How NOT to Run Your Beauty Biz
I need your attention! This post needs to be read. Why? Long story short…a makeup artist recently posted on the Glossible Facebook group wall, and let’s just say her question didn’t sit well with our members, including our guest blogger.
The artist posted that she was recently asked to provide wedding makeup services to a person with a dark skin tone, but the artist had no experience with skin tones that weren’t white and had heard that darker skin was “difficult” to work on. (Let’s not even discuss how the question was asked, but I digress.) Here are some highlights (or maybe lowlights is the better term here) of the original post:
“…can't accommodate her due to the color of her skin.”
“My boyfriend’s friends are getting married and the bride asked me about doing makeup for her wedding which is super exciting! I need some advice though. She is black and I have heard it is very difficult to work with darker skin if you have no experience. Which I don’t, unfortunately. Is this true or would I be able to adapt well? My second question would be, how do I explain to her that I do not have the skill set and she would be in better hands with another makeup artist? I want to be honest with her about what I can and cannot do but I also don’t want to make her feel like I can’t accommodate her due to the color of her skin. Please be kind as I am trying to learn and be supportive of the black community.”
There were a number of thoughtful and fairly sympathetic responses. However, the following response summed up what many in the group were thinking. It is important to read and truly hear this message no matter where you stand on the matter. A huge thank you to Aleena Perez for permitting us to reprint the response on our blog. This post has been edited a bit for clarity and syntax:
Alena's Words on This Subject
“A lot of people have said all the nice, helpful things so I'mma go ahead and get this off my chest. Because this whole post, and the factors that led to it, shouldn't even exist.
I just want anyone with this mentality to REALLY step back and look at yourself. Anyone who thinks this is reasonable, or OK, or doesn't see it as a “big deal”, just stop for a second. Step back, and I mean step BACK, and look at yourself as if you are not you. That's difficult for a lot of people, but it's so necessary to understand the world around you and how you affect it.
I can see the positive intent in this…but it is just so cringeworthy. Implied intent means little if you aren't willing to follow through with action of the same nature. I mean, even just re-reading this should open your eyes to the things that should have been changed long ago.
No one should be working as a professional makeup artist and accepting money for their services if they cannot cater to all skin tones. It's heartbreakingly sad that anyone would think differently, as if it's perfectly ok to focus a service on one race and act like it's unintentional or “too hard” to provide a professional service to someone physically different than you.
It's never unintentional to enter this business and think you are good to go without a significant portion of knowledge that is readily available. Nobody gets started until they think they know “the basics” at the very least, and for way, way too many people the basics didn't include anyone who doesn't resemble them. It's absolutely a conscious dismissal, not just an accidental oversight. You don't accidentally overlook an entire population taking up space right next to you in the universe. It's intentional to act as if their existence doesn't matter or as if you live in a society without them.
It's easier to be around that which is familiar. It's easier if you don't have to think about their needs. So, for you, it's just fine to pretend that's true. But it's not! Like it or not, dark-skinned people are here and they are not going anywhere. We need to accept the society we are living in and start contributing to it.
We shouldn't have to teach ethics; a good conscience should be enough. But for cases like this, they do offer classes. Take one. Or five.
I mean, could you imagine a tailor who can only work on size 4-6 clothing because that's what she wears? Or a shoe store that only sells size 7.5 shoes because that's the designer’s size? Or a bakery that only sells chocolate cake with vanilla frosting because that's what the baker likes? What kind of businesses would those be?
More importantly, what kind of owners would those be? Would you ever take them seriously? Absolutely not. And yet so many people are fine running their makeup or hair “businesses” like that.
This mentality of “being a makeup artist is easy and anyone can do it” needs to stop. If this is where you are in your journey, you need to stop until you can do all skin tones.
I don't care how discouraged you feel hearing that; you SHOULD be discouraged from continuing to contribute to a racist culture in the beauty industry until anyone who sits in your chair can have their makeup done. Know better, and do better. Racism should NEVER be condoned. Putting the client’s needs first, over your own ego or lack of desire and motivation to educate yourself , should not even be a question. Again, it comes back to ethics.
It's very difficult to do anything that you don't have experience with. To blame another person's features that they are born with, for your own lack of knowledge and professionalism, is just wrong.
It's offensive, unethical, and it shows a lack of accountability that I'm sure is not specific to this one issue. You cannot continue to act as if someone is a burden on your business for simply existing and wanting services that you advertise yourself as being able to offer.
The part that really blew me away was when the poster said she wants “to be honest” and tell the potential client “what I can and cannot do, but I don't want to make her feel like I can't accommodate her skin”. It's crazy because that's exactly what this makeup artist is unable to do. She is unable to accommodate her! Of course the client is going to feel like that!
Where the “artist” should be honest is to tell the client that she is not ready to be a professional, and she cannot in good conscience accept that client’s money. The artist should apologize to her for marketing herself before she was ready and stress that SHE knows the problem isn't the client and she will be working on herself. Then the artist should walk away and go work on herself.
My auntie always told me, “if you're ashamed to talk about it, you shouldn't be doing it.” If it makes you feel ashamed to admit you can't provide a service to her because of the way she was born (and it should), you shouldn't be operating a business that cannot provide a service to her because of the way she was born. Period. You can't just deny or “re-word” reality and make it any better. Own up to it.
Bringing this up in the first place tells me she is aware of it being an issue, but the fact that she has done nothing to change it to this point means she doesn’t think it's HER issue, despite it being her reputation and her business on the line. That is a perfect example of willful ignorance.
Just to reiterate: this is not a “good” post. It doesn't show real effort or solidarity. It shows a good example of all the ignorance out there and why it's so hard to fight. She thought it was perfectly ok to start, operate, and continue day-to-day life for however long she has, with a business that never sought to acknowledge people who are darker than her as real people whom she might come across in real life.
Up to this point, she never considered that the dismissal of millions of other people is a problem. She never sought knowledge or self-improvement out of wanting to do what’s right or wanting to be better. Because she never thought there was a reason to. Because she never realized those other people mattered enough.
When she realized those people have money too, when someone approached her with an opportunity, she had to pass on it because she hasn't worked for it…it's suddenly something to think about? That's what it took for it to feel like it affected her? I don't even know how to start explaining why that's beyond problematic.
It comes down to the idea that we shouldn't have to make someone care. I don't even know how we can. We shouldn't have to make someone have consideration, let alone compassion, for the world around them.”
This response by Aleena is a lesson in reality right now. We need to learn from what the original poster did incorrectly and be better humans from it. We need to do better. We all want you to be successful, but let’s do it the smart way.
Don’t start a business if you’re not ready to accommodate every single person who wants to work with you. Don’t start a business if you’re going to exclude potential clients because you never bothered to prepare yourself to handle those who don’t look the same as you do.
Beyond business, this is about being a good, decent human being. Let’s all strive to get there. It’s the only way we’ll see real change in this batshit-crazy world of 2020 we’re living in.