Black Representation and Leadership in the Beauty Industry: Who is Really Behind the Wheel?

BELatina Beauty Brands

Protests now international against structural racism have brought to light the multiplicity of discriminatory nuances, especially within corporate leadership schemes.

The beauty industry, for example, has been one of the most harshly criticized focuses for its lack of inclusion and representation, mainly at the top of the hierarchy.

And much of the pressure has come from its own ranks.

Uoma Beauty’s Nigerian founder, Sharon Chuter, was one of the first to raise her voice and pressure companies in her industry to reveal the percentage of their Black employees, according to Bloomberg. The result was that most of the largest cosmetics companies have as few as three percent of people of color in leadership positions, including Coty Inc., Estee Lauder Cos, Revlon Inc. and the U.S. division of L’Oreal.

“I knew it would turn my industry upside-down,” said Chuter, a former executive at French luxury giant LVMH. “It was needed. It was necessary.”

After L’Oreal Paris, for example, published a networked message supporting the Black Lives Matter movement that read “Speaking out is worth it,” model Munroe Bergdorf accused the cosmetics company of hypocrisy, the Washington Post reported.

Bergdorf said the cosmetics giant had pulled her from a 2017 campaign for criticizing structural racism and white supremacy after the deadly neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville. L’Oreal’s response was to rehire her to join the newly created UK Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board, which the company published on Instagram.

While the social revolution triggered by George Floyd’s death seems to have a timely response at hand, the beauty industry has been one of the most hesitant to account for its lack of inclusion and its involvement in perpetuating cultural and beauty stereotypes.

“Run largely by white executives, cosmetics companies preside over a vital facet of culture: ideal female beauty,” Bloomberg adds. “For decades, big brands have told shoppers what’s beautiful and what’s not, through ads and print magazine spreads often lacking a diverse set of models. Shades of so-called “nude” makeup are often only nude for white customers. There are few black-owned brands stocked by major retailers.”

And this has been precisely the moment for these brands and owners to stand up, raise their voices and show another facet of the cosmetics industry.

As AfroTech explained, brands such as Shea Moisture, Pattern Beauty, Scotch Porter, Camille Rose, and Alikay Naturals are just a few names on a long list of creative, multicultural beauty products and lines that have also used their platforms to educate and offer opportunities to a deeply underserved market — because much of this revolution will have to do with an awareness of where we put our money, and the real impact it can have.