How do we effect it?
How do we make it a reality?
Those of you who are regular readers of my blog know that I am dedicated to and actively pursuing a change in the way the British beauty industry caters for and represents women of colour.
Many times we think that our efforts to effect change will be ignored, ridiculed or even thwarted (and often times they are) – but it is up to us as individuals and as a community to voice our chagrins and dissatisfactions – no matter how small or insignificant they may seem to others!
— Denise Rawls (@ilvstrangefruit) June 9, 2013
This is exactly what Lucy V. aka @princesscutielu did!!
Lucy is not a blogger nor an industry pro – she is a customer – just like many of you – who felt she needed to do her part to bring about a change.
Read her account on how her actions caused the major British brand Liz Earle to amend their website and acknowledge us as a valuable customer base.
My name is Lucy, I’m a beauty enthusiast and…I’m a Virgo.
When one thinks of a Virgo it usually conjures up images of a Pre-Raphaelite painting. You know the ones – those images of wistful, ultra feminine, beautiful virgins.
A woman who looks as if she spends a great deal of time preening, grooming, and applying her make-up, whilst also multitasking marriage, motherhood and running that multi-national corporation!
…and ok, she can sometimes be anally-retentive but if the truth be known, she’s perfect in every way!
However, unlike the Pre-Raphaelite painting of the beautiful, feminine, socially accepted woman – who is always portrayed as a Caucasian beauty, I am of African descent, a race which is seriously under-represented and quite frankly ignored within the beauty industry. I have often wondered why, when it is a well documented fact that women of African descent spend millions on beauty products worldwide every year.
Earlier this year, I was actively looking for an everyday skincare/make-up range, so after stumbling across a charming blonde lady in her 50’s (which is also rare!!) at the Liz Earle counter in the Stratford Westfield and after receiving exemplary customer service I was super keen to purchase the products based purely on the positive experience and the fact that my skin looked amazing after just one application. I was shown the Signature Foundation from the Liz Earle Make Up line.
I wanted to make a purchase there and then, but I decided to do a little research online, to monitor how it would wear throughout the day.
Visiting the Liz Earle website was a joy. I was impressed by its simplicity, the layout, the information about the different processes that go into the making of the products, as well as the
quiz to help one dechiper which products would be the most suitable…
…so, it was with utter dismay and disappointment that upon looking up the foundation I had been matched to in-store, I saw a photo of a woman the same colour as me…but with the following product description beneath it…
“Mocha 09 – 25ml £21.00 – This deep shade suits medium-to-dark Asian skin tones with pink undertones”.
You may not think this is a big deal, but to me, and millions of women of colour all over the world it is. It’s a very big deal that in the year 2013 I rarely see healthy, positive images of myself in the media and in the advertising of beauty products.
It is a big deal that I and many others still feel incredibly invisible and not a part of an industry that seeks to enhance beauty for women who require it.
It’s a big deal because as a teenager and young woman, the opportunity to experiment with make-up and make discoveries about whom and what I wanted to become was not available to me. I, like many others had to make do with foundations and powders in colours which resulted in either an ashy or orangey/red finish – looks which would result in me feeling ugly, leading to low self esteem and a decision not to wear make-up at all.
Although things are much better now, I still have to watch our teenagers and young women accept that if a brand doesn’t cater for their specific skin tone or include their shade in the description of the product that they want to purchase, then that’s OK.
Well, I’m here to tell you, it is not OK and it’s time for us to stand up and make requests for what we want.
My normal reaction to the kind of product description above would have been to sigh and decide not purchase but after years of not being properly catered for by cosmetic companies I have come to the conclusion that that if I want to see something different I will have to do something different, so I sent an email to the Liz Earle customer service department .
I received a response from the Head of Customer Services who apologised and promised the error would be corrected but after regularly checking the site, no changes had been made, so I made contact once again!
Responding a month later, the Liz Earle team wrote back, promising once again to make a change but once again, after weeks of checking, the changes had still not been made.
In the meantime, I visited a number of blogs written by other beauty enthusiasts and that is when I came across an article written by BeautyPulseLondon who had also questioned Liz Earle’s choice of description for the foundation. I commented on that piece, encouraging others to write and complain so that a change could come about.
I then received an @mention, as did Liz Earle, in a tweet by another beauty enthusiast who wanted to try the products but because of the description on the website and the fact that she had read my comment, had decided that she could not support the company.
— Jamillah Yoozooph (@Barebeginnings) April 5, 2013
— Jamillah Yoozooph (@Barebeginnings) April 5, 2013
This is when I realised the power of the Tweet.
— Liz Earle Beauty Co. (@lizearle) April 12, 2013
Within minutes, Liz Earle’s team made contact and within in a day the product description on the website was amended to the following:
Mocha 09 – 25ml £21.00 – Deep-dark. Warm tone for a dark brown complexion.
Please be encouraged by this…but also recognise that the fight for the recognition of women of African descent within the beauty business continues and I need you all to stand up for what is right and this is how you can do it.
If you see something you feel should be changed, if you are unhappy about the lack of makeup products/colours available to you, or the service you have received, instead of taking it personally and not making purchases, make the company aware of your feelings, by emailing, Facebooking or Tweeting about it.
Do not allow beauty companies to use the excuse that there is no demand for products in our skin-tone when this simply isn’t true. Put your thoughts in writing and support the beauty bloggers who work hard to make us aware of the make-up choices that are available for us out there by letting them know your thoughts too. Our sisters in the United States have a wide choice of good quality, high and low-end make-up products available to them, so why shouldn’t we?
I leave you with this thought…
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi
Many thanks Lucy!