Friday, April 22, 2011

smart beauty!

over the years, the beauty industry has taught me in no uncertain terms that they simply don't care about me as a black woman. i'm hardly a presence in their ads. my skin tone isn't included in their makeup foundations or powders. when creating cleansers and moisturizers, my specific needs aren't assessed or considered. and i'm not even going to get into what my hair requires in its natural state, and all of the ways that isn't even remotely addressed. i'm simply not accommodated. period.

this is the reason why subconsciously i'm always on the lookout for things that work specifically for me, beautywise. just about every sister i know constantly falls into the habit of interjecting tidbits about something they've discovered that works, no matter how casual or convoluted the conversation happens to be. and it's almost always a big fat wow moment. we're all so excited to find something, for us. clearly, we're behind enemy lines and we're dissecting information and sharing it and passing it along to help each other as best we can. it's like we're in a secret society of some sort. finally coming to terms with the way we look and finding ourselves beautiful on our own terms is a subversive act.

you know what? that's exactly what it is.

to be black and to dare to think of yourself as beautiful is to defy everything that this culture says that you are, that you should be. it's almost as though every single day, every black woman assembles herself visually in her own way and moves forward with this singularity of thought, somewhere in the recesses of her soul. i am beautiful -- not because of you, not in spite of you. i just am.

imagine my surprise when a survey from essence magazine confirmed all of this, and more.

last week, essence presented smart beauty V, which basically gave the beauty industry a glimpse into the mindset of the african-american beauty consumer. they decided to do this by presenting the four archetypes that their survey revealed in the form of four actresses that embodied those ideals. we were placed amongst the audience as they watched the presentation, listened to the panel, had breakfast and took notes. as the descriptions were given, we presented ourselves. to tell you the truth, it felt like performance art. what better way to get your point across than to have it come alive before you. and come alive, we did. it was fun!

here are the four archetypes.

the first is queen bea. her beauty motto: "beauty is a strategy." what does she want? brands with proven results, expert advice and organic and natural ingredients. her quote: "i am always willing to pay a premium for beauty products that have lasting results."

the second is sheree de la sol. her beauty motto: "beauty signals to the world that i have arrived." what does she want? prestige, innovation and anti-aging techniques/products. her quote: "i use my beauty to express that i've made it."

the third is amber b. free. (yep, that was me.) her beauty motto: "beauty is a celebration of me." what does she want? products (preferrably organic) specifically created for me, good price points and value. her quote: "I do not follow beauty trends."

the fourth is jane jones. her beauty motto: "beauty should be simple." what does she want? simplified options, inspiration and guidance. her quote? "i buy fragrances endorsed by celebrities i like."

although the facts they presented definitely raised my eyebrows, one thing was crystal clear: for african-american women, beauty is unconditional.
  • a whopping 84% of african-american women agreed with the statement, "i think i am a beautiful woman" vs 41% of the general market.
  • how about this one -- 58% of african-american women agreed with the statement, "i'm always proud of my looks" vs 22% of the general market.
  • this really blew me away: african-american women spend a whopping $2.6 billion on beauty products. sisters, that is quite a lot of cheddar.
for the life of me, i can't even begin to fully comprehend why white people in this country (and elsewhere, for that matter) don't understand that we live in two completely different worlds culturally and in spite of whatever the media may have you believe, it's fairly bleak on this end of the spectrum -- all the way across the board. most of what's out there in the beauty industry says that i'm not relevant. it doesn't affirm who i am. my response? i refuse to believe them. i go my own way.

still and all, there are more special moments than i'd care to reveal. like traipsing past several beauty counters in greenbriar mall -- arguably the blackest shopping spot in the atl -- and having mpb ask rhetorically why did all of the ads at every counter have white women in them. or slathering on raw shea butter onto my backside in the gym and having some white woman remark to her white friend that if she put any of that grease on her skin, she'd have acne everywhere, and why was i doing that. or approaching a beauty counter and having the makeup expert not have any foundation for me. or not know how to contour my face.

oh, i could go on. but you get the idea.

as we left the w hotel that morning after the event, i murmured to my three compatriots, "i feel a little blacker, ladies. how about you." and they all laughed. because really, we all did. it couldn't be helped. for one bright shining moment, someone stood up and said it, and it all came together beautifully. i think i probably floated to my boxing session, high heels and all.

maybe someday i'll be rich and famous. maybe i won't. who knows. no matter what happens, i'm not going to believe that i've really made it until i'm on the cover of essence.

1 comment:

AJ Muhammad said...

Queen, it's ironic that Essence sponsored this even because of the changes that have taken place at the magazine over the past few years. I remember a time when Essence used to feature women with braids, locks etc on the cover and I hope that the natural styles make a recurrence on future covers. I also was fortunate to hear one of the many conversations that was sparked when Essence decided to hire a caucasian editor last year and at the conversation one of the Black women who were present said White woman read Essence because it's the place where they can see representations of women of different sizes and shapes who look all beautiful as compared to the White fashion magazines where we all know what is touted as "beautiful." I wonder what type of changes will come as a result of Constance C.R. White taking over Essence. You know that Constance has natural hair and is beautiful and brilliant and been on the scene for a long time so I am looking forward to see what Constance does to Essence. Essence does need to be the place that it was in the 1990s and before then where everybody was talking about the articles and we had this wonderful crop of writers who went to do other projects including Bebe Moore Campbell (rest in peace), bell hooks, Valerie Wilson Wesley, Asha Bandele, Deborah Gregory, Hattie Gossett, the Villairosa sisters, Pearl Cleage, Joan Morgan, Marcia Dyson etc. Actually, Queen, your voice is needed at Essence and whether you make the cover or not, only God knows, but I hope you wind up in the magazine because of your music and writing or I can see you pitching a story to them about how boxing classes has changed your life or anything else!