For many folks, activities such as doing your makeup can be found relaxing, creatively inspiring and leisurely. I certainly identify as one of those people. When I am feeling bored or not myself, I love cracking open an eyeshadow palette and popping on some bright pink eyeshadow, messing around with freckles or contouring my face into an entirely new human.
I find it to be so much fun and an extension of the art projects I enjoy doing in my free time as well. I even enjoy watching other people do their makeup. I’ve been known to fall asleep while watching someone on YouTube give themselves rainbow eyeliner or test out a new type of mascara.
Not everyone feels like this, but I do and know many others do, too, which is why the cosmetic market is currently the most profitable branch of the beauty industry as a whole.
With an industry so large and wealthy, boasting countless brands, millions of products and an innumerable amount of influencers, one would think that they must do a great job at maintaining diversity and catering to all consumers. This would be a logical thing to think as it is wise both from a humanitarian standpoint, and a business one.
However, as I have realized over the past few years of educating myself and paying attention to the way brands conduct themselves to the public, that couldn’t be any further from the truth.
Like so many other markets, the beauty industry as a whole caters primarily to white people. This can take shape in so many ways, from limited shade ranges in complexion products to the lack of diversity shown in marketing.
In more recent years, the bar has been set higher. As a consumer of makeup products myself, I can clearly see when the shift happened, and it occurred right after the release of Rhianna’s makeup line, Fenty, in the fall of 2017.
The initial launch included the now best selling foundation, which was available from day one in 40 shades, ranging from incredibly light shades, intended for people with albinism, to incredibly dark shades, meant to match those who had commonly been completely left out of the conversation, as if they don’t also shop for these products.
While this did set the bar astronomically high, I am still consistently shocked by the lack of products and launches which are produced with people of color in mind. Living in a post-Fenty era if you will, you would think that all brands would adhere to this standard and understand that only manufacturing products suited for white people is a direct form of white supremacy and racism. Yet we still see brands such as Tarte Cosmetics releasing products such as their infamous Shape Tape foundation which, at the time of its release in 2018, only contained 15 shades ranging from white to…ever so slightly tanner white.
More recently, following the eruption of Black Lives Matter over the summer, countless brands released PR statements claiming to care about the movement. While maybe some do genuinely care, many of those statements can be seen as disingenuous as so many companies fail to actually put in any work to protect Black lives.
As a result, an Instagram account called Pull Up For Change initiated a trend called #PullUpOrShutUp, in which companies were asked to share the diversity statistics of their organizations.
For example, L’Oréal, which owns countless other household brands from Maybelline to NYX to Urban Decay, admitted to only having 7% Black employees among their HQ population. This is even lower than the average, which was shared by Pull Up For Change stating that only 8% of people in white collar positions are Black.
Through this challenge, it was revealed that so many other big-name brands also have so few spaces being occupied by people of color and Black people specifically, that it is no wonder we see so few changes being made to the ways in which the industry perpetuates white supremacy.
In order to see any sort of difference, I challenge consumers to be mindful of who they are supporting financially when they buy from a brand. Does the company you are buying from actively make space for Black folks on their staff? Do they produce products that can be purchased and used by people of all races? Do they showcase diversity in their marketing and in their campaigns?
If the answer to any of those questions is no, try finding an alternative product from a different line that actually supports the change we need to see. While it is ultimately up to each brand to rise to the occasion and dismantle the white supremacy they enforce, we as consumers can do our part by only supporting brands who support all consumers.
Ali Kochik is a third-year English Writings major, journalism and women’s and gender studies minor. AK908461@wcupa.edu