How Beauty Brands Can Support Their Black Customers Right Now, According To Black Beauty Leaders
It's difficult to tell which beauty brands are genuine in their support in the fight for racial injustice. As many are doing so performatively for social media likes and praise, others have had to be strong-armed into speaking out, excusing their lack of response as "wanting to keep their page focused on their products," or "thinking long and hard about how to craft an adequate response." We've also witnessed innumerable brands simply remain silent, continuing with scheduled posts while Black people continued to be lynched by white supremacy. But it's not all bad. Some have stepped up to the plate, donating large sums to organizations benefiting Black Lives Matter, and committing to funding small, Black-owned businesses.
But to truly be an ally, it requires more than just opening your purse. It's about actually diversifying staff both at an entry and leadership level. Earlier this week, Sharon Chuter, founder of UOMA Beauty, challenged beauty brands to "Pull Up Or Shut Up," demanding that within 72 hours, they reveal their percentage of Black employees.
"At the end of the day, corporations are the gate keepers for economic participation," she tells TZR. "When segregation ended in 1954 and the civil rights movement grew, fighting for justice all through the 1960s, there were two objectives: integration and mass participation. The corporations are the gate keepers of mass participation and they have failed the black community, woefully. The trigger for me is this period where we are out there fighting for change on the frontlines meanwhile, corporations sit there encouraging their followers to all be part of the fight and the movement and never for once did they reflect on how they contribute massively to this problem, and the huge role they have played and continue to play in this issue. People from within these organizations have been reaching out to me nonstop, crying and upset about how their companies are exploiting their pain, how their organizations are donating millions of dollars, however they’ve never come to them directly to consult with them or ask them about their positioning on the matter. They've also never even said ‘to all of our black employees – we hear you, we stand with you.' For me, this is now the time for action. Time for real change."
Chuter is amongst an influential group of women who have long been voices for Black beauty lovers and beyond. They're editors, influencers, and brand owners who don't just serve as tastemakers — they're just as passionate about beauty brands doing what's right. Ahead, eight Black women, at the helm of beauty, who are demanding action from the industry they love.
Celebrity Makeup Artist; Founder, Lauren Napier Beauty
"While everyone is navigating this pain, brands have made attempts to capitalize on the need to fill this space of uncertainty and trepidation with stuff," Napier says. "Deep discounts, digital interviews, webinars, and social media posts... yet the brands fall short. Black consumer spending is $1.5 trillion in the United States alone. Black people have built brands like MAC, Nike, Louis Vuitton, Mercedes Benz and TikTok. The time to acknowledge Black suffering is now, and the time to honor Black people — who experience staggering pay inequities, yet spend dollars with these same brands — is also now.
"Small brands should reach out to the people they know, then compensate them for this very valuable intellectual property and life experience that can make or break their brands. Big brands should employ Black women at a competitive salary because they value their insight, not just to protect from liability. Large conglomerates should be giving back to the communities who have truly made them multi-million and billion dollar brands. Money moves mountains, awarding grants to underfunded founders is the best way to dismantle this system of oppression.
"In the end, this is not just a Black and white issue. Police violence is a wrong or right issue. Reebok, Netflix, and Glossier get it. Social media is the face of a brand, and social media managers could use empathy as a guide. Because they continuously show us that they don’t know how to employ empathy, they will need bring someone in who will deploy it, then support that person’s efforts because they will be unfamiliar to everyone in the room."
Beauty Director, Cosmopolitan
"My advice would be to lean into authenticity — and be humble while doing so," Wilson says. "This is a moment where a lot of companies could be realizing that they might have neglected or taken for granted a whole community of people and, or a loyal customer base. It’s time for brands to evolve and redefine their missions. There is no excuse to not make those changes or double down on the diversity and inclusion work the brand has already been doing. The world is watching, taking notes, and moving accordingly. Rise to the occasion!"
Beauty Director, Verizon Media
"You get things done by taking effective action that will dismantle the individual and systemic racism that permeates throughout the beauty industry, as well as this country," Oliver says. "We all know that Black consumers spend a lot more than any other demographic on cosmetics and personal grooming and hair care. So, put a substantial amount of those dollars back into the Black community, assisting the change makers who are literally on the front lines and ground fighting for change. Skip sharing a flowery Martin Luther King, Jr. quote on Instagram and take an analytic look at the makeup of your companies.
"Are there Black employees in leadership roles? What about across all departments of your brand? Whenever someone does something wrong or diminishes the existence of Black people, do you call it out or challenge their racist behavior? Stop it right then! Are you having consistent, meaningful conversations with Black editors, influencers and consumers? I really appreciate and respect the founders who see diversity and inclusion as an integral part of the brand’s DNA and not just an afterthought when it’s Black History Month or a push to launch a multi-ethnic collection. We can’t or shouldn’t wait until the world is literally in fire to fight for social justice or, more importantly, remind one another that Black lives matter."
Founder, UOMA Beauty
"All organizations and corporations have an equal opportunity to make this right," Chuter says. "Look at what’s not working. Ask yourself, 'what’s not clicking?' Look at things from another perspective. Review internal policies. Have the humility to say, 'I have not done enough, but I am prepared to be educated, and to be held accountable to do more.' That’s what this moment is about.
"We have so many qualified Black women who have left corporations after holding great positions. We may be doing our own things now, but we can give you feedback. We can tell you why we left in the first place and share our experiences. So, you can put new procedures in place. I started Pull Up For Change as an organization for this purpose. We are still in the very beginning stages. We are going to provide resources, a platform, for Black people, to be able to look at a company’s inclusivity score. The goal is to have this become a reporting organization for black economic progress."
Kahlana Barfield Brown
Influencer; Former Fashion & Beauty Editor, InStyle
"I truly think the first step is looking within your own company and addressing the systemic inequalities," Barfield says. "Hire more of us, pay us what we deserve, and listen to us. It’s also not enough to have one or two black assistants on your staff. True diversity has to be reflected at the top."
Barfield also implores brands to put action behind their messaging. "It’s wild to see how many companies are suddenly posting generic supportive messages about #BlackLivesMatter," she says. "A lot of these posts are inauthentic and completely feel like damage control. This isn’t just a hashtag. Talk is cheap. Post a picture of your team and the talent you used in your latest social media campaign and then we can determine how much #BlackLivesMatter to you. I also think brands need to put their money where their mouth is. Glossier donated $1 million between Black Lives Matter and Black-owned beauty brands. That’s true support. I respect it."
Senior Style & Beauty Editor, People Magazine
"It is important that brands show there is human compassion behind every label," Fields says. "I don’t have all the answers, but I would hope to see brands look around and ask these questions: 'Who has a seat at this table? Who doesn’t, and why?' Put in the work to make sure employees of color have a safe space to be seen and heard. Offer internship programs for disadvantaged youth. These opportunities need to start in high school. By college, so much talent is already lost. Contribute to the families of the victims of horrific injustices so that they may seek justice, as well as to organizations that are trying to keep these issues in the forefront of our minds for as long as it takes.
"Help minority-owned businesses destroyed during protests get back on their feet. If you’re nearby, get a broom and literally help them pick up the pieces. If you’re not nearby, send whatever resources you can to help them through this rough time. Form long-term partnerships with businesses owned by people of color. Donate product to, and more importantly, volunteer at local organizations in underserved communities... Commit to your employees of color, and to being in this fight for the long haul. Support them in every way that you would want to be supported."
Founder, The Lip Bar
"Brands that aren’t run by POC can create equitable hiring practices to ensure the economic growth of the black and brown community," Butler says. "Diversify your executive team, diversity your creative talents, be open to new perspectives and know that just because something is your default, it doesn’t make it right!"