50 Shades of No Representation

Image courtesy of Estee Lauder

BY TIASHA BHUIYAN                                                       

ONLINE CONTRIBUTOR

It only takes a few minutes of scrolling through YouTube or walking through cosmetic aisles to realize the makeup industry is tailored towards a certain group of people.

It sucks hearing a beauty guru rave about a Physician’s Formula bronzer that only comes in a shade that matches your skin colour. Don’t even get me started on the lack of foundation shades across brands. Newsflash: having 50 shades is not that impressive when 45/50 of them are various tones of light beige. I may be exaggerating a little but the struggle is real. Just watch Nyma Tang’s “The Darkest Shade” series on YouTube and see how she often has to travel to multiple stores just to find one shade from one brand because she doesn’t have other options.

It gets worse when you look at the people behind some of these companies. Before you pick up some of Jeffree Star’s liquid lipsticks, watch him spout racist comments in his videos. Then watch Kim Kardashian defend him before buying her contour kits. Before you praise Covergirl for gender equality, check out James Charles’s racist tweets then read his pathetic “but I have a black friend” defense. Before you admire L’Oreal’s True Match shade range, look at how they fired black trans model Munroe Bergdorf when she spoke out about the racism she experienced.

Despite all this discrimination (or “controversy” as the media likes to say), these brands are still flourishing and still considered mainstream. How do we change this? Well, there are a few inclusive non-problematic brands like Nyx and ABH we could give our coins to. Or we could go a step further and publicize smaller black-owned brands so they could become more accessible and the industry’s corporate structure could be more diverse.

Black women have been killing the beauty game since Madame CJ Walker, aka Sarah Breedlove, launched her brand in 1910 (you can still purchase her products at Sephora!).  Rihanna’s Fenty beauty line has received well deserved attention these past few months for its foundation shade range, the darkest ones frequently selling out proving that dark skinned people are a demanding clientele in makeup. I personally love the brand’s Universal Nude Gloss Bomb. There’s also Iman Cosmetics, formed by the model after retailers told her “Black women don’t buy foundation” (she laughed in response). Then there’s 21 year old Danielle Bahi who was recently featured on Forbes for her all natural cosmetics company, Bahi Cosmetics, which she created to uplift “all women of colour”.

I’ve recently discovered some more black owned brands thanks to this thread by Makeup for WOC (one of my favourite beauty influencers). Juvia’s Place has some great blushes and some of the prettiest eye shadow palettes (the Saharan palette is only $30 and a must have for warm toned shadow lovers). Beauty Bakerie also has the some of the cutest packaging you’ll ever see. Both these brands are also cruelty free! Other well loved brands include Black Opal, Fashion Fair, Coloured Raine, and DFA Cosmetics.

I get it- makeup is supposed to be fun and politics obviously aren’t. But when a certain group of people are continuously being excluded from a lifestyle, it’s personal. If makeup is supposed to be fun, it should be fun for everyone – it’s that simple. Taking a few extra minutes to think before buying a product, or having the patience to buy something from an independent POC owned brand can make a difference. You’ll help people of colour feel more represented and you’ll get some unproblematic awesome products!