Wednesday, 1 September 2010


As you know I love all things musical and jazz hands. Last night I rediscovered some of my favourite dancers The Nicholas Brothers on YouTube Check them out in this clip from the movie ‘Story Weather’, it will make your eyes water they are so good- you can also see the foundations of break dancing in there too. As I marveled at their sheer talent, athleticism and acrobatics I began to get angry....very angry (you won’t like me when I’m angry).

I stood mouth open and was enraged at the injustice, as this clip was a metaphor. When you think of tap dancing, black and White or  MGM films- whom do you think of? Fred Astaire, right? Well compared to the Nicholas Brothers- Fred Astaire seems like some geriatric shuffling around the dancefloor while muffling to himself,  "I've still got it...ahhhh". To be fair, even Fred Astaire said that this sequence of the Nicholas Brothers in ‘Stormy Weather’ was the finest piece of tap dancing ever filmed.

Now the injustice of this really pisses me off. Have you heard of the Nicholas Brothers probably not. What springs to mind is something the editor of Elle US said on 'The City' about the spoilt and rather pleased with herself it girl Olivia Palermo, she said well in this industry there are show ponies and work horses. I hate the double standard but the lady was bang on.  Because of the colour of their skin The Nicholas Brothers were condemned to be work horses in the business we call show. As black men they were only usually given a 3 minute set piece to do in a movie -their scene would start with the hero Fred Astaire or some other 1930/40s dream boat bringing their gal to a nightclub to see the brothers perform as part of the side show and that was it.

This annoys me because really how far have we come today? When you look at the fashion and beauty industries how many real positions of influence do ethic people hold. At launches (where I am usually the only black person) I'm told the UK will not stock foundation colours for darker skins. When I ask why, I'm told an array of offensive answers from because there is not enough space on the shelves to we don't think they will sell over here etc Translation ...... We don't think ethic/ black people can afford or want our products and quite frankly they are not important enough to make room for them. This is all madness when you think brands like Bobbi Brown, MAC (God bless you and all who sail in you), Estee Lauder, IIamasqua, NARS, Giorgio Armani, YSL, Sue Devitt, Clinique and the like all stock extensive colours and there is enough room for their lil’ old bottles to shove up on a counter.

In the wake of the anniversary of hurricane Katrina this all does hit a nerve with me about the perception of black people and their importance in the beauty world. Yet, ironically today you do have show ponies in the form of Naomi (don't look at me or I will throw a phone at your head) Campbell and make up artist mega stars such as Pat Mcgrath but why is it still a big deal to stock a full spectrum of make up for black and ethic consumers. It's very hard to have any sort of self worth and self esteem, when you, as a consumer rock up to a major beauty brand and the lack of choice  screams you are not important especially when it comes to foundations and powders.  The weird thing is these naughty brands do have darker shades but they are only available in the US. When I asked a marketing man of one of these brands why they don't bring the full range to the UK, he told me they needed to do more research. I told him to save his time and money on research, as there were black women living in the UK - trust me on that.  It's part of a deep seeded problem that spans social/ economic reasons and is a reflection of how ethic/black skin tones can feel marginalized and that is also reflected on the counter. Close your eyes and imagine Cameron Diaz walking into a beauty hall and being told, “ sorry love we just don’t do any shades in your sunny yellow toned skin colour”, it does sound nuts doesn’t it, so why should it be the same for someone with a darker skin tone? So the next time you go make up shopping just imagine how it feels and what it says when you walk into a beauty hall and are met with a beauty apartheid.


  1. Thanks DeeDee! So glad you enjoyed it! What do you think about the choice on the market for darker skin tones and did you check out the link with the Nicholas Brothers? Amazing!

  2. Great post, well said!! The make up thing totally gets me mad! I remember when Iman first launched in the UK and everything was always sold out so it can't be an economic issue...think of how much we spend on our hair :)
    Look at all the magazines, how often are any of the 'new look' or 'new trend' makeup ever demonstrated on women of colour. A makeup artist told me Armani did great makeup for black skin. It would never have occurred to me to look at that brand, never seen any black models associated with their range. What happened? I went to the counter (this was at Heathrow) an embarrassed assistant that said they didn't stock it and she didn't know why
    Yes, this subject makes me soooo cross!!
    I love the term beauty apartheid...perhaps we need to start a campaign?

  3. What I'm going to say may be a little off topic but as a white person I love seeing black/asian/latino women in magazines as I can appreciate and get inspired by their looks even if I don't look like them. I purposely follow blogs like Makeup and Beauty Blog because Karen, the writer isn't white. She can wear loads of different looks and colours that probably wouldn't look that great on me but I don't care. I just enjoy seeing her wearing the latest collections and I like getting ideas from different types of people.

    Hopefully beauty brands will eventually realise they are missing a massive customer base by excluding skin shades darker than beige. A campaign isn't a bad idea or just tweet these beauty brands to death asking them why they aren't servicing your needs.

  4. Great post! You've gone 'there' and I'm so happy to see it in writing. Its so frustating when you get excited about a brand and only to walk into a beauty hall and as you say are met with 'beauty apartheid'. So many times i've had to ask relatives in the States to send me things, just because I happen to be black and my colours are not stocked in the UK. It really takes away from one's shopping experience. And, might I add, I am not that dark.

    You think of people like Alec Wek, not to mention Naomi gracing front covers in the full glory of blackness and some brands still don't stock shades that covers the full spectrum. Makes me think that as one hand of the beauty industry promotes our diversity by giving us front covers etc, the other hand takes away by not allowing us to experiment and celebrate this same diversity within the sphere of make up.

    Thank God for the likes of MAC who not only provide colours for black skin, but are also inspiring other brands to do the same. Brands need to wake up and realise, black women exist and black women have money to spend, if not burn on beauty products.

  5. I wish they'd stock a full range of tones. Asia and the US have a far better range. Outside of Illamasqua, which only became easily accessible recently, all foundations and nigh on all powders are far too dark and FAR too orange toned, even these so called "vampire chic" ranges. Apparently being pale is in, but not natural pale. Oh no, I can buy a bronzer or a self tan to even out my skin tone, but if I want to even out the sun damage to restore its *natural* pale tones I can sod off it seems. Why beauty companies want everyone to sit in the middle I do not understand. A full range of skin tones on a makeup stand is a beautiful thing to behold, lipsticks that suit women of all backgrounds, eyeshadows that say more about personality than race. I hope more companies remember that while having mid toned skin is beautiful, having darker skin, and lighter skin is equally so. <3


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