On February 23rd 2016, the New York Times published an article entitled “The Model Whose Lips Spurred Racist Comments Speaks Out,” referring to the infamous Instagram post of a black, MAC Cosmetics’ model’s lips, that was met with discriminatory, racist comments.
Perhaps 500 years from now, a title like this might make absolutely no sense to the people reading it, but unfortunately, in 2016, it’s not that hard to believe.
Talking about black beauty without bringing up the politics of black beauty is almost impossible, unless you are dedicated to feigning a willful ignorance. Despite the fact that black women have carried physical traits like voluptuous backsides and full lips while engaging in cultural practices like hair braiding and wig making, for centuries, these otherwise common practices, are starting to be “discovered” by more palatable, mainstream, non POC influencers.
(Case in point: the E! News hot comb debacle)
Many black women know, that years ago, admiration of large lips and other bodacious features were completely absent. In fact, most would receive backlash for these very traits. They were made fun of for their “DSLs” and their braids were deemed unprofessional.
And, as evidenced by the New York Times article, many black women still receive the same type of backlash. Are therein lies the problem. Therein lies the conundrum.
Why are these traits and practices seen still looked down upon when seen on black people while deemed as trendy in the media? Why is it that when these styles and traditions are emulated by people like Kylie Jenner, the media are quick to call it “hip” or “dope,” but we see a negative response when a black woman rocks the same look?
And why are only black people speaking up about it?
(If you haven’t watched Amandala Steinberg’s “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows,” take a look. It's everything)
As influencers, as employees, as students, as humans, we have to ask ourselves a hard question. Should we hold ourselves accountable and speak up on these issues in our individual communities?
And should we hold those we put in power, the celebrities we support, the YouTubers we subscribe to, the brands we buy from, to the same standard?
In other recent news, makeup mogul Kat Von D publically renounced her association with problematic fave Jeffree Star, who has been criticized for being racist, unprofessional, and using black women as props (among other things.)
While many agreed with her viewpoint, some questioned why it took so long for someone with influence to finally speak publicly about something many black women have be talking about for years.
And they kind of have a point.
In an industry that is so heavily shaped by influencers, beauty gurus carry a large clout that can potentially encourage and support a more diverse beauty world , or reinforce preexisting negative values.
Makeup is undeniably fun. It’s empowering, it’s transformative, and it’s an incredible form of self expression. But its important to remember that sometimes, certain actions do have deeper meaning. Ignoring people’s issues, and struggles with beauty, or even worse, refusing to acknowledge their presence is not OK.
We should be able to recognize the issues that are present in the beauty industry while still enjoying our favorite cut crease tutorial.
Let us know your thoughts. Sound off in the comments.