Black entrepreneuers’ influence is improving the beauty community

By Brianna Duncan
Staff Writer

TUSCALOOSA— Black entrepreneurs have made an impact over the past few years in the beauty industry. 

For decades, the beauty community has lacked representation and inclusion of black people, whether women, men or non-binary.

For example, easily accessible and affordable makeup brands lack product shade ranges for black women. However, this has all been on the road to change in the last five years.

Shaterria Davis, a black student at the University of Alabama, talked about how beauty is seen differently in black homes than white. 

She explained that as a child, makeup is associated with being grown. Her mother and grandmother encouraged natural beauty and not wearing much, if any, makeup. 

“I think that [embracing natural beauty] creates a disadvantage in the black community because once we are older, we don’t really know what we are doing,” she said.

Davis admires beauty influencers like Jackie Aina and Nyma Tang. 

“I love what Rhianna is doing, what Juvia’s place is doing, these brands are venturing out and finding those complexions. It makes black women feel beautiful.”

Brands have begun to make quality products and more inclusive lines. According to a 2017 Nielson study, black women spend 9 times more money on beauty products than their non-black counterparts. 

“The quality stretched from OK to diabolical,” said Funmi Fetto, a beauty writer and beauty book author in a column for The Guardian, when talking about shopping for makeup in her teen years. “I laughed to hide my embarrassment but, at that moment, everything changed.

“Suddenly color mattered, in more ways than one. This is when I realized I was black… I felt irrelevant, excluded and ashamed. The message from the beauty industry was loud and clear: I was not valuable enough to be part of the conversation.”

While brands are producing more inclusive lines and consumers have been vocal in their praise, popularity in the influencing community is primarily white. Marketing is moving toward inclusivity and while that is showing racial solidarity, some see it as tokenism. 

The people at the top of these brands, or those making big marketing decisions, are white. 

For example, L’Oreal, a cosmetic powerhouse that is a parent company for 20 smaller brands, has only 7 percent of its corporate level employed by black people. 

One of the most influential and prominent social media forces right now is the beauty community, whether on Instagram or YouTube. YouTube represents a primary source of information about beauty standards, yet its content creators with the most subscribers are white.

Inherently, this prevents black creators from soaring in the algorithm because they do not get as much engagement. 

Several factors could lead to the suppression of black influencers, including Davis’s reflection of embracing natural beauty in black homes. However, overall, black voices are still not being as noticed as white people’s even when it comes to something like cosmetics.

For example, consider the top 10 beauty YouTubers:

10. Michelle Phan, who has 8.85 million subscribers on YouTube, has been a beauty creator for 15 years. She has her own makeup brand now and is known for transforming into characters and being a “classic” in the beauty community.

9. Tati Westbrook, who has 8.98 million subscribers on YouTube, has been a consistent daily content creator and has a reputation of being trustworthy for her reviews. 

8. Pautips is a Columbian YouTuber who has around 9.07 million subscribers and has since ventured into the music world.

7. Mari Maria is a Brazillian creator with 9.61 million subscribers who does a mix of beauty and lifestyle videos. 

6. Bethany Mota from the US has 9.81 million subscribers, and she has been a beauty creator for 12 years.

5. SaraBeautyCorner is a beauty content creator from Norway who has 10.6 million subscribers.

4. NikkieTutorials is an English-speaking YouTuber from the Netherlands who is now also is a Global Artist with Marc Jacobs.

3.Jeffreestar is next with 16.7 million subscribers, he has a controversial history and used to be an explicit music artist in the early 200s scene culture. He also owns his own cosmetic line. 

2. Yuya is a Mexican beauty guru with 24.6 subscribers.

1.Topping the charts is James Charles with 25.6 million subscribers. A controversial figure, he has collaborated with the brand Morphe to create one of their most famous palettes. 

Five of the top ten beauty YouTubers are American, and 4 of the 5 are white. Michelle Phan is Vietnamese. 

It could be argued that this in itself reflects the lack of black representation in the community. However, some of the most influential trends and products began with black women. 

One of, if not the most subscribed black beauty YouTubers is Jackie Aina, who has 3.58 million subscribers. She has been an outspoken activist and has worked with the brand Too Faced to help expand the shade range for their popular foundation named Born This Way. She also earned the NAACP YouTuber of the Year Award for her activism and holding brands and her peers accountable. 

Rhianna is a musical artist and businesswoman who entered the beauty world in 2017. Her beauty brand, Fenty Beauty, launched on September 8, 2017, with 40 shades of her foundation. Before setting the stage for inclusion, it was hard to find brands with more than 12-20 shades of foundation. 

“My favorite makeup brand is Fenty!” said Amber Boswell, Communication Specialist at Shipt. “It’s hard finding makeup artists to relate to as a black woman because many brands do not complement darker complexions. I like seeing how certain makeup looks look on women that look like me.”

Other brands, like Shea Moisture, have also focused on inclusivity. Shea Moisture is a brand focused on ethical practices that has a range of cosmetic, bath, and shower items. 58% of their corporate team, including their CEO, is black. They are striving for environmental ethical practice, natural beauty products, and racial equality. 

In 2021, the beauty community is thriving, yet there is still so much to do in terms of expansion. With the booming makeup market, it is possible we can see an impactful change in the coming year.