Why POC Need to Take A Stand Against the Beauty Industry
As a living human being that breathes in oxygen and exhales carbon dioxide, I am a consumer. And, unthinkingly, I have gotten most of my inspiration from bloggers and social media influencers. Unlike the tall, leggy models in Teen Vogue and Seventeen, these girls on YouTube seemed nice and approachable—like they could be my friends had we gone to the same high school together.
And listen: I was a tomboy. Like, baggy men’s tees and dirty jeans kind of tomboy. If I had been any more masculine I would’ve grown chest hair. Yet there I was, obsessed with these beauty gurus: the transformation of normal-looking girls like me into sexy vixens, ethereal faeries, and/or Lady Gaga was a magic trick I could never hope to master. They were pretty, and funny, and they’d probably like hanging out with me, maybe.
You know what else these ladies—wildly successful and quite gorgeous—had in common? None of them looked like me.
None of them had long curly hair that just wouldn’t do what it’s told.
None of them had olive skin that would tan six shades darker just by thinking about the sun.
They all… looked oddly identical, really; with clear, smooth skin the shade of a cloud in sunrise and luscious hair that seemed to ethereally float away as if gravity didn’t dare to do more than lovingly caress it.
And it was a reflection of the beauty industry that had propelled them to internet stardom, one that kept on pushing one standard of beauty for everyone, and you were out of the cool group if you didn’t happen to win the genetic lottery.
This is not about diversity in the beauty industry, because we have finally agreed that there are way more than five skin tones and acknowledged that people with curly hair do, in fact, exist. We did it guys! This is about the reality that a whole population grew up without being represented in TV or fashion, and now that there are a few POC who are kicking butt in the industry and looking amazing while doing it, those of us underrepresented act like it’s the second coming of Jesus when in reality it’s just scraps. This is about the fact that the beauty and fashion industries included a few token POC in their campaigns, advertise the hell out of it so everyone knows how amazing and #woke they are, and at the end of the day feel like their job is done and can wash their hands off the whole diversity issue.
When Cindy Crawford made it big, she was a supermodel. When Naomi Campbell made it big, she was a “black” supermodel.
Here’s the truth: whiteness has always been revered as superior. You know it, I know it. Yet, as young people take it upon themselves to seek out and become the inspirations they lacked in their youth, we are becoming a more connected world in which the voices of POC are not only being heard, but being taken into account. Influencers came onto the stage and completely changed the rules of the game, and we are still reeling from it.
And it. Is. Glorious.
If I told ten-year-old me that a Hindu girl living in Alaska was going to get paid for having long, curly hair, she’d laugh me out of the room.
If someone had told me that Spiderman’s love interest was a biracial girl with skin as dark as mine, I would’ve called them a fat liar.
If I knew I’d get to see the day when curly girls collectively swore off heat and traded hair tips and recommendations, I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself.
Because we are changing the industry to become more accepting of everyone, and we are doing it by refusing to be ashamed of our heritage. We have taken out the middleman—the magazine and beauty industries that depended so much on selling a particular image—and crated and pushed for the content we all want and need, regardless of whether it sells or not. And said middleman is going to have to catch up or else they can join the ranks of former powerhouses that couldn’t hang such as Blockbuster Video and MySpace.
This blog post is not about diversity in the beauty industry; it is about the work we, as POC, as consumers, have done and keep on doing. It is about the fact that we cannot slow down or stop, especially now that we are finally making enough noise and getting heard. It is about the fact that people are done with the fashion industry BS regarding diversity, and calling out the double standards behind beauty campaigns, and making space for themselves in a world that had until very recently shut them out.
It is about the fact that we can all stand on the same ground and make skin tone irrelevant when it comes to defining one’s worth.
It is about the fact that it is 2018 and we are still having the same conversation, dammit! But hopefully this time it finally leads somewhere.
Yes, many of the highest viewed lifestyle and fashion bloggers are still blond and blue-eyed, but unlike before, I can easily find more people who look like me, who are constantly called beautiful and intelligent, and believe.
And to someone who spent the majority of her life not believing in herself, that’s huge!