For the last couple of months, the fight for black representation in the beauty industry has become very vocal and...
For the last couple of months, the fight for black representation in the beauty industry has become very vocal and visible. From calling out makeup companies for their lack of shade range to calling out the racist/colorist behaviours of beauty influencers, Black people are demanding to be seen and I love it. The recognition concerning the fact that there are shades of black other than NW45 has allowed girls like me, who have a NW48 skin tone, to feel represented.
I remember when I went to Sephora two summers ago to buy my first foundation. Prior to my visit, I watched every single beauty guru's video in order to find the perfect foundation that fit my complexion. The lady used a machine that looked like the thermometer doctors use on your forehead to take your temperature and the results appeared on a the screen. It was then I began to ask her about all the brands I’d been looking forward to trying; one after another, she replied with the same “your shade wasn’t available”, not in the we-are-out-of-stock manner, but in the it-simply-doesn’t-exist manner. I remember the looks of pity (in hindsight, more like a look of condescension) I got from some light-skinned girls happily shopping through the plethora of foundation options for their tone. For once in my life, I truly felt envious. Not because I wanted their skin colour, but because I wanted to be able to walk into a Sephora confidently knowing that my shade would be there instead of the humiliation of feeling like I was wasting this ladies time because I should know better than to think I’d find what I wanted in my colour.
Fast forward two years, to the present, and the makeup landscape has drastically changed. People have become more vocal about calling out the lack of shade range which allows girls my colour to not have to face the humiliation (and to some degree, self-hatred) of basically being told that we're too dark to matter. This change in the makeup landscape has been spearheaded not only by individuals pulling their economic power to boycott brands and the use of Twitter to call attention to racists practices, but also by the rise of dark skinned beauty gurus.
Like any good first makeup first timer, I watched a ton of videos by the influential beauty gurus to get the basics of ensuring that my foundation lasted long, my eyeliner was winged to perfection, and my eye shadow didn’t end up with a crease. I watched the OG beauty gurus: Wayne Goss, Nikki, Jeffree Star (DO NOT @ ME), MannyMUA, Alissa Ashley, Patrick, Kandee, Tati and tons of others. Eyeliner technique is pretty universal and racially indifferent; however when it comes to foundation and eyeshadow, it helps A LOT when you can see how a certain eye shadow color is going to look on you, the best setting powder to use for your face, and how the foundation will oxidize. Now I know that there were a few dark skinned beauty gurus back then you just had to dig to find them, but the ones that I found, well, displayed very lackluster technique. Even I, who can’t draw a straight line to save my life, was able to recreate the looks these “beauty gurus” were “serving” and, in my opinion, better than they could. Fast forward to present day 2018, despite the rise of dark skinned beauty gurus, my sentiment, unfortunately, still remains.
What traits do we look for in people we call “beauty gurus”? You can @ me all you want, but you cannot deny the fact that Wayne Goss, Nikki, and Kandee, among others, are artists that use an eyeshadow brush as their tool and their eyelids as their canvas. These people are, in my opinion, what beauty gurus should be; absolutely talented with makeup and knowledgeable about beauty products.
What I noticed back then and still notice to this day is that dark skinned “beauty gurus” throw some fake lashes on, a single color eye shadow, and a red lipstick and are praised as the Jesus of Black beauty. YouTube pushes them so hard causing their views to skyrocket, but do these people even warrant being called beauty gurus? Beauty Brands can give anyone a foundation to review and can invite anyone on a trip for your beauty brand even though the brand doesn’t even make a foundation in the “beauty guru’s”shade. To top it all off, that same brand, even though they use that beauty guru to push their “inclusive” marketing strategy, works with people that are derogatory towards dark skinned individuals, yet that beauty guru gets to claim that their entire brand is promoting and celebrating “black representation”.
Are we deluding ourselves into celebrating people who give us the same basic beauty look just because they’re dark skinned and there aren’t very many of us “making it” in the YouTube beauty world? If you’re pressed about this article, then I’m calling you out (and I could name names, but I don’t have to be messy to get my point across). We shouldn’t be forced to accept mediocrity just because that’s all that is being presented to us. With the same energy that we use to demand makeup that matches our skin tone, we need to demand that dark skinned beauty gurus have the same skill sets as these extremely talented light skinned or white makeup artists mentioned above because we’re giving them our views and helping them make a living. We don’t reward subpar performance from employees in the corporate world, so why should the YouTube world be any different (especially when these YouTubers say that YouTube is a valid, full time job)?
I’m not against representation. I think it’s a company’s duty to ensure that the people purchasing their products have shades that fit their skin tone, are able to walk into a store and test the products on their skin tone before they buy it, and see people that look like them in their marketing campaigns. What I am not a fan of is turning representation into a gimmick - using it almost like a pacifier. With company’s thinking that they can show us their pale foundation shades on a dark skin arm and think they’re celebrating #diversity or the media getting away with shoving below average “beauty gurus” down our throats just because we should be grateful there are black people in the beauty industry to begin with.
This is in no way a rant from a bitter person. This is a black person demanding that my features not be commodified by lackluster individuals so they can become famous, while their video still hasn’t taught me how to properly wing my eyeliner. I appreciate and applaud the fight for dark skin representation but I don’t appreciate being pacified with, in my opinion, people who have below average skills to look to for expert level opinions and tutorials. We as black people need to demand better. Someone tweeting about the lack of shade ranges does not mean that they warrant the views or status of a “beauty guru”. Your activism doesn’t excuse your inability to properly blend your foundation.
*Yes, I know I used a fake model but because I know someone is bound to get offended, I don't want a real person to be dragged into mess.