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An Open Letter To The Beauty Industry

Saleam Singleton

 Saleam Singleton

Dear Beauty Industry,

I hesitated to write this at first. The thing is until now, Black people haven’t had many opportunities to have an honest conversation with you. I’m glad that we finally have your attention. I have to keep it real with you—we appreciate the support of late, but we haven’t been feeling the love. Recent events have caused us to determine who our true allies are. When we look to this industry, we find a place that we’re only now being made a significant part of. We see you posting #BlackLivesMatter, but we’ve often struggled to find proof of our importance to you before now. Black people have felt like an afterthought to you. Right now, some of us are even questioning the sincerity of many of your efforts. At the time of writing this, activists are taking several brands to task. It should never have had to come to this extreme. For the record, we’re disappointed. 

Black consumers have long been a driving force in the Beauty industry. Black women alone spend over $7 billion annually on beauty goods and services. They spend twice as much as non-Black consumers. This was years before Fenty helped make it possible for them to find their shade. We have been present in this industry for so long, with a total spending power of over $1 trillion. The question is—have you been present for us? On a corporate level, we’ve been left out of major roles that are involved in the decision-making process. In some offices, we have no presence at all. Where have we fallen in the scope of the bigger picture? Are opportunities truly offered equally? Black influencers and creators do our part to feed the consumer ecosystem, yet we are often overlooked by the brands we work to promote. Black contributions have helped to push growth and innovation in the beauty industry for decades. We have always been here. This should be reflected in corporate and creative teams, crews, marketing content, and brand messaging.

Black contributions have helped to push growth and innovation in the beauty industry for decades. We have always been here.

Respectability dictated that we suppress our true concerns, which have always been valid. At the end of the day, the truth is: We have been underrepresented, underserved, and under-supported. The very idea of inclusion as an initiative acknowledges the fact that the playing field is not equal. It suggests that someone has the power to choose who participates. Do we need an invitation to an industry we’re already helping to sustain? True diversity should happen naturally because it represents everyone involved. No one should have to fight to be represented in this industry. 

America has come to a crossroads. No, I don’t speak for all Black Americans, but I do speak for many. We are working to process everything that is happening right now. This moment is not an opportunity to simply appear as an ally. It will take more than posting to social media. We have to address inequality, racism, and discrimination on all fronts. For the beauty industry, it’s going to have to come from within. We need to see you leading by example in ways that will influence other industries. We need to know that we are as valued as our non-Black counterparts. This should be felt not only now, but in the years to come. Stand with us by creating a lasting change in the way beauty operates. Most importantly, acknowledge the voices of all people who make this industry what it is today. This shouldn’t be a trend, a strategy, or a reaction. This has to become the norm.

We appreciate those taking this as an opportunity to learn. It's vital to the future that you do so. Here’s something to consider: If you’re supporting #BLM, you should also support Black employees, creatives, businesses, and consumers. Ultimately, we want to look to the industry that we love and know that we truly matter. 

—Saleam T. Singleton

Saleam is a Byrdie Boy and creator of The Method Male. Each month, he covers beauty topics through the lens of self-care and culture.

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