One of the biggest headlines in inclusivity in beauty this past week has been Kylie Cosmetics announcing the launch of concealers with a range of 30 shades from very fair, to very dark. Until now, Kylie Cosmetics has offered the famed Lip Kits as well as eyeshadow palettes, highlighters, and blushes, but the concealer launch is the first of its kind for the brand, signaling yet another expansion of the brand that has grown so rapidly in just over two years.
The launch has been met with excitement by both fans of the brand, and people that often have a hard time finding a foundation or concealer shade to match their skin tone, namely people of color, who are largely overlooked by beauty brands again and again. Unsurprisingly, many have been critical of the news, and almost every critique I’ve seen has included another woman’s name: Rihanna.
As literally everyone in the world knows by now, on September 7th of this year, Rihanna introduced her long-awaited beauty brand, Fenty Beauty. No one knew what to expect from the brand, as she kept us waiting until a week before the launch before revealing the actual products. The arrival of Fenty Beauty, hyperbole aside, was like nothing the beauty industry had ever seen. After all, Rihanna loves to make an entrance.
Instead of starting with a flagship lip product or shadow palette, Rihanna gave us an entire collection, the cornerstone of which being the Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Foundation in an unheard of 40 shades, for every skin tone.
While Fenty Beauty certainly isn’t the only line to offer an expansive shade range, as brands like Make Up For Ever were quick to remind us, it is the first to give us something for everyone right from the start. It also puts under a magnifying glass all of the brands that still fail to offer customers shades deeper than “light sand.” With Fenty Beauty, Rihanna wasn’t only introducing her new business venture, she was giving us her thesis on what the brand was, and what it would become: beauty for all.
When Kylie Cosmetics debuted her concealers last week, alongside the many consumers I saw excited about the shades, I saw many implying that the wide range of 30 shades of Kylie Concealers were a direct response to Fenty Beauty’s 40 shades, a quick money grab to capitalize off of people of color that Kylie had supposedly ignored up until now, basically saying that this launch wouldn’t be happening unless Rihanna proved that there was, in fact, money to mbe made from the largely neglected shade range, as people of color have themselves been saying as long as makeup has been around.
Lest this be confused as a defense for Kylie Jenner herself (which it is not) let’s first just look at the facts and logistics and all that.
For one, a launch of any new beauty product and formula doesn’t just happen in under three months (the time between the Fenty Beauty launch and Kylie Cosmetic’s concealers). Between planning, product development, design, manufacturing, testing, and everything other rigor a new product has to pass through before seeing the light of day, the lead time for any new product is longer than three months, by far.
Even with Kylie Cosmetics being manufactured by Seed Beauty, the beauty incubator that is basically a 360 deal, handling the entire workings of a brand in one place}, significantly cutting down on middlemen, wait times, and various markups, making it possible to get products into people’s hands fast. This didn’t come together in three months.
Kylie Concealers weren’t prompted by Fenty Beauty’s foundations, just like Fenty Beauty’s rose-beige packaging wasn’t prompted by the packaging of Kim Kardashian’s KKW Beauty Contour Sticks, colors of which were oddly similar (and also launched three months prior to Fenty). Then too, people were implying Rihanna had taken a note from Kim’s book, when in reality, Fenty Beauty had been in development for years. These things are not evidence of copycatting but they’re not entirely coincidental. Beauty products are all trend-based and everyone is chasing the same consumer.
Kylie Cosmetics has always been inclusive of people of color. Since the launch of the brand, Kylie has used women of color (and men!) in the campaigns and on their Instagram. In 2016, the color Brown Sugar was created to be the perfect nude for darker skin tones.
When the brand released their first highlighters at the end of February this year, there were six shades created with all skin tones in mind, the darkest two made to look darker skin look more luminous, while not necessarily suited for fair skin.
So what did we expect? What did we want? Were Kylie to release a concealer with a range of only eight shades, it wouldn’t have been enough to suit every skin tone, an unacceptable offering since Kylie Cosmetics is fast becoming a billion — yes, billion dollar company — meaning, they have the funds to cover everyone, removing all doubt that the exclusion was a deliberate choice.
If they would have stopped their selection at a medium shade, Kylie would have gotten well-deserved flack for that — or perhaps worse, had she devoted, as so many brands do, the lion’s share of shades to light and fair skin tones with only two or three deeper selections to just graze the bar for “inclusivity.”
At this point, Kylie Cosmetics has no choice but to release a concealer 30 shades, and they’re right in doing so.
I wonder, though, what the reaction would be if Fenty Beauty had never been, and Kylie’s launch was the first thing to market in recent history with such an expansive shade range — because, again, Fenty or not, this launch was happening regardless.
Kylie herself has a bad history with cultural appropriation and jocking on black culture, which she has never addressed. Both Kylie Jenner and Khloe Kardashian have a long (and recent) history with stealing designs from black entrepreneurs and making money off of their designs.
None of this is OK. A concealer range does not redeem Kylie, nor should we separate the person from the brand. Many people don’t fuck with Kylie because of her continued insensitivity toward a culture that is not hers, and worse, her willingness to make money off of black culture, and black women’s ideas. Her privilege, both white privilege and financial privilege, as well as her overall celebrity, allow her to get away with it unscathed time and again.
So how do we hold a juggernaut like Kylie accountable? The only way we can reach them: with our money.
Dragging miss Kylie for likes and retweets is great, but what we’re not going to do, not after the year we’ve had, is pit women against each other. Yes, Kylie and Rihanna are both celebrities, they’re both loaded, they do not need our money, they’re going to be fine. But it’s bigger than that. These are two young entrepreneurs trying to do something new in an industry that so desperately needs it. This eternal drag cycle doesn’t help anyone. All we can do is support companies that we think deserve our money and encourage others to do the same, but constantly hating on brands without much reasoning or a solution doesn’t do anything but give those brands more attention.
I don’t feel good about Kylie’s past and her unwillingness to address it, much less change, but I do feel good about people finally feeling seen and included, thanks to both Kylie and Rihanna. Is Kylie the first one to create a wide range of concealer shades? No, and neither is Rih with her foundations, but they’re setting a precedent. After years of beauty brands telling us that they don’t make darker shades because they don’t sell, Fenty’s darker shades are selling out in-store everywhere, and two of Kylie’s darker concealer shades sold out just a few of hours after they launched.
It is their same privilege, platform, and place in pop culture that makes launches like these important. There could, and should, be a lot more companies following in the foot steps of Kylie Cosmetics and Fenty Beauty, but the conversation isn’t as targeted since they lack the pop culture relevance.
Huda Beauty has been accused of not posting any men or black women to their social media until a few months ago when they launched a foundation in wide range of shades, the argument being that they didn’t care about black women until they had the chance to make money off of them. While the proof of this claim does seem to be backed up by the brand’s social media accounts, no one accused Huda of copying Fenty, though Huda’s foundation was launched a month after Rihanna’s.
Or the creator of IT Cosmetics, whose speech about inclusivity in beauty backfired after it opened the brand up to criticism about the lack of a foundation range to back up those claims to back it up. Inclusion isn’t creating a company that makes you feel accepted, it’s stepping back and creating a space that caters to everyone.
And these are just the beauty brands that have been in the news recently — but they’re sure not the only ones who are at fault. Any brand that’s creating complexion makeup has the choice and opportunity to create whatever shades they want, and yet, most collections are still frustratingly light.
I realize that not every brand can be Fenty Beauty, but here’s the thing, most of them can, or could if they wanted to. Every brand you see in Sephora with a shade that doesn’t fit you? That was a choice. Every time you try a foundation that’s just not dark enough, that, too, was a choice. These brands have millions of dollars to do whatever they want with, but so many of them would rather invest in their latest eyeshadow palette that they’ll debut with a launch party that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to entice influencers to promote on Instagram for a month before moving onto their next eyeshadow palette.
The only way we can make brands listen to us, and actually do what we want, be it create more shades for more skin tones, stop working with problematic influencers, or hell — simply make better products, is with our money. Every purchase is political. Every dollar in your pocket is valuable, is a statement, and where you put that money fucking matters.
So if you don’t mess with Kylie, great, but maybe there are people who want those shades, so perhaps don’t make them feel bad for finding a product that will finally work for them, that they feel beautiful wearing. Take that energy you were going to spend hating on her and put it into finding a company that makes concealers that are just as good with a shade as big as hers, they’re out there! Or at least fire off that one good subtweet and then find that company.
And while you’re at it, decide what brands you don’t feel seen or heard by, be it because of their lack of inclusion of skin color, gender, or just because they make shitty products, and stop investing in them. I’m not saying purge your entire makeup collection because I know that shit’s expensive, but when it comes time to repurchase, have a better option ready, and there is always a better option than giving your money to a company that doesn’t care about you. We all deserve to feel included, and these brands have the means to do it, so its time we stop letting them slide.
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