I remember growing up comfortable with the fact that makeup didn’t come in my colour. It was an odd, shrug-worthy, ‘that’s-the-way-it-is’ kind of comfortable.
Thus I was okay with the fact that, when I’d be old enough, I’d have to remember to buy my foundation on the (very) occasional trip to Paris, or order it online and have the products shipped from the US.
I know that the cosmetics brands my mother used were black-owned and foreign to the UK. Paris-based brand BlackUp was the only holy grail of beauty to me.
There’s nothing wrong with purchasing from brands that are far from home. However, it’s a little odd that, for a decent amount of time, it was the only option for a lot of women who were darker than the dubiously titled ‘tan’ shade. Or those who were lighter than the generic ‘fair’ token.
To make matters worse, the brands bothering to sell cosmetics in a wide range of shades were luxury companies charging luxury prices.
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No wonder I was never too fussed about wearing foundation. The truth is, I found it easy to go makeup-free because I was simply not in the habit of buying makeup. What’s the point in spending your money on something that will make you look ashy, anyway?
Buying foundation meant making the extra effort and loving yourself enough to put up with the faff without complaint. That was for the grown-ups, the likes of my sophisticated mother. It was not for me, the pensive teen with her nose stuck in a book.
Fast forward a few years and it’s quite a different story, not just personally but commercially.
As an ex-freelance model and casual blogger, I got to know a bit more about makeup through the professionals who had to ‘make me up.’ I was always grateful when they (near enough) had my shade, but when I’d ask them where the makeup was from it was always from some unattainable professional line.
While I’ll never be the most makeup-obsessed person in the room, I have a real appreciation for it and the creativity it encourages. And while the beauty industry still has a long way to go in terms of diversity and inclusivity, it’s a hell of a lot better than it used to be. So I thought I was happy with the slow but sure manner in which progress was moving.
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Then I, along with the rest of the world, realised what we’d been missing thanks to Rihanna and her entrepreneurial ways.
London Fashion Week ended on a high with the UK launch of Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty event. Hosted by Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge, the night was a party and a free shopping experience all rolled into one.
I was delighted to have snagged an invitation to the exclusive shindig. Even more thrilling to me, however, was the fact that a foundation in my particular colour existed. I have a deep, dark brown complexion typical of a native of the Cameroon. I am also a descendent of Saharan nomads sometimes referred to as black arabs.
This means I am not a token ‘deep brown,’ any more than caucasian women are not simply ‘fair.’ There are hues in between: imagine a tanned Mediterranean woman wearing a foundation shade called ‘porcelain’ and you get the idea.
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At the Fenty Beauty event, a makeup artist tried the Pro Filt’r Soft Longwear Foundation in 480 on me and it was truly like a second skin. It was such a match to my own complexion that you could barely tell I was wearing any makeup. I know this, because Rihanna told me so herself.
After the grand entrance met with cheers, (and some well-earned time dancing with the crowd of attendees) Rihanna toured the room observing each section of makeup. The collection had been laid out meticulously, split into foundations in one end of the room, highlighters in another and so on.
The beautiful star seemed to glide from section to section, where makeup artists were dutifully demonstrating the products on attendees. When Rihanna came up to my section, all I could do was smile inanely.
Rihanna said to me: “You look amazing. You can’t even tell you’re wearing anything. It looks like it was made for you.” Of course I almost fell off my stool.
Turning to the MUA, she said: “You’ve done such an amazing job.” (It struck me how long she stood there quietly after commenting, admiring the artist’s work with her glorious products. There was something really humble and genuine in her manner.)
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All I could manage in response was “thank you. Thank you so much. For everything.”
By everything, I wanted her to know how grateful I was for not only making her line inclusive, but for making the notion of diversity in the beauty world as natural and normal as it should always have been in the first place.
Thanks to innovators like Rihanna, some of us no longer have to go to the moon and back to treat ourselves to a bit of coverage. Fenty Beauty’s take on inclusivity means so many more people can feel happy and comfortable in their own skin.
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