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Fenty Beauty and Black Beauty

September 18, 2017

I know, I’m a white woman writing about beauty products for black people. I know. I promise, I’m already self-flagellating.

But I noticed a thing.

I’m a bit of a beauty YouTube enthusiast. One of the people I follow is Jackie Aina. She’s brilliant. I also jump around to a whole load of different channels. And there was a real divide on opinions about Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty launch.

The reaction of beauty vloggers seems to be divided along racial lines. Now, that’s nothing new, but on this occasion, white vloggers seem to be enjoying an average sort of launch, with upsides and downsides, like any other line. WOC however, appear to be all over this, and seeing the launch as really revolutionary.

Here is Jackie Aina’s review of the launch. Jackie has been an advocate of make up for darker skin tones for years. If you’re looking for make up advice and recommendations for darker skin tones, this woman is amazing. Also, a while back, she led a tutorial challenge for beauty vloggers to do complete make up looks using only products from black owned make up brands. So, if you want to make a difference with your money and support black owned makeup brands, check out the BOMB tag on YouTube

Here’s a review from Nyma Tang’s series, The Darkest Shade, in which she tests the often neglected dark end of the foundation spectrum

And here, with a British WOC perspective is Patricia Bright, who ended up with a look quite different from her regular make up, but one she really enjoyed making

So yeah. I watched all of these videos, and it reminded me of something I saw the other day via tumblr. This article on MIC describes the steps that cinematographer Ava Berkofsky and the rest of the creative staff on the HBO show Insecure have taken to ensure that the skin and features of their black actors show up on film, even in low light and evening settings.

The reflective qualities of the make up Berkofsky describes, and the glowing natural looks the YouTubers describe seem very similar. Which probably explains the difference between the white and WOC reactions to this launch. Because Fenty Beauty is not designed for white skin. It’ll work okay. It’s not bad. It’s a good high end line. But it’s not designed for a white canvas. That’s not who it’s for. It’s designed to work differently, and to do different things for the skin and features.

Personally, I’ve looked at the line, and it looks amazing. The match sticks look awesome, and I might get myself some of the blotting paper, because that container is fucking genius. But I can’t see myself using too much of it. Because it’s not designed for me.

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