Happy Black History Month! Have you been following along with our social media spotlights of Black leaders in American history? Well, this month’s blog will have a similar feel. This month we are focusing on past and present black leaders in the beauty industry.
These women have shifted the beauty industry away from an exclusive culture that has neglected people of color for hundreds of years. Only through their courage and determination have we seen makeup and hair care products that reflect the needs of all skin and hair types
First up on this list of movers and shakers is Bernadine Anderson. Bernadine Anderson was the first influential black makeup artist in Hollywood. She worked with famous movie stars like Eddie Murphy, Laurence Fishburne, and Jane Fonda. Jane Fonda ADORED her. She requested Bernadine over and over again in a time when black people were not asked to work on white movies. She was also the first woman to obtain a membership to the IASTSE Local 706, Makeup Artist and Hairstyle Guild, the cosmetologist union in Hollywood.
As the war on civil rights came to a head in the 1960s, She was repeatedly denied work on movie sets as higher-ups staked their positions against the movement.
Bernadine wasn’t having any of it and decided to organize a class-action lawsuit against the union to expose discrimination against people of color. She went on to kick ass on the set of many more movies, and today you can find her makeup case on display at the Smithsonian Museum.
Another all-star in the beauty industry is one of the first black women to become a millionaire, Annie Turnbo Malone.
While experimenting with different hair care products, she developed and manufactured her own line of non-damaging hair straighteners, special oils, and hair stimulant products for African-American women. She called her hair product, Wonderful Hair Grower and began by going door to door to try and sell it.
She had wild success door to door and even opened a storefront in Saint Louis. In the early 1900s, this was almost unheard of for a woman of color. After establishing her store, she launched a massive advertising campaign through the black press and toured the south to train other women to sell her products door to door.
In 1918, she established Poro Beauty College. Annie is an inspiration to entrepreneurs everywhere. She didn’t take no for an answer founded a successful business in a time when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was almost half a century away. What a legend.
Up next, we have another early twentieth-century heroine, Eunice Johnson. She is most known for her makeup line Fashion Fair Cosmetics which became the most prominent Black-owned beauty company of its time.
After opening a publishing company with her husband, Eunice found her first taste of success. They had several successful magazines, including the still popular Ebony. This magazine offered the African-American alternative to Life grew a considerable success. At the time of Eunice’s death in 2010, it reached 1.25 million readers.
She then launched the Ebony Fashion Fair, a runway show highlighting black models that raised over 50 million for black charities. Her makeup line featured foundation for people of color and expanded liquid foundations, cover sticks, powders, eyeshadows, lipsticks, skincare, and more.
These women mentioned above paved the way for new leaders to emerge. Dame Pat McGrath promised to continue the inspirational work of the leaders before her.
Dame Pat McGrath is a British makeup artist named the most influential makeup artist in the world by Vogue magazine.
Raised by a Jamaican immigrant and dressmaker, McGrath forged her path as a makeup artist who caught the eye of such prestigious designers as Givenchy, Gucci, Lanvin, Louis Vuitton, and Versace.
Her own makeup line Pat Mcgrath Labs, was valued at $1 billion in 2018, and she continues to push the science of makeup today. In 2019 she became one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people and the first-ever Black person to become a Dame.
Jacqueline Carrington is another powerhouse in the beauty industry. She founded People of Color and was one of the first nail polish creators to combat the perception of nude coloring. Her daughter loved nail polish so much that Carrington decided to create her own that looked great with darker skin tones. Talk about being the change you want to see in the world!
On top of putting people of color first, she also created her brand to be non-toxic, vegan, and cruelty-free. One of her most notable ad campaigns teamed up with Facebook to promote black businesses on black Friday with the hashtag #buyblackfriday.
All these women have one thing in common; they didn’t give up when things got tough, and they didn’t stand down when people in positions of power told them no. Thank you for the inspiration you provide us all!