Amidst everything happening within the Black community, the #PullUpOrShutUpChallenge has given beauty brands a platform to reveal themselves and their diversity numbers – or lack thereof. While participating brands such as COVERGIRL, Curology, Estee Lauder and Colourpop have put themselves on blast by sharing the percentage of Black employees and action plans, Black women beauty editors, influencers and entrepreneurs do not believe that the change should stop here. While this is a good first step, we clearly have a lot more work to do as far as inclusion is concerned.
HelloBeautiful had the chance to catch up with some of the most notable Black editors, influencers and entrepreneurs in the beauty business about their take on allyship and representation when it comes to the brands we love oh, so much.
To kick off the conversation, Kayla Greaves, Senior Beauty Editor at InStylemagazine, had a lot to say. “First off, because we are smart and more than qualified. We are the most educated group in America, yet we get paid the least and often do not hold executive positions—that math isn’t adding up,” she explains. “It’s also important that we have the ability to be true decision makers. We’ve seen time and time again that rarely, if ever, other people think about our needs.”
Senior Beauty Editor at In The Know and fashion activist Jamé Jackson chimed into the conversation with Kayla with a few stats that would turn the boardrooms on their heads. “Even though we only make up 15 percent of the population, we spend 9 times more than our white counterparts when it comes to beauty alone. The people at Nielsen even say Black consumer choices have a ‘cool factor’ and that we not only influence other consumers of color but the mainstream as well. Essentially, they’re saying we’ve got the drip and set the precedent for others,” Jackson adds.
“Black women have amassed incredible spending power over the years and beauty brands have much to gain by targeting this audience. It’s simply smart business to cater to our needs,” ESSENCE‘s Associate Beauty Editor Shalwah Evans speaks more to the buying power of the Black community. “But we can’t do that without diversifying the executive teams behind these beauty brands. Without diversity in leadership, brands are at risk of churning out tone-deaf or racially insensitive content. We need more Black women at every level of the industry. They need to be at the decision table to acknowledge biases and take real action towards changing the industry.”
For Good Morning America Style & Beauty Writer Jacqueline Yates, Black women at tables of beauty brands alongside executive leaders is not enough; it’s the positioning for Black women to be potential leaders in the beauty industry that matters. “Having a diverse suite of top executives helps companies from the inside out. Internally, you are creating a balanced work culture where intern-entry level employees see examples of high-powered roles held by people who look like them. That alone is empowering and inspiring,” the writer, editor and creative consultant speaks on how this reflects on the company’s internal structure.
Furthermore, Erin Stovall, Associate Beauty Editor at O, The Oprah Magazine challenges HR and management roles to take more initiative, but similar to Yates, she agrees that hiring more diverse candidates is a good first step. “As Black women, we all need to see ourselves reflected. If the company doesn’t have any Black women at the executive level, then how can we be sure that we’re being represented?,” she poses to beauty brands.
Erin continues, “It’s important to see women who look like me making decisions. If a brand is committed to being inclusive, then it’s not enough to just talk the talk. You’ve got to make sure that you’re listening to our feedback, formulating products that work for us, and consistently celebrating our beauty in your campaigns.” Moreover, Jasmine Lewis dips into the conversation from the lens of an entrepreneur in the beauty space about the disappointing numbers that have been released to the public. “It is imperative to have more representation at the executive level and not just someone that can speak on our behalf. Let us speak for us,” shares the LE Founder & CEO of Vie Beauty to HelloBeautiful.
When it comes to bettering the diversity, inclusion and equity for Black women in beauty, BuzzFeed’s Beauty Director Essence Gant agrees with Yates and Erin about the process of hiring. “I recently told a group of people that the fix to lack of inclusion isn’t rocket science, and to act as though it is insulting,” preaches Essence as she continues to tell HelloBeautiful that it’s as easy as just hiring more Black people. “Not just as assistants and entry level positions, but at every level. Hire Black people in your C-suite positions. Hire Black people in your tech positions. Hire Black people as faces of your campaigns. It really is that simple —hire Black people.”
While many of us are quick to point the finger at the executive board alone, Yahoo Lifestyle’s Beauty Director Dana Oliver expresses the importance of not only representation in leadership roles, but overall support from the brand for Black women. “As a beauty director, I must say that beauty brands and the PR agencies that represent them have to do better about actively listening to Black women, responding to our needs and wants and, most importantly, continuing a dialogue that isn’t always fueled by or is a response to our struggles. There is immense joy in Black beauty — we need more representation of that, too,” says Oliver.
Representation is more than just a Black girl in your ad campaigns or putting a biracial family in your next commercial. It’s about communicating with your audience and meeting their needs – and freelance beauty writer Mika Robinson has some choice words for brands who need to do better – and it’s more than just patching things up with a 40-shade foundation launch or BLM social media post. “A brand can’t stand with the black community but not have seats for black people at their leadership tables. If our voices aren’t present in those rooms, we are not heard, and the cycle of underrepresentation continues until we go build our own tables,” she tells HelloBeautiful.
Beauty writers and editors aren’t the only ones joining in on the conversations – Black business owners and makeup artists are disappointed in their own industry as well. Professional MUA and influencer Mesha Thomas believes that mega beauty brands need to cough up the coin that Black content creators and collaborators are actually worth, especially when Black consumers spend over 1 trillion dollars in beauty products each year. “It would behove all brands to consider just how powerful the black dollar is,” Thomas suggests. “Scrambling to find Black creators that should’ve already been in the rolodex, sending out a mass email campaign, or posting a measly black square just won’t do.”
Jamika Martin encourages major corporations to give Black women a seat at the table and watch the magic happen before your very eyes. “With the #PullUpOrShutUp challenge, it has become very clear that the brands who have diversity and inclusion in their ‘values’ only value it for the marketing dollar, not when it really comes to impacting and benefiting the community!,” the ROSEN Skincare founder told HelloBeautiful.
“Give Black women a seat at the table and watch how creative your campaigns become, how viral your social media is and how innovative and scrappy your brand can be overall.”