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‘There really aren’t any excuses anymore’: How the Irish beauty industry is failing women of colour

And why it has to change.

DUBLIN-BASED MAKEUP academy VanityX found themselves the focus of serious backlash after an old social media post of theirs resurfaced this week.

shutterstock_492030262 Shutterstock / Shutterstock / /

Makeup artist Aisling Kelly was discussing the lack of education around working with people of colour in the Irish makeup industry when she was sent the picture from March 2018.

Deciding to share it with her followers as an example of the problem she was discussing, Aisling wrote:

“I feel disgusted, disappointed and honestly enraged.”

aisling kelly Aisling Kelly Makeup / Instagram Aisling Kelly Makeup / Instagram / Instagram

The post in question was originally posted by VanityX Makeup Academy who have schools on Harcourt Street in Dublin City Centre, in Swords and now in Cork City.

Aisling called out the makeup academy in lengthy discussion on the issue on her Instagram Stories earlier this week, claiming that they have “refused to teach [their] students how to work with deeper skin tones” yet said they were “happy to teach them how to do blackface”.

The original post was shared on March 24 of 2018 and was posted with the caption:

“It’s not all glam and smokey eyes in our academy. You never know what you’re going to see on a day to day basis… or who. Hellooooo Mr.T”.

vanity x VanityX Makeup Academy / Instagram VanityX Makeup Academy / Instagram / Instagram

While the initial comments on the post were from those who misguidedly found the post humorous, the conversation has since changed drastically. 

“Do you honestly not see why this isn’t OK?” reads one comment.

Blackface is not a makeup skill.

“Wild idea, but try actually teaching your students how to work with POC instead”.

Another person who commented said they had previously shared their disgust with the post a number of times, reached out to the makeup school to take it down and said they were ignored. 

“It is absolutely FOUL,” they wrote.

“You need to educate your tutors and students about the ethics of makeup and how it can be distasteful, much like this.”

On Tuesday morning, the post was deleted. 

But while VanityX was feeling the blow-back this week, it was just one example of how the lack of diversity in all aspects of the beauty industry here in Ireland can manifest.  

Speaking with Aisling Kelly this week, she said that this was by no means an isolated incident but a nationwide problem, and that trainee makeup artists are not being properly taught about the importance of working with people of colour. 

She asked her followers on Instagram – many of whom are makeup artists – how many times they had been at a makeup masterclass in this country where the model was a person of colour. 

The results were stark but unfortunately, unsurprising.

aisling kelly poll Aisling Kelly Makeup / Instagram Aisling Kelly Makeup / Instagram / Instagram

And when it comes to the models with deeper skin tones, Aisling says more often than not, makeup artists find it difficult or are simply unable to colour-match their skin. 

The issue is so widespread that some of the models in question bring their own makeup to a shoot just to be sure the right colours are used.  

Model Appiok Tong says that’s something she’s experienced multiple times.  

“I’ve been modelling for about two years in Ireland and I’ve had mostly great experiences with hair and makeup artists but with that being said I have also had my fair share of not so good experiences,” Appiok told

“I remember one of my first shoots, I saw the makeup artist lay out all of her products but I only saw two darker shades. They weren’t a colour match for me and they were also testers.

“I didn’t want to say anything because it was my first shoot and after all, she was the makeup artist so I presumed she knew what she was doing. I was wrong.

appioktong_49933851_143669196634841_8624381232082063998_n Appiok Tong / Instagram Appiok Tong / Instagram / Instagram

“I’ve read about situations like this happening to other darker models and this was just the first of many times I would experience this.

“During a show more recently, I saw another makeup artist lay out their kit and again, they had no darker shades.

“We had plenty of time until the show but the makeup artist kept taking other models before me.

“Finally 15 minutes before she show started I got called up. My skin was prepped and then I was told, ‘You have such beautiful skin, I think we should leave it like this’.

That’s just a ‘nicer’ way for a makeup artist saying, ‘I don’t have your shade’.

“Ireland is getting more diverse and we need makeup artists that can do every skin tone. Darker skinned models exist and we deserve to be catered to the same way the white models are.

“Even if MUAs weren’t taught how do do darker skin tones in school, the internet is such a great tool to use and learn from so there are just no excuses anymore.”

Makeup artist Elaine Cruz says this is nothing new and that the majority of smaller colleges and courses are not teaching their students how to work different ethnicities. 

“I worked for MAC Cosmetics as both an artist and trainer for 10 years as the brand’s ethos is about individuality and diversity.

“They train their staff on ethnic skin but also cultural diversity as part of their basic training for new artists. Unfortunately, not many smaller colleges or courses in Ireland have the same level of awareness as a global brand.”

Elaine says there are a few reasons why the industry here in Ireland makes people of colour feel secluded and one of them is fear.

Understandably, Ireland may have only become more multicultural in recent years but the underlying issue is a real lack of understanding of what people of colour want and a fear of asking them.

45557331_2201743256812710_7391391804801550851_n Elaine Cruz / Instagram Elaine Cruz / Instagram / Instagram

“In a world of PC overdrive, once of my biggest issues as a trainer was teaching artists that black is not a dirty word. Black women know they’re black, the same way blonde women know they’re blonde.

“As a nation of tan-lovers, there are lots of makeup artists who can confidently transform you from Jennifer Nopez to Lopez faster than you can say sun shimmer but there is a lack of understanding when it comes to POC wanting to lighten or brighten our complexions.

“I’m sure there isn’t a black woman in Ireland who hasn’t heard, ‘but that’s not your colour’.

“Artists need to be educated on makeup trends beyond what’s Instagram-able and delve deeper into cultural preferences.”

The issue is also felt by the general public, with many women saying they have either been unable to get their makeup done professionally or have been left disappointed because some makeup artists could not work with their skin tone. 

The subject of the lack of diversity in the beauty industry is not a new one – it has just been put under the glare of the spotlight since the launch of brands like Fenty Beauty by Rihanna which was praised for its inclusivity.

50554682_395986061174162_206845346944096372_n Fenty Beauty / Instagram Fenty Beauty / Instagram / Instagram

Since then, many brands have tried to follow suit but not all have succeeded. 

Most recently, Tarte Cosmetics pulled their newest product, Shape Tape Hydrating Foundation, after customers were angry by the limited 25 shade range that didn’t cater to deeper skin tones. 

Just weeks later, and they are making an effort to make up for it with their new foundation, Face Tape, which comes in 50 different shades and in five different undertones.

Decisions like these are a step in the right direction.

But deciding to wait out the backlash and ride through the storm only shows a lack of understanding of the hurt and upset posts like that from VanityX can cause. 

On Tuesday, reached out to VanityX for a comment on their now-deleted post. They said they had no comment to make at the time but that they would be “releasing a statement on our social channels later that day”. They have yet to release a statement. 

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