It's been said time and time again but it bears repeating: Black women are the catalyst for everything beauty. Whether it be through the trends we set, our immense buying power, or deep education of beauty both in the ethnic and general marketplace, Black women continue to tip the scales of the industry. However, in most instances our contributions go unrecognized: We're not promoted in the workplace, we're almost never given adequate recognition for our ideas, and we boast very little capital. But 25 Black Women in Beauty, a platform created by two powerhouse Black beauty executives, wants to change that, and they've been incredibly successful thus far.
It was less than a year ago when Ella Gorgla, a former executive director at Estée Lauder Companies, and Cara Sabin, CEO of Sundial Brands decided to birth a space where Black women in the industry could be recognized. "It started out quite casually because it felt like there were spaces we needed to fill for Black women in the industry," they tell TZR. "So we thought that we’d start out by doing dinners. Those dinners were always so powerful based on the quality of women in the room and their collective stories." The inaugural dinner, held June 2019 in New York City, drew the likes of Kahlana Barfield, Julee Wilson, Lola Ogunnaike, and Veronica Webb just to name a few. The influential turnout was something that neither of the ladies had expected. "The dinners were meant to just be 25 women, hence the name," Gorgla says. "We were worried we weren't going to be able to get 25 amazing women for dinner, but the reception was incredible. The first dinner ended up being 40 plus women who were editors, executives, CEOs, you name it." Not long after, Gorgla and Sabin followed up with an even bigger second dinner held in Los Angeles. "It turned out to be like 50 women, including actors, influencers, and brand owners," they say. "We said let’s talk, let’s hug, let’s celebrate each other."
But it wasn't long that the executives realized that what they had started had become bigger than just dinners. "We began to get coverage in publications like Forbes and Essence and we realized that it was larger than us and we really wanted to develop it as a platform that offered tangible resources," Gorgla says. "Once we actually started to share the stories of these incredible Black women on our Instagram page and kept building out our platform, it just became clear that this type of organization was needed, and it really didn't exist." To fix that, 25BWB began incorporating career resources via their website. "We are creating a talent book that has resumes of our members," they say. "As of right now we have approximately 1,500 people who have signed up on our platform, and our Instagram following is at more than 20,000 people. So we plan to relaunch the platform offering more resources for entrepreneurs because approximately 70 percent of our numbers are just that, and that base continues to expand. We have folks that sign up all over the world, and we've realized that there’s a real need for this in London and across the United Kingdom, in South Africa, and even in Paris."
And now more than ever, as Black women are publicly speaking about their trials in beauty, 25BWB is at the helm of those conversations. "The fact is that folks in the industry realized very long ago that there were systemic issues in beauty and our goal was to start celebrating Black women in the industry," Gorgla says. "But we also realize that it has to go beyond celebration, we have to publicly reveal some of the challenges that exist in beauty and I think that’s why in this moment so many people are looking at what we’re doing. This has just been a remarkable time for us and we want to use the opportunity properly." And they have been, as women like Sharon Chuter urge brands to "Pull Up Or Shut Up," Gorgla and Sabin are taking it a step even further. "Sharon is a part of our network and now we’re asking how can we partner with her," they say. "Once these brands share their numbers, then what? Is it okay for these numbers to be this low simply because they were willing to share? We’re saying no and there’s a really need to hire Black women and Black men into these roles. So when it comes to how 25BWB can play a role, how can we get their job openings? How can we share our talent book with them? How can we partner to have real, authentic conversations? We want facilitate that across the board."
Having accomplished so much in less than a year, 25BWB has understandably optimistic goals for the future. "We expect to be a full digital platform and a trusted voice when it comes to black women in beauty," Gorgla says. "So whether it’s providing a comprehensive directory of Black women-owned businesses and stores, or being a go-to resource for how to advance Black women in beauty, we want to make sure we’re constantly moving us forward." Most crucial, however, they want to put money in the hands of Black women. "We want to help raise more capital, that’s an area where we fail," Gorgla says. "We want investors to recognize that this base is a viable space worthy of investment. Within five years we ourselves want to have the resources and the funding to reinvest in Black women-owned brands. Whether it's capital through membership or corporate sponsorship, it's important to always invest in us."
25 Black Women in Beauty will be celebrating its one year anniversary on June 19, 2020, they encourage you to join in the celebration by signing up via its website.