5 Black Influencers on How Beauty Brands Can Do Better

Black consumers are calling for a movement, not a moment. Welcome to Artist Spotlight #26 series on my blog.

The year was 2018. Beyonce delivered one of her most historic performances as the first Black woman to headline a set at Coachella. Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians premiered to fanfare proving that, contrary to popular belief, films with a leading cast of color have global appeal. Yet even though 2018 was a landmark year for representation in various industries, the beauty industry missed the memo.

At the top of the year, Tarte unveiled its new 15-shade Shape Tape Foundation range, where only two shades were designed for darker complexions, a negligent move given that Fenty Beauty debuted just months before with a revolutionary 40-shade collection that was ultimately dubbed #TheFentyEffect. It Cosmetics, BeautyBlender, and several other brands missed the mark, too. How, in 2018, were Black women still fighting to reform the beauty standards that continually fail to recognize consumers beyond “medium tan,” “warm honey,” and “almond?”

In August 2018, seven Black influencers—Monica Veloz, Ofunne Amaka, Jessie Woo, Tiara Willis, Armanda Tounghui, Shanygne Maurice, and Cydnee Black—answered the same question POC have been pondering for years: “Why is it still a struggle to find foundation for dark skin?” 

“When you walk into these beauty corporations, you’ll most likely see a white-dominated office space so, because there aren’t a lot of black voices at the table, there isn’t anyone to say, ‘Hey, this launch is not okay,’ or ‘You need to do something different because these shades are not diversified,'” Willis, founder of the popular Twitter and Instagram account @MakeupForWOC, said at the time. Transparency in companies’ hiring process and leadership board is just as important as delivering a diverse shade range. 

Now, two years later, the beauty industry is in the midst of a reckoning. Following an outcry from consumers and influencers, a slew of brands began broadening their offerings and campaigns to be more inclusive. But sometimes their efforts verge on the performative: In June 2020, as the nation broke out in protests in response to the senseless killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and other acts of violence by police and white supremacists, brands flocked to social media in droves to lend support to the Black community, issuing statements of solidarity and pledges to be more inclusive in the name of being “woke.” There were also many brands who remained mum in the face of social injustice, revealing that if they didn’t care about Black consumers before—both on the shelves and in boardrooms—why would they start now? 

UOMA Beauty founder Sharon Chuter launched Pull Up for Change in response to the brands’ silence, an initiative demanding that companies come forward with a demographic breakdown of their employees to demonstrate they’re more than just talk. Once a buzzword brands used to hide behind their shortcomings, will inclusivity move beyond trend to become an ongoing movement?

Ofunne Amaka

Would you say the beauty industry is still failing people with darker skin tones?

I would say no, it’s not failing us but I feel brands are getting a little bit too comfortable. With everything going on with Black Lives Matter movement, we’re seeing an uprising happening, and within that uprising demanding for basic human rights, we’re also seeing a lot of calls to action for black creators, creators of color. And in that, you’re seeing so many disparities that still happen behind the scenes that haven’t been addressed.

On the surface, yes, we’re getting more foundation shades and better campaigns, so brands have made a lot of progress. But that’s not to say Black people can relax now. No, we have to keep demanding that if you’re going to launch something that has 60 shades, make sure all the shades are available in-store and that people know how to find their shade—that’s one of the areas of the makeup industry that almost never gets talked about, the in-store experience. Retailers will say, “Oh, we can’t have this many shades because of the space,” or “These units don’t sell.” That relationship between the brand and the retailer, and that relationship between the retailer and the consumer needs to be worked on more.

When you put out products for people, you have to realize that there’s actually people on the other end of the buying process that will be introduced to your product for the first time. Having only select shades in stores or not enough deep shades to begin is frustrating. Is that the first impression you want to give?

This call for diversity in beauty extends beyond shade ranges to opportunities for Black creators, too. As an influencer, what has been your experience trying to obtain opportunities and ensure you’re being paid fairly?

I do all my deals on my own and it’s hard to not get taken advantage of because there isn’t a lot of transparency in terms of what’s the going rate for X, Y, Z type of project. Sometimes, people just don’t want to pay my rates. I have decide to not pursue opportunities from brands that don’t value what I’m doing, or don’t want to pay what I’m worth. 

I had a post on Instagram that basically was just alluding to the fact that “diversity” has to go farther than just posting someone on your Instagram page. Are you paying them? Are you making them feel heard behind the scenes? Do they have a voice? That just goes for employees, too. Because there are sometimes the lone black employee on a team, and they might have an opinion, and it might not be heard, or they might not feel comfortable voicing it. So, we’re in a great place with that right now. A lot of people are being offered things that look like opportunities, but they’re often exploitation.

Thankfully, there’s an Instagram page called it’s Influencer Pay Gap, and people send anonymous DMs to the Instagram listing their age, race, sexual orientation, and follower count is, and how much they’ve been offered to do a project. Accounts like these are providing some transparency in terms of what people are getting offered and what people are getting paid.

Shanygne Maurice

What changes have you seen in the makeup industry since 2018?

Two years ago, it seemed as if every brand was in a race of who could put out the most foundation shades. And people got lost in the idea that just having a lot of foundation shades means they’ve cracked the code on diversity when, really, if the rest of your brand isn’t consistent then you didn’t do anything meaningful. There are brands that have gotten better since then. But there are some brands who either put out their inclusive shade ranges in the last two years, and didn’tkeep the same energy with concealer, bronzer, contour, etc. 

Especially right now in 2020, it seems it’s the year of bronzers and every brand is putting out their own bronzer. I did a video swatching the latest bronzers and a lot of them—between their advertising and what the product actually looks like—there was a disconnect there because the shades didn’t match IRL. It goes to show how genuine some of these brands are, because if you have to Photoshop a color to make it look dark online but ashy or lighter in person, that says a lot about how a brand views us. We’re clearly not important enough for them to put any effort into making products for us.

Is there truly hope for brands to “keep the same energy” or do you feel like the same outdated outlook persists behind these launches?

Well, minimal effort was being put in before this whole “inclusive” wave. Before the Black Lives Matter movement that’s going on right now, it’s always been a thing. But before it became as widely talked about as it is right now, before George Floyd’s death, you could see that the inclusive marketing that some brands were using was already starting to die down. And I’m happy it’s been brought back up again because of the current place that we’re in right now. 

You can look on a brand’s Instagram page and scroll back to 2019 and see what maybe one dark-skinned person on there, maybe throw in a couple other people of color. But a brand drops 60 foundation shades and deserves a pat on the back? That energy wasn’t being kept until right now. And right now everyone with Pull Up or Shut Up, putting out their business, brands are reaching out to black creators. Even now some people have already said that that energy has started to die down. It’s a matter of if a brand genuinely wants to do better, they’re going to. It will become clearer to see which brands hop on for the moment and then go back because championing diversity is too much work for them.

What’s your advice to the Black consumers who are finding it hard to trust any brands these days?

Write down the names and take screenshots of how brands are responding to the current climate and Pull Up or Shut Up. In a few months, revisit those brands to see if they stayed true to their words, especially since right now, we need 18 new releases. So it really puts these brands in a competitive place where they’re going to have to put your money where your mouth is, because if brand A and brand B release something, but brand B does better, then brand B is probably going to get that person’s purchase. Spend your money on brands that support you year-round, not just for the moment.

Monica Veloz

What do you want to see more of from brands moving forward? 

Transparency and dialogue. In the past few weeks, there were brands that have called me and said, “Listen, we just want to hear from you and how you’re feeling.” I’m Black and it’s been awful but I’m glad brands are trying to do the work to make Black influencers feel seen and heart. I’m talking huge brands that were like “Listen, whatever it is, whatever concerns you have, whatever you need from us. We’re trying to show our support. How can we show our support?” So I want to see more brands trying to be completely transparent because I only align myself with brands that align with me as a person. 

Also, diversity isn’t only a 40-plus shade range. What about the LGBTQ representation? Don’t support the LGBTQ community for just one month and then move on. I’m definitely am seeing a lot more diverse campaigns but it has to be the standard. The current uprising in beauty and the Black Lives Matter movement forced brands to really step up and realize that they need to make a change. I’m sure it scared the hell out of a lot of brands. Good for them.

As a frequent makeup shopper, where else do you see brands missing the mark?

Undertones. I think a brand came out with 100 shades but where are my undertones? To find your perfect foundation shade, you have to understand undertones. Understanding undertones makes it easier to shop online, especially now that we can’t go in stores and play in makeup or swatch. A foundation range is only as good as the undertones it offers. I’ve played with several different foundations and I still reach for my Fenty Beauty foundation because she understands my undertones. It’s lazy to throw out a foundation with limited undertones because not everyone is warm or golden honey or orange. Brands need to get specific with these shade ranges because black women, black people are not just one shade. We’re not as red. We’re made up of a range of beautiful colors and tones that should be reflected in the products we spend our money on. 

Tiara Willis

What has the Pull Up or Shut Up campaign revealed to you about some of the beauty brands you’ve supported?

Basically what we already knew: There’s a real lack of diversity in the boardrooms of our favorite brands. If there’s lack of diversity, there’s going to be a lack of faith, you’re going to see a lack of ideas and a lack of understanding. If there was a black woman at that board meeting, or a black cosmetic chemist who was in there making those formulas, they would obviously be like, “Oh, I have black family members. I’m black. These shades don’t actually work on us.” And they would actually be that voice to say something. 

Diversity in boardrooms is one thing, but where else are brands lacking? 

It’s easy for brands to create an extensive range, but they’re not doing the necessary work to actually try it on black skin. Chemists are putting strong green undertones or pink undertones that would normally work for others, but that’s not realistic for darker skin tones. When it comes to bronzers and blushes, and the other steps of makeup, there is a lack there with finding colors that suit dark enough. Think of influencers like Nyma Tang. She had a whole video where she spent hundreds of dollars buying all the bronzes before trying them all and none of them worked for her. It’s 2020. It doesn’t make any sense. 

Jessie Woo

What has the Pull Up or Shut Up campaign revealed to you most about some of the beauty brands you’ve supported?

It’s not enough for the black community that these beauty brands want to expand the shades. We want to see us represented in the offices too. We want to see black people represented on the executive board. Who are decision-makers? We want to know that you are being inclusive all the way around, not just with your shades. We want to know that black people actually have opportunities within your company. I think that this is what this movement is all about. Black women spend the most money in the beauty world, so if we’re spending the most money we need to be represented. We need to have a say so in what’s going on in these companies.

How has finding your foundation shade become easier? 

Finding my shade has become easier because I’m purchasing from black beauty brands more than before. UOMA Beauty, Juvia’s Place, Fenty Beauty, there are a lot of different black owned beauty brands that are coming out and cater to us. Who can speak to our shades better than us? Shopping for my complexion is easier because I’m supporting products made for us, and by us. Just keeping it real. Pro tip: find brands that represents me and you won’t get disappointed. 

What’s your general advice to brands that want to do better? 

Look around your office then you’ll know where to start. See who’s not there, you know where to start. It’s that simple, really. When brands or companies try to make it seem like it’s so hard, no it’s not. Just look around. Are there black women here? No. Hire them. Where they at? Be intentional about being “inclusive”. You can’t be inclusive without being intentional. Initiatives like Sharon Chuter’s Pull Up For Change are needed. It’s going to change the hiring process. It’s going to change how these companies look at us. They’re going to have to finally look at us and say, “Okay dang, we really got to listen to these black women. We really have to listen to them because not only do they have these platforms. But then they have these platforms that can influence the buying power.” 

ELLE article

Wayne Goss – the Beauty Star Selling Out Product in Five Minutes

Welcome to Artist Spotlight #16 series on my blog.

Wayne Goss is not your typical YouTube star. He has amassed over a million subscribers on his beauty channel, and has the consumer influence to match: His first collection of brushes on Beautylish sold out in five minutes. But he stands out among other beauty vloggers for several reasons — the first of which is that he’s a guy. A guy who can quickly and confidently demonstrate Kardashian contouring tricks on his own face. He eschews the cutesy, neighborly tone used by most beauty vloggers in favor of a methodical, straight-to-the-point delivery.

Goss spoke to the Cut about how being a guy is advantageous in the YouTube beauty world, how he got started, and why he doesn’t wear makeup himself.

How did you get started in the business?

It was something I’ve been interested in since I was a young boy. I always liked looking at magazines and seeing the pretty faces. When I was 20, I started suffering from acne. That experience reminded me of my love for makeup and how I could use it to fix my skin.

I am self-taught. Fifteen years ago, I picked up some books by Way Bandy and Kevyn Aucoin and read them to practice. I went to London and studied makeup artistry. Then, I discovered YouTube. I found that there were so many kinds of people on it, but there didn’t seem to be any teaching and instructions on how to make the process simpler. I feel like my videos fill a gap in the market. I keep them short and clearly explain what I’m doing. My point of view is that you don’t have to have a degree in art to be able to explain it.

How do you think you became successful on YouTube?

It was so gradual. You don’t really notice it creeping up on you. I remember hitting 20,000 subscribers and thinking, Oh my god, that’s a lot of people. And then it started to increase very rapidly after my first year, especially after I did videos on concealer and blusher. But I don’t really know. It’s still a mystery to me. I imagine it is a combination of people doing searches in Google, seeing a video, and liking it. The social media aspect certainly helps.

Do you think that being a man in the field is advantageous?

Absolutely. I’m pretty much the only male in my age group doing it. I think people appreciate that I’m not going to be talking for an hour about something I could do in a few minutes. I’m very matter-of-fact. I’m not very handsy nor flamboyant. Even if I’m demonstrating something on myself, it’s not about making myself a pretty princess. It’s about the technique and explaining it very succinctly. In real life, I don’t even wear any makeup. It’s not my cup of tea.

Since you demonstrate a lot of the tutorials on yourself, I think people probably do think you wear makeup every day. 

I think it does surprise people. I love putting eyeshadow on people. But I’m six feet tall. I’ve got a beard. It doesn’t interest me. I don’t want to be pretty. I’m just a bit scruffy and unkempt, and that’s just sort of my style.

If you don’t wear makeup yourself, why do you demonstrate the tutorials on yourself?  

Well, lately, I have been using models in my video. But sometimes, when I get home, the last thing I want to do is see anyone else. Also, apart from the fact that I’m male, my eye shape is very realistic. Models have good skin, very large eyes, so that makes everything very easy to do. If I apply eye shadow, you get a more realistic impression of what it looks like on my eye, not someone who is genetically blessed.

How did the brush project with Beautylish come together?

I contacted Beautylish because I read their online content a lot. I mentioned that I was pursuing a brush line and they liked the idea, which was to create a really good-quality brush using Japanese craftsmanship techniques. The difference in quality would be understood the minute you opened it.

I knew about the bristles and furls and what to look for. It was difficult finding companies that could deal with all the requests I had. It had to be hair that couldn’t be cut. Nothing could be done by machine. There’s a bluntness to machine-cut hair that cuts your face at harsh angles. Especially as we get older, that can be harsher on the skin. With the right makeup brush, makeup goes exactly where you want it. For women over 40, it’s a great benefit to have a brush that’s not moving the eyelids around.

This project was self-funded, so I was very pleasantly surprised when I learned they sold out in the first five minutes. My philosophy has never changed. I still believe you should buy the best makeup you [can] afford, and if you can only afford one thing, buy one brush. Most people are applying makeup with their fingers. But a brush is an instrument you can use it for several purposes, and blend at the same time. For someone like me, not born with this artistic flair, good brushes enabled me to do makeup well. I really don’t have this innate talent, I struggled all the way and managed to find the right sort of brushes. It was a very selfish project, in a way.

What do you think of the story that came out a few weeks ago that said YouTube stars like Michelle Phan were making millions?

I obviously know of Michelle, although I’ve never spoken to her. I would say that’s an exaggeration in terms of figures. But again, I don’t know anything about her. I started about a year and half after her. At that time, the partner programs for YouTube weren’t available.

The bulk of us who started doing YouTube did it for the love of doing it. Those of us that did it for the right reasons are still around for the right reasons. There has been an influx of people thinking, I shoud make a fortune here. 95 percent of them don’t make it any way. And those that do certainly aren’t making six-figure salaries. It would be nice to start with a thousand. The bulk of people earning good wages from it now were around when there was no money.

The partner programs now, I believe, make it more difficult. Everyone wants a slice of the pie. I think this pie is really wonderful and big. You hear these glamourized stories, but the reality is very different. We still have full-time jobs. We work hard. And YouTube is a full-time job, because you have all these components, like filming and editing. I imagine that 90 percent of us do that ourselves without the help of anyone else.

I’m still a makeup artist. I still do jobs. I always will do that. I’m in a wonderful position of doing a job that I love. It’s a great thing. YouTube is the icing on it. It’s lovely to be able to connect with people on it I would never otherwise be able to meet.

Check out Wayne Goss’s makeup line at Beautylish

Check out Wayne Goss’s Instagram

FORBES article
QUORA article
theCUT article

Lisa Eldridge – You Can Do It All

I have been personally inspired by Lisa Eldridge throughout my career as a makeup artist. I have used her as inspiration for my own looks as well as my clients’. From her skincare advice, successful makeup line and YouTube channel, to work with some of the most well-known celebrities and models – she’s one of the best artists who isn’t afraid to try new techniques and styles. Welcome to Artist Spotlight #9 series on my blog.

Lisa Eldridge is an English-New Zealand makeup artist, businesswoman, author, and YouTuber. She had her first big break when she was booked by ELLE magazine to work with model Cindy Crawford. From 2003 to 2013, Eldridge was Creative Director for Boots No7, where she was responsible for developing, re-designing and re-launching the brand. Eldridge, since 6 January 2015, is currently the global creative director of Lancôme, working across product development, advertising campaigns and digital strategy. In October 2015, Eldridge published the book Face Paint: The Story of Makeup.

Following a move to London, Eldridge took a course in photographic makeup artistry at Complexions, began building her portfolio and eventually signing with a makeup agency. She had her first big break when she was booked by aforementioned ELLE magazine to work with Cindy Crawford. Crawford and Eldridge subsequently worked together on several more shoots. She has been based in Paris, New York and Los Angeles, and now lives in London. Her work has appeared on the pages of British, Italian, French, Chinese and Japanese Vogue, Love, Allure, Glamour, Elle, Numéro, Harper’s Bazaar, Pop, and Lula for covers, fashion, beauty and celebrity shoots.

Eldridge has worked with the photographers Tim Walker, Mert and Marcus, Regan Cameron, Sølve Sundsbø, Rankin, Paolo Roversi, David Sims, Mario Testino, and Patrick Demarchelier. Aside from her editorial assignments, Eldridge collaborates with fashion houses and beauty brands on their international advertising campaigns and runway shows. These include Lancôme, Chloe, Alberta Ferretti, Prada, Donna Karan, Moschino, Yohji Yamamoto, and Pucci. Eldridge was named by The Business of Fashion as one of the people ‘Shaping The Global Fashion Industry’ in their Fashion 500 list for 2013.

Lisa Eldridge has a successful YouTube channel, on which she creates various makeup looks on herself and other models, shares tips and tricks, discusses skincare, and visits past decades of makeup history to recreate the looks of the times. When I attended makeup academy, I was often referred to her videos by instructors, to recreate her looks or take in her knowledge. Ever since then I’ve been a huge supporter of hers!

In February 2010, Eldridge launched her website, which has become one of the go-to sites for make-up tutorials, beauty advice and insider knowledge.

Lisa Eldridge wrote her first New York Times bestseller Face Paint, which she describes as “all about the history of makeup – something I’ve always wanted to write. It’s a hardback book (8 x 10 inches), with 60,000 words – full of fascinating, surprising and at times unbelievable stories of how and why the items in your makeup bag got to be there. I also spent a long time sourcing the right images – beautiful paintings, illustrations and iconic photography – to tell the story.”

Lisa’s blog
Lisa’s book
Lisa’s YouTube channel
Lisa’s Instagram page

Robert Welsh: Doing My Makeup Using Techniques I Hate

I’ve been watching Robert Welsh on YouTube for years and I really enjoy his content on Instagram as well. On his channel he creates amazing makeup looks, gives professional makeup advice, reacts to popular beauty trends, debunks popular makeup myths, and much more!

Robert is a professional makeup artist and his mission statement in the beginning of every video is “to help you become a pro yourself or just someone that’s really good at makeup. Here we learn how to separate what we see online from what’s actually useful in real life.” Welcome to Artist Spotlight #7 series on my blog.

I came across this video and it made me laugh so much that I decided to share it with you!

Check out more of his videos on his channel.

Wet’n’Wild x Bretman Rock

Eyeshadow Palette – This bold palette consists of 15 vibrant shades with a mix of bold and neutral colors with satin, matte, metallic and shimmer finishes. All vibrant mattes are paired with shimmer, metallic finishes that allow you to create unlimited “roaring” eye looks. The powerfully pigmented, buttery-soft shades glide on easily and blend seamlessly. The smooth formula provides optimum texture and smudge-proof all-day wear. Each shade can be used either wet or dry, to deliver a bold, captivating look.

Setting Spray – The 3-in-1 face mist preps, hydrates and sets the makeup. This multi-use mist is lightweight enough to be used throughout the day to refresh your makeup while continuing to deliver hydration to the skin. Sprayed on bare skin, it provides a natural, dewy finish. Enriched with an exclusive fruit blend of Coconut Papaya, Dragon Fruit and Kakadu Plum Extract, it provides Vitamins E & C and anti-oxidant properties as well as a powerful boost of hydration. The fine mist application delivers a unique blend of illuminating, light-reflecting properties that creates a soft, dewy glow leaving the scent of fresh tropical flowers.

Check out Bretman Rock on YouTube and Instagram!

Get the collection on their official website or at select drugstores near you.