Because we’re part of the ‘London Look’ and yes I think we’re worth it!
I wonder how many of you will depict me as a vain, angry black (British) woman because I’m campaigning for high street cosmetic brands to sell products for ethnic minorities? I wonder how many of you will realise that this is not just a race or gender issue, but a problem with the way our society thinks. I wonder how many of you will realise that I am not angry, just passionate. I wonder how many of you will realise that I am not vain, and in the words of Eva DeVirgilis ‘’I too do not feel like I can measure up to [the] insane new measure of beauty in this world, that’s like porn and fashion and Photoshop mixed up in one [so] if lining my eyes brings symmetry to my face and to my mind then I guess I’ll do it. If adding a touch of colour to my lips, allows me to bring joy and colour to my speech, then why the heck not?!1’’ So why should anyone be denied this choice?
Our irrational societal thinking can be seen through our failure to acknowledge that too often we see award-winning black actresses playing cliché roles e.g. Lupita Nyong’o playing a slave. Would she still have got as much recognition if she had played the girl next door in a romcom? We do not know the answer to this because black women rarely play that role! And when people try to step out of these roles there is uproar (e.g. rumours of Idris Elba playing James Bond). Why? I should be free to be whoever I please. We were quick to congratulate Jourdan Dunn for being the first black British woman in 12 years to land a solo cover on British Vogue (and rightly so), but we forgot to ask where our asian and mixed race girls are at?2 Why is it, that in 2015 (51 years after Martin Luther King Junior’s civil rights movement) and with ethnic minorities making up approximately 14% of the UK population3, that I am yet to walk into my local Boots or Superdrug and be able to choose from a wide range of make-up items for my skin tone? I want to be able to stand at a high street make-up concession and see that this brand thinks my race is worth catering for. I want high street cosmetic brands to see that all races are beautiful. I want to encourage other women and men to speak up too, and govern change within the cosmetic industry.
So you’re probably wondering what inspired me to start this beauty petition: there are a mixture of reasons ranging from Sheryl Sandberg’s book ‘Lean In For Graduates’ (she inspired me to dream more, learn more and do more of the things I’m passionate about) to my eleven year old sister.
My mission began when I’d run out of my MAC foundation and replacing it would cost a ‘whopping’ £25 – there are a lot more exciting things that £25 could go towards than foundation! So instead, I used my concealer as foundation which meant rationing and only using it on occasions I could not bear to leave the house bare-faced. One day while doing this, I thought about how ‘ridiculous’ I was being and then I thought ‘but why should I have to pay £25 for foundation when my friends only have to pay £8-£10?’ When I could not come up with an answer, I realised that my thoughts were not so ridiculous. So I voiced my thoughts to my sisters and (surprisingly) they agreed! It was my youngest sister who asked me what I planned to do about it. I was taken aback by her implication that ‘little old me’ could do something about it. Too often as adults we believe children are naïve for being ambitious and aiming high, because we lack the (emotional) drive and resourcefulness to achieve these goals.
My goal is simple. I want high street cosmetic brands to sell facial products that cater to ALL skin tones – that includes ethnic minorities! This should not be limited to the two or three foundation options that can only be worn by lighter skinned Asians and blacks; we need to discard this whole ‘white or light’ mentality when it comes to society’s definition of beauty4. White women are beautiful, but when I stand at the make-up concessions at my local Boots or Superdrug who is there for ME to relate to? Who is there for every other black woman, mixed race woman and asian woman to relate to? Who is there to remind us that we should not strive to be seen as equally as beautiful as one another, but uniquely so? If not you, then who will speak up?
In order to be made to feel uniquely beautiful, I think the cosmetic industry needs to sell more products (such as concealers, BB creams and whatever else is out there), that are inclusive of every race and every shade – ranging from light to dark. So I thought an effective way to achieve this would be to raise awareness of the issue by creating a beauty petition, which initially targets two popular high street brands (L’Oreal Paris and Rimmel London) in the hope that other brands will quickly follow suit. Shortly, after starting the petition, I realised that I had been very presumptuous by thinking L’Oreal and Rimmel would be reluctant to cater to ethnic minorities. So I thought it would only be fair to make them aware of my concerns – however their responses were not very promising! This only made me more determined to ensure my voice is heard.
I chose these brands not only because of their popularity but because of their contradictory advertising campaigns e.g. How can Rimmel feel comfortable using the slogan ‘Get the London look’ knowing that London is one of the most multicultural cities in the world – yet they do not sell facial products for a lot of the ethnic communities that live here? And how can L’Oreal feel comfortable marketing certain products for all skin tones (such as its ‘Colour Riche Exclusive Red Lipsticks’), but ignore other skin tones when marketing beauty essentials like foundation? Does this mean that ethnic minorities are not worth it? I think we are.
Please read, sign and share my beauty petition: https://www.change.org/p/michel-brousset-gemma-farrell-coty-uk-ltd-sell-cosmetic-facial-products-on-the-high-street-for-ethnic-minorities-in-the-uk
By Miriam Fagbemi
20 something year old trying to show the world that all races are beautiful.
- ‘In my chair — a makeup artists perspective on beauty: Eva DeVirgilis at TEDxRVAWomen’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gto6w0a13B0
- Vogue Magazine http://www.vogue.co.uk/magazine
- ONS Ethnicity and National Identity in England and Wales 2011 http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/census/2011-census/key-statistics-for-local-authorities-in-england-and-wales/rpt-ethnicity.html#tab-Changing-picture-of-ethnicity-over-time
- ‘Why is society’s idea of beauty so often either ‘white or light’? by Amit Singh http://mediadiversified.org/2015/01/06/why-is-societys-idea-of-beauty-so-often-either-white-or-light/