Blackness in the beauty and fashion industry: the makeup artist perspective

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen the increasing racial tension growing in the U.S. due to multiple instances of violence against black bodies by police and citizens. Not that any of this is new, but thanks to mobile technology and social media, we have been able to see it in a manner that we never had before.

This has resulted in many choosing to no longer remain silent or to scream a bit louder about the daily struggles associated with blackness in the U.S.  This conversation is especially gaining momentum in the beauty and fashion industries.

Yesterday, model and activist Nykhor Paul read the fashion industry their rights in a manner that resonated with manyand had many of us screaming YESSSS at our screens!  She articulated the truth of the matter perfectly.  Her words were praised, eye were opened, edges were snatched.

See her full rant on IG here.

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 2.31.00 PMNeedless to say, her post went viral.  It was shared in a Pro Makeup Artistry group I run on FB and it began a dialogue on another perspective, the role of the black makeup artist in a very white and exclusive industry.  We all shared very similar experiences and I thought it was important to share with my readers.  (Yall out there right?)

Here is some of what we shared:

–  Black models are often surprised and extremely grateful that we have product to match their complexion.

– We regularly encounter other “professional artists” who are not prepared with skills or product to do makeup on any skin with a color deeper than a paper bag.

– When working in a group setting of makeup artists it is automatically assumed that because you are a artist of color, you will complete makeup for all black models.

– Non-black artists are especially celebrated and valued for being able to do beautiful makeup on black models.

– If a black makeup artist were to show up on set with no makeup for white skin, all hell might actually break lose on set or backstage.

Granted, certain artists specialize in certain things and that’s to be expected.  However, in a fashion setting there is another expectation. It is not okay to only have product to suit white skin because there is a lack of diversity in fashion.  That lack of diversity in runways and in magazines is problematic, so to act in a manner that supports that discrimination, is also discriminatory.

As a professional artist, one should be well-versed and skilled on doing a proper, professional caliber makeup application on the full global skin range…as in, on all humans.

Being able to do a beautiful application on black skin is not a special skill because you are not black.  It is the standard and not a specialty. There is no denying that we are drawn to that which looks most like us, but I encourage and challenge every artist that may read this to truly be a professional and be prepared to meet the needs of the diverse world we live in. Which artist will you be?

Advertisements