On Thursday 25 October, students gathered around the Fenty Beauty counter in Harvey Nichols to participate in a make-up workshop with a twist. It was aimed exclusively at People of Colour (PoC). “An Evening with Fenty Beauty: PoC Perfect Base Workshop,” promised to celebrate diversity and inclusivity within the beauty industry.
The sell-out event, run by Rihanna’s cosmetics brand, Fenty Beauty, in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh’s Make-Up and Special Effects Society, included an interactive demonstration using some of the brand’s products. Two make-up artists took attendees through the steps to achieve Fenty’s signature looks, with a focus on finding a foundation that suits each individual’s skin tone—a task that can be difficult for anyone, but predominantly for those with medium-to-darker skin tones.
Lacking diversity is a problem the beauty industry has continued to face. Last January, high-end beauty brand Tarte faced criticism when it released its much-anticipated Shape Tape Foundation in 15 shades, with only 2 suitable for darker skin tones. Although they later apologised and released more shades, it was only after numerous complaints were posted on social media, backed by high-profile beauty vloggers like Jackie Aina and Nikkie de Jager.
Feeling as if brands are not covering all bases in terms of skin-tones is no new qualm. According to a survey carried out by Superdrug in 2016, 70% of black and Asian women feel that high street stores do not cater to their beauty needs. Speaking to The Student, Sandhya Narayanan, a second-year Biology student, commented that “the reason I came to the event is because I really struggle with finding makeup which matches my skin tone. I went to NYX a couple of weeks ago and they just had four different shades of beige. It’s been a struggle, so when I saw this event I was really excited to come because I wanted to see what’s available and what works on People of Colour.”
Furthermore, issues with diversity go beyond just foundation ranges. There is a distinct lack of diversity among models, social media influencers of colour not getting deals with major brands, and little representation on the boards of major brands.
However, there is hope. Norms in the beauty industry have begun to change, led by figures such as Rihanna and Huda Kattan. The Eurocentric beauty standard is being challenged as consumers demand that their diversity be celebrated instead of ignored. Speaking to The Student, event organiser and second-year Chemistry student Alya Al-Ammari, said “makeup and special effects are really geared towards a certain kind of consumer” referencing the lack of beauty options for PoC consumers in the UK. “I wanted there to be a space for people who are not catered to, to finally have that opportunity, and to be given an area where they can socialise with other people who have been in the same situation”. During the workshop, participants were encouraged to interact with the make-up artists, and soon, everyone in the room was chatting about their favourite products and methods of applying makeup.
The event marks the beginning of the society’s “Celebrating Diversity” month, with events on every week throughout November, including an East Asian beauty tutorial, and closing with another inclusive workshop from Fenty Beauty.
Photo Credit: Zainab Hashmi