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I remember the first time I understood black beauty. It was a scorching hot afternoon in June and my mother had just finished braiding my hair. When I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror, I felt, for the first time, like a beautiful brunette girl. She was only 5 years old, but the memory of my mother saying “she looks at my beautiful brown baby” is forever etched in my brain. It was then that I realized that black beauty is an emblem of power.
I should have welcomed black beauty into my life, but I didn’t. In my preteen years, I believed the rumors that society placed about beauty. He was convinced that he was just friends with light-skinned girls with long, straight hair. I mistakenly thought that true beauty only existed in the lives of my white friends with blue eyes and pale skin.
Boy, was I wrong.
When I became a young professional, I decided to become a beauty editor to make an impact on future generations. She wanted to help young girls see the beauty within themselves. I wanted to tell the world the importance of black beauty.
Now as a beauty director, overseeing beauty content for Marie Claire and before that at Allure and Essence magazines, I have seen from a bird’s eye view the impact and power of black beauty. I have seen its resiliency and strength in the industry, even when storied beauty brands try to play it down, only supporting it when there is a chance for financial gain.
For generations, black beauty has not received the proper accolades. For years, black faces were absent from the covers of fashion magazines. Makeup brands weren’t supportive of us, just offering a small range of foundation shades. And it’s not lost on me that black models are often forgotten backstage at fashion shows. Black women are hurt that famous hairdressers can’t serve us because they haven’t taught them how to take care of us, how to embrace our curls, or how to honor our existence.
I hate that Hollywood diminishes the value of black beauty, only celebrating black features when they are not attached to a black body. and it bothers me that Black consumers are likely to spend nine times more on beauty products than any other race, yet Black-owned brands account for just 2.5 percent of revenue in the beauty industry.
Please understand that you, black beauty, matter.
Many argue that beauty is colorless. And that black beauty doesn’t exist because all beauty matters. But black beauty is the cornerstone of American culture.
Black beauty is… Stylized baby hairs that bring an extra level of creativity to any hairstyle.
Black beauty is… Diana Ross’s perfect big hair from the ’70s.
Black beauty is… shea butter-based skin care on a cold winter day.
Black beauty is… the androgynous yet sexy style of Grace Jones.
Black beauty is… curvaceous and voluptuous.
Black beauty is… slender, slender and sophisticated.
Black beauty is… the ’80s jheri curl.
Black beauty is… a beautiful mind, heart and soul.
Black beauty is… Florence Griffith Joyner’s (Flo-Jo) long fingernails.
Black beauty is… Janet Jackson’s intricate Poetic Justice braids.
Black beauty is… the reason why the lip enhancement industry is so popular.
Black beauty is… a perfectly round butt.
Black beauty is… dark hair, dark eyes, big nose and big lips.
Black beauty is… magical.
I will spend the rest of my days honoring and supporting black beauty, while encouraging others to do the same. And when others reduce their joy, I promise to keep the words of the late Jamaican activist Marcus Garvey in my mind: “Black skin is not a badge of shame, but a glorious symbol of national greatness.”