The dupeBLACK Files: Beauty Industry Gripes of Black Women

I’ll say it – the beauty industry is not a safe space for black women (for the most part). From Jeffree Star’s racist/demeaning antics towards black women (I am aware of his apology video, this is not the place to discuss) to lack of representation in marketing and shade selection from brands (some even black-owned), staying up to date on happenings in the beauty industry is stressful as f*ck. I wasn’t even totally aware of this until I started my Instagram, and everyday I find myself becoming increasingly tired. When I learned that Beauty Bakerie’s only black woman selected for their new Forever 21 campaign was the owner’s daughter, I just shook my head (thanks melaninmakeup, for exposing that). I don’t know how the owner, as a black woman, could even begin to think that is fair or acceptable. I’m not knocking the winners at all, I’m just disappointed at the lack of awareness that would make one think that decision is okay.

So, I posed the question on my IG about people’s gripes with the beauty industry, and received several amazing, valid, and thoughtful responses. You can check that out here.

One response was from the owner of Blaq Vixen Beauty, and I wanted to use the blog to respond to her as well as display her question and comments, because I think a lot of the time we hold back as to not upset brands or “stir the pot.” Here’s what she had to say:

So Jackie Aina on Twitter touched briefly on how makeup brands try to blacklist/black ball people who speak out on issues in the beauty industry. Of course, she didn’t name these particular brands, but it got me thinking: what is the ultimate goal for a black beauty influencer who continues to showcase these mainstream brands? Also, @dupeblack, do you think it is possible for a black influencer to focus strictly on BOMBs and become wildly successful? Or is that something that would be perceived as limiting, racist, prejudiced, etc. instead of revolutionary, groundbreaking, etc.? I hope my comments didn’t hijack your space (again), but this is something that’s just been on my mind for the last couple weeks. Would it be so wrong for black women to focus on uplifting under black women exclusively in the beauty sphere? So many of us have the potential to be millionaires, billionaires, visionaries, and so forth. When will we realize we have the power to change the beauty industry as we know it? I wish I could start the trend, but I just don’t have the resources right now (I’m manifesting in the meantime).

My response? A lot of the time I think that black influencers and MUAs focusing on mainstream brands that don’t necessarily represent black women well comes down to popularity and visibility. On my page, I have noticed that posts gets more likes when I show brands that are more well-known or you can buy in the store, and you can’t buy black 99% of the time locally. If I show a dupe for Kylie, people are excited, but no one cares if I showcase a lesser known black-owned indie on its own. So I think that they promote brands that people know because it’s seen as more relevant – it’s kind of a sad reality, but I can’t knock them for it because for most the goal is to increase views/followers/subscribers and become well-known in the industry, which is mostly run by non-black brands. Seriously, I will die if I see one more person talk about Kim Kardashian’s new brand. Ionn’t curr.

Now, can an influencer focus solely on BOMBs and become wildly successful? At this point in time, I’m going to say no, if anything speaking from personal experience if the person doesn’t already have the reach. I know I’m not a MUA, but it’s difficult to find products from BOMBs that aren’t lipsticks or highlighters, and even still, a lot of black-owned brands don’t even necessarily want to be showcased as black-owned in fear of alienating an entire demographic. I’ve even had people who are not black ask me if they can follow my page and purchase the products I show. OF COURSE YOU CAN! Highlighting black-owned isn’t about making it for black women only – black women obviously buy from white-owned brands, but because white = mainstream, it doesn’t seem controversial. Additionally, support needs to be a two way street, and I don’t think that is totally there because again, people are focusing on reach and numbers. I’ve seen BOMBs ignore black influencers who highlight them in lieu of white influencers with bigger numbers. Or repost pictures of white customers but you can see their hashtag filled with black customers on IG because those pictures get more likes (think about this next time you freely give a heart, lol). Of course, there are some exceptions who have amazing reach, like Jackie, but there are a plethora of black influencers who stay ignored. Feel free to tag your faves in the comments. To be totally transparent, I receive more promo from non-black brands even though my audience responds better to black-owned brands (even on my general YT). Confusing, right? I had to cut back a lot on purchasing from BoBs – sorry y’all, I’m not going broke for the culture.

The only way we’re going to even begin to overcome these obstacles is if we become *proactive* (KEYWORD) with supporting one another – brands supporting consumers and influencers, influencers supporting brands (those who deserve it) and consumer needs, consumers supporting influencers and brands – it has to be a multi-directional relationship.

What are your thoughts?