For too long, the cosmetic departments of perfumeries have been inhospitable places for black women (and men) like me. Conversations with shop assistants turned out to be often alienating, eventually becoming even sometimes offensive. “We don’t have your tone“, One of these orders told me apologetically. “Over time this foundation may work“, Another commented, and then advised me to” send an email to the offices of the brand in question. You never know, they may decide to produce your tone. “
When the line Fenty Beauty by Rihanna was announced in September 2017, I was fully aware that it marked the beginning of a radical change. With her promotional video so sexy that it does not go unnoticed, starring Rihanna and a decidedly representative cast of our society, made up of names such as Slick Woods, Duckie Thot, Paloma Elsesser and Halima Aden, it was clear that Fenty supported and promoted a message of diversity and inclusion in the beauty industry.
Users of the various social platforms praised Fenty Beauty and its offer so explicitly that the beauty industry really knew nothing more than fish. Following the launch of the 40 shades offered by Fenty Beauty, almost all the other brands on the market have started to produce a series of new shades at great speed (read: darker). The make-up artist Ammy Drammeh, whose aesthetic can be summarized in “authentic, more than natural”, uses Fenty products on herself and her customers. She tells me she feels inspired. “They are versatile and I use them in different ways. For example, use of highlighter e lipsticks like eye shadows“. When I ask Drammeh to comment on the cultural change promoted by Fenty Beauty, he tells me that “after Fenty launched its wide range of foundations they all went crazy. I remember the lines from Harvey Nichols. Shortly thereafter, other brands also followed the example of Rihanna’s brand. “
The foundation line of Fenty Beauty
Traumatized by my previous experiences, for the first experiment with Fenty Beauty I decided to order a lipstick (Stunna Lip Paint in Uncensored) and a highlighter (Killawatt) online, thus bypassing the hundreds of people lined up for their personalized treatment outside Harvey Nichols, the London department store that sells the brand exclusively in Great Britain. When I finally decided to visit the Fenty counter, I was impressed to see how many women with black and shady skin were discussing in an open and quiet way with orders that knew the needs of their customers. In short, I also convinced myself to buy a foundation. When I got home, I tried it and felt … normal. That a make-up brand can make a 28-year-old girl feel this way is really something special.
A few months later, I attended the launch of the fanzine of a friend. I was alone, and as I am very shy, I decided that I would be on my own to read the magazine in a corner. I raise my head and notice that a girl from the opposite side of the room is staring at me. “You wear Fenty by accident”, He asks me in a super enthusiastic tone and, after I confirm, pulling out my highlighter and brush with a professional make up artist, I now have a new friend for life.
A make-up brand has brought me, and many other women like me, to feel ‘unseen’ by the beauty industry to feel important and valued as customers, all thanks to 40 shades of foundation and 50 shades concealers.
Fenty Beauty is a continuous brand evolution. A new range of products was unveiled in early May, and a week later the announcement came that Fenty Beauty was available at Boots (British pharmacy chain). What was once a line of exclusive products, on sale only in the most prestigious department stores in London, will soon be available on the mass market, further promoting the corporate mission according to which “every woman, wherever she is, must be included” . Obviously, the network users went back to fibrillation, so much so that the phenomenon was renamed “Fenty effect“, Surprised by the infinite power of a pop star to revolutionize the beauty industry.
But Fenty Beauty is not just make up and it cannot even be said that Rihanna is simply expanding her empire beyond music, lingerie or its fresh launch fashion brand, under the aegis of the LVMH luxury conglomerate. It is a social movement that has led other brands, with a longer tradition in the sector, to do better and more. In 2018, the Time has indicated Fenty Beauty as one of the most brilliant companies, noting as “in one year, Fenty Beauty has radically transformed the make-up industry”. Indeed, it is almost impossible to describe the enormous impact that beauty has in our society. It took a young black woman, who made her bones in music, to introduce inclusiveness into the beauty industry, finally making a whole community of people like me feel seen.
Candice Carty-Williams is the author of Queenie edited by Trapeze (Great Britain) and Scout Press (USA)