Why We Need to Support Black Beauty Brands Past Black History Month and No We’re Not Just Talking about Fenty
By: Rechelle Dennis
As Black History Month rolls to an end it is important that supporting our community is not only restricted to the month of February aka Black History Month. As the beauty industry becomes increasingly saturated by white and Korean brands looking to capture a piece of the pie, it is important to support these smaller black companies that may lack the resources or ability to scale. Black beauty entrepreneurs who understand the need for inclusion, lack the venture capital backing limiting their ability to raise money to bring their ideas to life. For years the beauty industry did not see the value in appealing to a diverse audience, maintaining the status quo set forth by the minds of money hungry white corporations who didn’t think women of color had the means to afford products. Some might be surprised to find that THREE years ago this generalized bhs thinking was quite relevant. Although, there were many telling signs that may have gone unnoticed. You might remember the episode of Shark Tank where entrepreneur Melissa Butler founder of The Lip Bar, which specializes in providing quality cruelty-free, and vegan lipsticks in all shades for women of color was publicly ridiculed on television. Shark, Kevin O’Leary exclaimed, “The chances that this is a business are possibly zero. They would crush you like the colorful cockroaches you are.” Butler who previously worked as an analyst on Wall Street before founding the lipstick company saw the opportunity in women of color who lacked the options their counterparts were afforded when it came to beauty. Yes, she was more than qualified and definitely knew what the market needed…this only was in 2015. I’ve also had my own personal experience when pitching a brand called SheaGirl also in 2015, dedicated to young women of color. In these pitch meetings some of your favorite mass retailer brands claimed that they had no data on our demographics and didn’t think she was a customer shopping in their stores. We watched other brands who didn’t capture the ethos of inclusion make it onto shelves, leaving us discouraged and puzzled. Yes, that was only four years ago.
Large white corporations such as Kendo, a beauty brand incubator responsible for Marc Jacobs Makeup, Kat Von D, Bite, Olekhenriksen, and Fenty Beauty (sorry to break it to you but no it is not black owned although we are marketed to think otherwise), has a very similar business model to popular fast fashion brands such as Fashion Nova, meaning they have the ability to develop and bring a product to market in under a weeks time. This fast turn around allows them to keep up with trends almost instantly*cough, cough inclusivity* These bigger brands bully smaller, up and coming black brands in order to appeal to a diverse market that they don’t care to fully understand. In the case of Fenty Beauty, Kendo saw a massive opportunity in an underserved market that had enormous spending power but were not properly catered or marketed to, cha-ching 🤑. I mean can you expect anything less from a CEO who is quoted on their company site saying, “We like to win. Our formula will allow us to do that for a long time” while their CMO proclaims that they have the “best brand storytellers in the industry.” Rihanna was used as a catalyst to support this “newfound” data and gain support from millions of women who could never find their shade. Best believe all of these other brands were well aware of beauty’s inclusion problem but were either too scared, lazy or didn’t care to understand that women of color deserved and needed more options, maybe it was a combination of all of the above. Kendo although not the first, was willing to take a chance, so I guess we would have to agree that they are great brand storytellers 🤷🏽♀️. So great they changed the landscape of beauty probably forever.
When large companies like popular e-commerce brand Glossier decide to add more shades or include more black models in campaigns they are often championed as being inclusive…as if women with darker complexions just came into existence. So should we really be applauding this or upset that it took this longggggggg for them to see we mattered? So yes, supporting black owned, beauty businesses year round is just as important as we continue to fight the fight for genuine inclusion and more access to capital so smaller black brands have the opportunity to grow their companies and avoid being squeezed out of the industry. How do we do this? The answer is fairly simple, we need to support these businesses YEAR ROUND and come together as a community to own our beauty narrative. Sharing these companies message through word of mouth, following them on social and actively engaging under their posts are all small but mighty ways to showcase your support. Hey beauty industry, please keep the same energy you had three years ago.
Below we have a list of black owned beauty companies to get you started.
1) Base Butter
2) Mented Cosmetics
3) The Lip Bar
4) Beauty Bakerie
5) Rosen Skincare
6) NOLA SKINEssentials