For a long time, Tia Tappan struggled with accepting her skin tone. "I'm from the South, where colorism is very prevalent," says Tappan. "Growing up, as I began dating, I had boyfriends who would tell me I was cute for a dark-skinned girl and how they preferred girls with lighter complexions. I remember watching music videos and seeing women with lighter skin being the leading ladies. I always felt I was too dark and that my skin was not desirable." Many women of color share the same unsettling reality as Tappan. Living in a world that praises something you are not has a damaging effect on one's sense of self. The beauty industry's discriminatory past has been one of the major factors in this problem.
"Numerous times, I've gone to a retailer and seen only lighter shades of foundation—darker shades weren't even included. Or the slots for the darker shades were there, but they were never stocked. I've had to order foundation online numerous times because of this. All these experiences subconsciously told me that my skin tone wasn't acceptable. There was a time I actually hated my skin tone and wished to be lighter. I don't feel that way anymore—I absolutely love my brown complexion and wouldn't do anything to alter it—but society's and the beauty industry's attitudes toward those with darker skin definitely made me feel that way."
Inspired to bridge the gap, Tappan began working in professional diversity and inclusion roles and even founded her own beauty company, Batlash. After being abruptly fired from her previous job, she was inspired to go full throttle with her passion for inclusiveness and create the Diversity in Beauty Summit, a conference dedicated to pushing representation forward—the first of its kind. [Ed. note: This year's conference is May 20 in Los Angeles.]
The term "diversity" is used loosely more so now than ever before. In 2018, major companies are taking advantage of the term for monetary purposes to drive sales and attention to their brands. If we're talking about diversity, we have to talk about important matters like tokenism and shade inclusivity in the beauty industry. Tappan shares her honest thoughts about the state of the beauty industry and why her passion project is so incredibly important below.
On the Diversity in Beauty Summit
"This summit is a way to hold the industry accountable. I know there are companies that historically never catered to people of color that are now hopping on the foundation train and creating more inclusive shades. I created the summit to celebrate brands that are doing it right and that have been inclusive all along, weeding out the ones that are simply doing it as a marketing tactic to give off the illusion of inclusion.
"The purpose of the summit is to have an open dialogue with beauty industry professionals, influencers, and consumers to share their experiences within the industry. The summit seeks to celebrate the strides the industry has made and is making to be inclusive, as well as to give feedback from the general public about what could be done to improve the industry. We want to provide everyone with an opportunity to share ideas, learn, and ultimately empower one another in the journey to create a more inclusive world."
On the State of the Beauty Industry
"Everyone's focus on being inclusive is creating an extensive range of foundation shades. There's this 'foundation war' going on where makeup companies are trying to outdo each other by coming out with the most shades of foundation. Though it's great that makeup brands are expanding their foundation shade ranges, as that's definitely a huge factor in being inclusive, diversity in the beauty industry goes beyond that.
"There's still a disparity when it comes to influencers of color getting major collaboration deals with beauty brands. There's still a lack of people of color in C suite–level positions at major makeup companies. There's still a lack of diverse voices at beauty magazines. There's still work to be done to create beauty tools for people with disabilities—a grossly underserved market. These are areas that the industry is neglecting when it comes to inclusion."
On What to Be Proud of in the Beauty Industry
"I'm definitely proud to see more people championing for inclusion. I'm proud to see large corporations like Target amp up their ethnic beauty aisles. And I'm proud to see indie brands that have been making inclusive products for years finally get their shine."
On the Direction Diversity Needs to Go in the Beauty Industry
"There need to be people with the mindset of inclusion; people who see things through the lens of diversity. In other corporate industries, like healthcare, technology, and even entertainment, there is a vice president of diversity and inclusion, who leads those efforts with a team or committee of employees. There needs to be more of this in the beauty industry. There also needs to be more accountability.
"We need more chemists of varying ethnicities to create more inclusive products that will address specific concerns. A white-owned company creating products for people of color without a single person of color in upper-level management making decisions is a problem. We need people who can address the complexities of our complexions. Representation matters, and we need to see that reflected at the highest level of corporate management."
On How to Stay Connected With the Diversity in Beauty Summit Movement
"Diversity in Beauty started a YouTube channel, which will feature interviews highlighting companies, influencers, and beauty brand CEOs with a demonstrated passion for diversity and inclusion. You can get an inside peek at what they're doing to create a more inclusive world. We're also launching the first-ever Inclusive Beauty Box, which is a subscription box curated with beauty, skincare, haircare, and health products from inclusive brands." ■