

It can be done.

Whether it’s foundation, blush, face powder, lipstick or eye shadow the demand has and always will be there so there is no excuse for darker skin tones to be ignored. The belief is that black goes with anything, but will the beauty industry ever fully embrace women of colour? Maybe black isn’t always in fashion afterall.

If you’ve been searching for the right shades for your skin tone then I would say YouTube should be your new best friend (if it isn’t already). Here are some beauty vloggers with tutorials for WoC, and there are lot more on YouTube:

Lizlizlive’s review starts at 1:10 seconds

Chanel Boateng

Styles by Fash

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Natural hair has wings: #CurlPower, #LoveYourCurls


Momentum of the ‘natural hair movement’ just keeps growing; forcing hair & beauty companies to take note! Some have responded by creating new products catering for black hair and the movement has also inspired entrepreneurs to start their own businesses.

Hair is obviously a big deal, financially and emotionally.

Esperanza Spalding - Grammy Award winning Jazz musician
Esperanza Spalding – Grammy Award winning Jazz musician

Most of reported evidence comes from across the pond in the USA, where the natural movement has really taken hold and filtered across various parts of the world, especially Europe. There are various websites, like the one recommended to me, black girl with long hair, with anecdotal stories of women who have/are attempting to embrace their natural hair. Some people say “it’s just hair, what’s the big deal?” But it’s more than just hair and discussions/debates about natural hair will not be receding any time soon. What we see sprouting from our scalps is said to be ‘dead’; it has no biochemical activity. Over the centuries hair has been an important part of the beauty equation and its psychological impact is profound. It’s evident the ‘natural hair movement’ is not just another trend. Many people alter their natural hair to fit in with the images we see all around us and a desire to be accepted/‘presentable’.

Good hair: Viola Davis, multiple award winning actress
Good hair: Viola Davis, multiple award winning actress

There have been various documentaries (e.g. Good Hair, by Chris Rock) about the damage chemical relaxers cause, which left me thinking, why do we do it to ourselves and feel like wearing our natural is not a viable option? The hair debate shouldn’t be turned into a battle between the ‘naturals’ and the ‘relaxers’, because that misses the point completely! I relaxed my hair when I was at college and some of my friends still do; the real lesson is about understanding your hair without disliking its natural texture. Is natural the new ‘normal’ in black hair care?

Apparently in the US:

  • Hair relaxer / perm sales account for just 21% of Black hair care sector
  • Declined 26% – $206 million in 2008 to $152 million in 2013

Mintel (September 2013) – leading market intelligence agency

Relax...and smile: Yaya DaCosta, America's Next Top Model finalist
Relax…and smile: Yaya DaCosta, America’s Next Top Model finalist

Hair is BIG money and many companies such as L’Oreal; Dark & Lovely are responding by creating hair care lines targeted at women with Afro/curly hair.

The latest brand to jump into the mix is Dove.

Unlike most beauty brands who focus on the exterior, Dove is attracting customers on an emotional level, it’s mission statement and latest campaign, ‘Love your curls’, does just that.

“At Dove, our vision is of a world where beauty is a source of confidence, and not anxiety. So, we are on a mission to help the next generation of women develop a positive relationship with the way they look – helping them raise their self-esteem and realise their full potential.”Dove UK

Dove US latest hair campaign video: #LoveYourCurls

It’s sad that children as young as 6 years old are insecure about their natural hair, but they don’t see images of Afro/curly hair in their own families as well as in society they will be programmed to attach negative connotations with their own natural hair. I’ve heard anecdotes from black women who say, they don’t know what their natural hair looks like because it was permed/relaxed from when they were young children….and the cycle usually continues.

Hair isn’t ‘just hair’ – its roots run deep into our emotional consciousness, that’s why natural Afro/curly hair becomes headline news. The Dove campaign lead to the birth of the hash tag  #CurlPower, encouraging women of ALL races to put down those expensive GHDs/flat irons/straighteners and rock those curls all day long!

A vision of love?...Love your curls: a Young Mariah Carey
A vision of love?…Love your curls: a Young Mariah Carey

An ideal world embrace and celebrate different hair textures as an exhibition of what IS normal, beautiful and acceptable. Even though the end goal is to sell a product (were are a capitalist scoiety), the Dove campaign is a step in the right direction. One of the biggest natural hair events in the UK, takes place on 23rd May 2015…Let the ‘Curlvolution‘ keep on growing!

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All photos from Google Images.

Carbon copy


Is Image important? I wasn’t sure if I should write on this topic because even though it always seems to be controversial, it has been exhausted. Any conversation about body image can pierce the emotions of men, women, boys and girls. If you are reading this sentence, then you would have guessed that after my moment of deliberation in the sentences above, I have decided to comment on this topic. BBC3’s Body Beautiful season kicked off on 19th November and this is the main but not the only reason that prompted me to write. Surveying from a bird’s eye view, a few questions instantly flood into my mind:

  • Do men stress themselves about their body as much as women do? Watching an England football match would a man say, “Gosh, I wish I had legs like Rio Ferdinand!”
  • Do people in the developing world worry about body image? Or maybe they have more important things to worry about?
  • Who is to blame for the body image obsession?

The latter part of this year saw the annual fashion week brand come to life and it was not just about the clothes; there were definitely some alternations; Philip Treacy had an all-black model cast for his collection at London Fashion Week 2012; why? Apparently no reason was given, he just did it because he felt like it, I guess. Does this matter though? Is image important?

Philip tracey

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