This past May, when Miss USA 2016, Deshauna Barber, crowned her equally beautiful successor, Kara McCullough, during the 2017 pageant, I knew it was going to be quite the year for a new brand of unapologetic #BlackGirlMagic. Because not only the pageant world, but the beauty industry as a whole has been making some major progress toward diversity.
Early last fall, mega-brand CoverGirl shed its classic “Easy, breezy, beautiful” slogan for a fiercer campaign: “I am what I make up.” The brand also ushered in six new badass ambassadors—including Issa Rae—who bring their new mission of inclusivity front and center. And no current beauty conversation would be complete without mentioning Rihanna’s September launch of Fenty Beauty. The launch shook the beauty community to its core, not only breaking the internet but also dispelling some long-held myths surrounding black women and makeup.
So why, in this melanin-winning back-to-back, inclusivity-embracing, post-Fenty era, are major brands still launching half-assed, lame attempts at diversity?
Last week, Tarte Cosmetics, a popular brand known for its cult favorite Shape Tape concealer, launched the highly anticipated Shape Tape foundation. For weeks, Tarte built up the hype for the release with teaser emails and clickbait posts. So imagine the disappointment when thousands of followers flocked to the site, credit card in hand, ready to purchase, only to discover 13 shades of beige and two shades formulated for “richer skintones.” Swatches pictured online were tweeted and retweeted relentlessly.
The dragging that ensued on Tarte’s timeline was not only epic but truly entertaining. The company eventually had to disable both its Instagram and Twitter comments in an attempt to silence all the negative publicity. Days after throwing shade at Fenty, rationalizing, doubling down on its stance and ignoring its customer base didn’t work, the brand finally relented by posting a response to the outrage on Popsugar, promising more shades to come in the near future.
But by then it was already too late. Beauty influencers like Jackie Aina, Makeupshayla and Alissa Ashley took to their social media accounts and promptly got to roasting. It was so delicious, I almost stopped the videos to go grab marshmallows from the kitchen (every good roast has marshmallows).
But it’s sad, really. Women of color have long been conditioned by makeup brands to be OK with being an afterthought. These manufacturers put little to no effort into the formulation of our shades, or the inclusion of more-diverse models. Instead, we’ve typically been told:
- Women of color typically don’t invest in luxury makeup brands, meaning those shades don’t sell.
- Deeper shades are more difficult to formulate.
- Richer colors will come out in future launches. We want to see how the product tests in the market first.
And in the past, we’ve accepted these excuses as fact … until Fenty proved that the rhetoric was wrong:
- Women of color historically didn’t buy expensive brands because the three shitty shades you offered didn’t match or wear well. As one Twitter user stated, “if you only offer red, red as hell and what the hell, I’m going to opt out.” I can get the same horrible look with drugstore brands. I’ll keep my $40. THANKS.
- If you can formulate deeper eye shadow, lipstick and bronzer shades, then it stands to reason that foundation shades are not that much different. You employ chemists. Why am I mixing shades in my bathroom to try to get a perfect match? I’m not Walter White.
- Why should we have to wait for a future launch when the Christian Grey-worthy 50 shades of beige you just released could have been cut in half, and replaced with five to 10 deeper shades with golden, olive and neutral undertones?
In the end, it basically all comes down to one thing: SHADE.
Unfortunately, Tarte just so happens to be the company that took the dragging this go-round, but far too many brands continue to operate in this manner. I remember rushing out and purchasing the Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder, after hearing dozens of girls rave about how it “doesn’t add color,” has zero flashback in pictures and sets your makeup to perfection. Lies.
The powder is stark white. It not only adds a white cast, but if you’re any darker than Denise Huxtable, it’ll have you looking casket ready, if you’re not careful. That was at least five years ago. The brand JUST came out with ONE chocolate-girl-friendly shade last year.
Women of color are no longer being silent about their discontent. The bar has been raised, and your three obligatory WOC-friendly shades—chestnut, mahogany and espresso—are no longer going to cut it. We’re not only vocally speaking out, but we’re also speaking with our dollars. We’re supporting brands that support us, because companies will continue to think it’s OK to underrepresent WOC until we show them otherwise. And we can show them otherwise.