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Dublin: 8 °C Monday 10 December, 2018

Here's why the shady response from cosmetic brands to Fenty Beauty isn't surprising

Beauty brands have begun pandering to the minority in an attempt to appear more diverse.

SHE CAME, SHE saw, she conquered.

Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Rihanna’s eponymous makeup line Fenty Beauty has taken the world by storm. While the quality of the products is certainly being raved about, it’s the shade range that’s been drumming up a substantial amount of buzz.

Yep. Fenty Beauty boasts 40 foundations, in what as being regarded as a substantial step towards greater inclusivity within the beauty industry.

40 shades!

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But have you noticed anything about the recent TV spots from pharmacy (or ‘drug store’ if you’re from out foreign) brands in the wake of the release?

L’Oréal’s True Match Foundation, which has 28 shades, has relegated spokesperson Cheryl to the final few seconds of its #YoursTruly TV ad. Now, beauty influencers Gary Thompson and Patricia Bright take centre stage.

Similarly, black model Jourdan Dunn is the focus Maybelline’s latest TV spot for their SuperStay Matte Ink liquid lipsticks.

Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

Last week, on the heels of the launch of Fenty Beauty, Insecure mastermind and star Issa Rae was named the new face of CoverGirl.

“I remember being an awkward black girl in high school, reading the pages of my favorite magazines, casually flipping through @COVERGIRL ads, singing their slogan in my head,” she wrote on Instagram, announcing her new post.

Never EVER in my life did I imagine I’d be one.”

Surely this is a good thing though? Yes, obviously. Representation has been a huge issue within the beauty industry, and the more brands do to show men and women of all skin colours that makeup is for them, the better.

It just all seems a bit too … Coincidental, doesn’t it?

Brands seem to be waking up to diversity because they’re finally recognising the financial potential within the market. It’s a cynical way of looking at it, but it’s seemed opportunistic and transparent from some brands to say the least.

Prior to this, brands reasoned that they couldn’t produce more shades of a product because the demand simply wasn’t there: serve the majority, forget the minority. Rather, the contrary is true – the demand has always been there, just never catered for. (In America alone, African-Americans hold a buying power of an estimated $1.3 trillion).

Fenty Beauty proved this. There was such appetite for the foundation upon its initial launch that a handful of the darkest shades almost immediately sold out, The Cut reported. 

Rihanna has positioned herself as someone who genuinely understands the impact that inclusive representation can have. But she’s done more than slap men or women of colour on an ad and call it a day. She’s followed up, and made the product to match.

L’Oréal might have rejigged their ad and given themselves a pat on the back, but only recently, the brand was embroiled in controversy for sacking one of its mixed race models.

Munroe Bergdorf was dropped by the French company after she posted about the “racial violence” of “ALL white people” on Facebook.

She wrote: “Because most of ya’ll don’t even realise or refuse to acknowledge that your existence, privilege and success as a race is built on the backs, blood and death of people of colour.

Your entire existence is drenched in racism. From micro-aggression to terrorism, you guys built the blueprint for this s***. Come see me when you realise that racism isn’t learned, it’s inherited and consciously or unconsciously passed down through privilege.”

However, she’s since been snapped up by Illamasqua.

A L’Oréal Paris UK Spokesperson told The Sun online: “L’Oréal supports diversity and tolerance towards all people irrespective of their race, background, gender and religion.

We believe that the recent comments by Munroe Bergdorf are at odds with those values, and as such we have taken the decision to end the partnership with her.

“L’Oréal remains committed to celebrating diversity and breaking down barriers in beauty,” they concluded.

With this statement, however, L’Oreal’s motives become transparent – when diversity is trendy and convenient, they seem happy to piggyback on it. Otherwise, they want no part in it, because it’s too controversial. All this, while Cheryl remains in place as key spokesperson for the brand despite being found guilty of assaulting a black toilet attendant in 2003.

For brands like Maybelline and L’Oréal, to quote JoJo, it could well be a case of ‘too little, too late’.

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