“Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.” We often hear these words to suggest that beauty is subjective; it belongs to the one who possesses the eyes to judge what is beautiful. I once read that beauty was the original form of racism because it imposes a standard of beauty onto the “other.” Both these sentiments convey the same idea. Beauty may be in the eyes of the beholder but who has the right to impose a subjective standard of beauty onto anyone?
The beauty industry was founded on this subjective standard of beauty. Products and campaigns were based on this subjective standard. This subjective standard resulted in a warped idea of what is beautiful in mainstream media. It created a “margin.” The “other” became marginalised, searching for a representation of themselves in an industry that did not recognise them. My use of the past participle here is intentional here. There are flaws in the beauty industry that urgently need addressing and I do not use the past tense to suggest that the standardised notion of beauty is a thing of the past. Rather, I use this tense to suggest that things are changing, perhaps slower than we would like, but things are indeed changing.
Diversity has become a real buzz word in today’s beauty industry. Brands parade this label, creating an illusion of inclusivity. But the launch of Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty last year completely changed the game! In her first launch, she released Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation, a foundation consisting of forty different shades and undertones. Since then, mainstream brands have also released more tones and shades to suit darker complexions. Their relatively recent interest in creating products of a greater demographic begs the question of why this wasn’t done before? The concern is that this “change” in beauty may simply be a trend, here today but forgotten tomorrow. How can we possibly prevent this from happening?
For us, by us products are important. Fenty Beauty may have caught mainstream attention but it is by no means the first or only brand pioneering for diversity. We need to invest in ourselves and in brands who also invest in us. But perhaps more important than who we buy our foundation from is the conversations we have around inclusivity and diversity. This is where events like the Luxe Beauty Soirée (LBS) are so essential. We need to engage in an open dialogue with ourselves and with brands.
Because of the communities we live in and the things we’re exposed to (things we have limited control over), we can become selective in what diversity means to us. We seek faces that look like ours and we may be pacified by token notes and trending hashtags which create an impression of inclusivity. But the world is not just black and white. Our experiences as minorities may be similar but they are not the same. Until we come together and discuss these intersectional points of similarities and differences, how can we set the industry’s default to diversity?
Last weekend I had the opportunity to work behind the scenes of the inaugural Luxe Beauty Soireée. (For a rundown of what happened throughout the day click here.) As I meandered through the crowds there was a real sense of something special happening. Women from all different backgrounds had come together to see reflections of themselves and their voices. (Look through the images embedded in this post, how many cultures and backgrounds can you represented in this one space?) But in looking for ourselves, we also saw others, we heard their stories and connected with them based on these differences. This is part of what diversity means, it is that moment when we see each other’s differences reflected in our own.
I may not wear a hijab, bleach my skin or relax my hair but it is important for me to hear the voices of those who do. We may not agree or see eye to eye on these topics but these conversations are important. They challenge our thoughts and beliefs and open the way for us to constructively reshape our understanding of diversity and inclusion.
When we weren’t listening to panel discussions, we were networking, furthering the conversations of panellists in smaller groups. As the week passed, I know that we have been continuing those conversations in more intimate settings. The discussions stimulated by LBS travel far beyond a lecture hall in the heart of London. They inform the ways in which interpret the mass of media we are bombarded with. LBS also had us engaging directly with brands. To bridge the gap between consumers and companies, such talks are needed.
By now, you will have gathered how vital I think conversations are! To create effective change in the beauty industry, to make diversity and inclusivity less of trending buzz words and more of a tangible reality, we need these spaces to facilitate such discussions. We need to talk! I cannot wait to hear the conversations Luxe Beauty Soirée will continue to engender later on this year.
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