It’s Stylist Wednesday!!
The quality of the editorial is undisputed and last week’s issue was by no means an exception.
The article that got Twitter ‘a-buzzing’ and that catapulted its author Anita Bhagwandas (Stylist’s Beauty Assistant and Guardian beauty blog contributor) into the limelight , was the candid account of her experience of her unending quest for makeup that suited her skin tone, entitled the ‘Changing Face of Beauty’.
Of course, those of you who are regular readers of my blog know that this IS a subject that is extremely close to my heart, and it was one of the main reasons why I started to write. Why is it that, in 2012, in one of the leading nations of the developed world, do I still feel that my needs are not being adequately catered for ?
I had wanted to respond to the article sooner, but each time I began to unpack the content, there were so many different issues and points of discussion that could have been broached (from ‘shadeism’ to outright discrimination or the hypocrisy of some beauty companies such as Unilever that claim to champion self esteem in women and young girls with their Dove ad campaigns, but are at the same time manufacturing and selling skin lightening creams with the key message that ‘lighter is better’)…
…that I had to take a pause and re evaluate my approach…or else I would have ended up writing an essay!!
To say that the piece struck a chord is something of an understatement!
Anita’s article certainly struck a chord with the general public as well…
Here are some of the comments that it generated (taken form the Stylist website):
…. there was even a comment from a celebrity MUA!
People were clearly moved by her account – and so many could identify with her experience. So, what did I take away from the article?
1. There is still an lack of visibility of women of colour in the mainstream media.
I have touched on this topic in the past, but it is a saddening fact that it is still rare to see a person of colour (who is not a celebrity) being represented fairly and accurately in the British media. How many TV ads can you think of that feature black people just being…normal? Buying washing up liquid? Going to the supermarket? Choosing a mortgage? Buying a car?
What become apparent from the publication of Anita’s article is the insatiable demand for such coverage in the mainstream media. Last week’s issue became like gold dust!!
The lack of representation of women of colour in the beauty press has been well documented, and this is why I make it a point to assess the marketing campaigns that support the launches of ranges with items for dark skin tones in my product reviews, because this lack of awareness causes a viscous cycle – if the target market is not aware that a brand has a product for them, they do not purchase these products, and because they do not buy the products the sales are low and because the sales are low, the companies conclude that there is little demand for the items and decide to discontinue or reduce the offering….
2. We need to hold key positions within the industry.
I left this comment on the Stylist website in response to Anita’s article:
I really believe that real change is dependent upon more women of colour penetrating the beauty business. Why is it that there are usually a high percentage of ‘workers of colour’ on the shop floors of major beauty companies (in London anyway) yet very few in the head offices of these same companies?
Our needs can only be articulated by us. Kay Montano ,a leading British MUA, hit the nail on the head in the article when she stated that our needs “ may not always occur to them, for example, if there isn’t someone non-white on the committee. I saw a body product for ‘normal to dark skin’ recently. It wasn’t meant maliciously but there’s an element of ignorance.”
Educating those within the UK beauty industry is also essential, so I was really pleased to see that Esi Eggleston Bracey, the Vice President and General Manager, Global P&G Cosmetics will be a key note speaker at the CEW UK inaugural Beauty Summit taking place in June.
She will be talking about the dramatically changing industry and what does this mean for beauty companies!
Anita’s article certainly reinvigorated the debate about beauty for women of colour…and long may it continue!
What are your thoughts? I would love to know!
Brilliant article and yet again I love your professional input to the beauty industry. It’s a shame that influential brands don’t cater much for darker skin however, I’m noticing a huge shake in things and there are darker shades with Chanel, Lancome and even L’Oreal with their True Match Foundation. I love Anita’s article and was just nodding along at everything she said from the love and hate relationship with Vanity Fair to being sold foundations too light for her skin tone. I’d love to see more from her!
I meant Fashion Fair btw lol!
Thanks for reading!! Been missing your posts BTW!!
I was so relieved when I read it to, so many of us bloggers go on about this but it was a breath of fresh air to see the topic go mainstream and I am proud of Stylist Magazine for not being afraid to do it.
Very well written and well informed article Natalie, there is so much around this topic that like you, I thought “where do I start” when it came to blogging about last weeks feature. So its brilliant you had the fire to write a follow up article. Go you!
Thanks Louisa! It took a while but I got there in the end!! Thanks for reading!
Excellent observation and analysis as usual! Very well done. I imagine the reasons for the lack of representation at the top end of the beauty industry, is the same for all industries. I think the sooner we realise that there are ‘levels’ of discrimination and that we have to address a higher level than previously, the sooner we will start to address them. Thanks for your insights, very inspiring!
I agree! As I said, the debate has been reinvigorated, so it must be kept alive until things have changed for the better.
Thanks for reading!
Another insightful post. I heard the noise around this article and I for one am glad that there is noise. Long may it continue until all shades are adequately catered for. Its a shame that in this day an age, there is such under representation, but until black and Asian woman penetrate more head office positions, I feel the situation will still take some time to change. If we don’t have representation at the level the decisions are being made, how can we have impact? How will these companies know that they have to allocate more funds to the development and marketing of products for us. As Daniel Sandler says – if he had more funds – it all comes down to money at the end of the day and perhaps we’re not seen as big spenders and therefore won’t spend enough to put profits back into that fun. I’m glad companies like Chanel etc are doing a bit now, but in my honest opinion, after the small flurry a few months back, I’m really not seeing them do much. I cannot see a continuity of advertising going on. I do hope its not a case of one step forward, 2 steps back.
Thank you for reading! Representation within the industry IS the only way forward – whether that be in the securing of senior positions such as that held by the P&G GM or through entrepreneurship (which is my preference!). What is really exciting is that there is a flurry of entrepreneurs that are looking to fill the gap – I too am working on a project…which is top secret at the moment…but all will be revealed very soon! It really is time to take the bull by the horns and make the change that we want to see happen.
Can’t wait for the big reveal. I’m sure you’ll keep us posted. If you need any assistance, I’m always a willing guinea pig 🙂 Good luck with it x
For us to get more women of color into boardrooms across the spectrum, we need to start looking at professions in beauty seriously. Growing up in an African family, the expectation was that I would become a doctor, lawyer or accountant. Everything else was not considered financially viable. The buck needs to start with us. We need to mentor young people into the beauty industry whether it be from a science angle or journalism.
I remember reading the article and was pleased to see the debate being raised. Yes there is change but the change is happening very slowly. With Lupita in the limelight its another phase putting black/brown beauty out there but again its a phase. I think we need to continue calling it like we see it and when we can’t find what we need question the lack of ranges. We have to keep the debate alive untill we get to equal representation. It makes no sense to me how as a people we spend so much money looking after ourselves and yet the brands can’t see how fair and lucrative it would be for them to provide products that we want and need.
Thanks for your comment! The debate is certainly alive and kicking…look out on the blog for more on this topic xx