Why IT Cosmetics Challenging The Beauty Industry To Be More Diverse Is Absolutely Ridiculous
I have a question for Jamie Kern Lima. How did your images of beauty impact our mothers and our sisters, and how did they impact our daughters? What did you do with the power that is you?
Founder of IT Cosmetics, Jamie Kern Lima, accepted the CEW Achiever Award and gave an acceptance speech which has gone viral. Kern Lima told the story of how her brand came to be. Despite being rejected by an investor who doubted she could sell beauty because she is overweight, she kept going. As a plus size girl myself, I felt empowered by her success! I did! She proved that age and weight cannot define beauty. After the success of IT Cosmetics, the body shaming investor emailed Kern Lima and admitted he made and mistake and congratulated her. That was some real fat girl vindication right there!
Jamie Kern Lima goes on to challenge the beauty industry to change the images they use to market their products. As a consumer, I think she is right. I am so tired of false images of women being used to build onto my insecurities so they can sell products. I do want to see women like me, to see women like my friends, and people in my family to be the faces of the beauty industry. Kern Lima said, “I believe the most beautiful women are real. We come in all shapes. We come in all sizes. We come in all different hair textures, all skin tones. We come in all ages.” She wants the beauty industry to realize that the lack of diversity causes people to feel less about themselves. She ends with: "How will these images of beauty impact your mothers and your sisters, and how will they impact your daughters? ...What will you do with the power that is you?”
IT Cosmetics is pushing for diversity? The company who carries 7 shades of foundation. The shades that range from fair to medium. The company who carries 5 shades of light foundation and 2 shades of sorta brown -but on a day when you feel sick -shades of foundation. That is the company who congratulated itself for being diverse. The company that asked brands to look at images of beauty they put forward and change them to bring forth diversity. Jamie Kern Lima gave a speech about having a successful company because of the unique marketing tactic of featuring before and after images of real women. The thing is, ya’ll really left out a ton of real women.
What actually happened, is that IT Cosmetics showed other beauty brands how successful a company can be without women of color with darker skin tones. That the exclusion of women with skin that is deeper than tan is worth a $1.2 billion acquisition.
IT Cosmetics did not revolutionize the beauty industry. They capitalized on their target market. When you think of who buys IT Cosmetics, what comes to mind are women in their 40s, moms, small business owners, and executives. They sell an image of success. That is who they believe their consumers aspire to be. Their makeup isn’t glitz and glam. IT Cosmetics is neutral, it’s work wear, it’s great skincare. Let’s look at Urban Decay for their marketing and who their target audience is. Urban Decay is edgy, young, daring, and fearlessly colorful. Hiring actor Ruby Rose to be the face of their Vice Lipstick launch fit their mold. Ruby Rose embodied the UD image. That image is who their shoppers aspire to be. IT Cosmetics made their mold. Who fits in it and who doesn’t. They used target marketing to become successful. They didn’t have to spend money on pulling in different types of consumers.
Jamie Kern Lima spoke about the models they hired and images they used highlighting real women. There was age diversity but that’s about it. IT Cosmetics didn’t need to hire young models because young makeup wearers don’t fear fine lines. They didn’t use editorially thin models because the average middle-aged woman is not supermodel skinny. IT Cosmetics doesn’t make complexion products for darker women. Dark women of color were not part of IT Cosmetics image of success. Or at least that is the message we received.
Furthermore, the names they give their foundation shades are deceptive. For their foundation Confidence in a Compact, IT Cosmetics labeled the darkest shade 'deep.' However, the description of the shade is "rich tan." Deep or tan, it can't be both.
It’s astounding that IT Cosmetics sends PR packages to dark-skinned bloggers with the hopes of being featured for some low-cost advertising. They have the audacity to request PR from people who can’t even wear their complexion products. Here is the difficult spot beauty bloggers often find themselves in. Speaking up to defend themselves from a brand could mean missing out on getting PR. Those PR packages mean we can create for our followers without breaking our budgets. While as a blogger, I am grateful for any PR from any company. But never will I stay silent when something is as unconscionable as the exclusion of women of color.
Women of color matter. We deserve to feel and be seen as beautiful. We should see ourselves represented in waves, not in puddles. Never doubt that we have the courage to speak up for ourselves and each other. You can not speak about diversity while excluding darker women.
In an interview with Allure, Jamie Kern Lima was asked if she received any backlash since her speech has gone viral. This was her response:
“Every time you do something brave in life, it always comes with haters and critics, and of course anytime you are fearless and speak up against the status quo, the same thing happens.”
It’s not ‘hating’ when you tell someone that you matter. If you truly believe in your message, you would not fear a critic. It’s not brave to be successful while excluding an entire population. And you did not stand up against the status quo. You were right next to them the whole time.