On August 5, IPSY hosted an online panel event, Black Voices in Beauty, with the goal of highlighting the experiences of Black women in the beauty industry. The event was hosted by Sharon Chuter, Founder of UOMA Beauty and the #PullUpForChange movement, and included Amanda E. Johnson of Mented Cosmetics; celebrity makeup artist Yolanda Frederick; designer and influencer Gabi Fresh; and supermodel and activist Jasmine Sanders. In addition to hosting the conversation, IPSY committed to a $5 million investment in Black-owned beauty brands via sampling and product development programs. The company is also committing to doing more in terms of hiring and promoting Black team members. Here, CEW Beauty News highlights a few of the important topics discussed by each speaker during the virtual event.
Brands have to take responsibility for the audience they have built.
“When you are in a marginalized group, you are used to being underserved, so when someone does finally give you the product you have been wanting, you’re going to stay loyal and buy more often because there are few places to shop and few brands catering to you,” explained Gabi. “When a brand says a product doesn’t sell when they post a Black or plus-sized model, they have to take responsibility for the audience they have built. So, if they’ve built an all-white audience as a result of only posting white images, the audience is not going to respond when a Black model is posted for the first time. The brand has to continue to do that and it has to be part of their belief and value system. This trains the audience to start seeing the beauty in those models, as opposed to only seeing beauty as people who look like themselves. It will also allow the brand to build a diverse following who will start engaging with that content.”
Lack of diversity in the Venture Capital world leads to underfunding of Black businesses.
“Being willing to walk into a room and tell someone you have an idea and that you want them to give you money is remarkable. It takes a lot of guts from anybody,” said Amanda. “That guts thing gets more and more difficult if you are different and removed from the people you are asking money from. Most VCs are made up of white men… and that world is quite small and it’s human nature to connect to people who look like you, so it’s easier for white men to get funding when they walk into the room. If you walk into that same room and you’re a woman, you’re that much more removed; if you walk into that same room and you’re a Black woman, you’re even that much more removed; and, if you walk into that room and you are a Black woman and you’re talking about Black women’s beauty problems, people’s faces glaze over.” Amanda went on to note that Mented’s first investor was a woman who came from a diverse family, whose beauty needs required her to go into Black neighborhoods. The experience made her empathetic to the struggles of Black women. “It’s so important to get more diversity in the VC world because then there’s always going to be that person across the table that understands the idea and takes the chance and it’s much easier to do that if there is a shared experience,” she said.
It is important for brands to understand the needs of Black models and hiring accordingly.
“Certain companies, magazines and brands employ makeup artists and hair stylists based on popularity instead of picking someone educated on specific hair and skin tones and can get the job done quickly,” said Jasmine. “I’ve had to go to a lot of sets with my hair already done. If I have to arrive with my hair braided the way the client liked it on my Instagram, then they need to pay my hairstylist the rate that they would have paid an on-set stylist, or reimburse me because it does take a lot of time and money. Sometimes they want certain things and will share an inspiration photo, but they are not prepared for any of it and they don’t know what it takes. However, I don’t feel like it’s just the client’s issue. It’s also the hair and makeup artists that try to act like they can do something and when they can’t, they make you feel degraded. As a model, when I’m on set, I want to feel beautiful and powerful and those feelings get taken away when you hear, ‘How much longer on Jasmine? We’ve already shot these two girls.’ But, those two girls came with their hair naturally blown out straight and my hair takes time. It makes you feel like you are not appreciated or beautiful, which are two things you don’t want to feel when you’re going on set to make someone’s product or brand exude that. “
Black artists still face racism and the industry plays a major role in curating images of beauty.
“Everything starts at the top with the branding of what beauty is,” explained Yolanda. “If we are allowed a seat at the table, then by us exemplifying the things our clients need, we are educating. We are teaching editors and people in corporate America what beautiful Black women should look like. It’s not just about what beauty schools and salons are doing in terms of educating and training their talent. It’s about Black makeup artists being able to have opportunities. Recently, I flew out of the country for Vogue and the photographer threatened to quit if I did the makeup. I’ve been in the industry for 30 years and I asked myself, ‘When are guys like this going to be open to us?’ This monolithic institution needs to reconfigure what they think about beauty, who they think are beautiful and what it means to be a curator of beauty.”