The Makeup Counter in the Obama Era

This past Saturday I attended the third annual Women of Color event at Macy’s Aventura, and bellas let me tell you — it was a beautiful thing.

I attended this event in its first year, and immediately saw its unlimited potential. It’s the one day of the year that the beauty department is filled with black, brown, Latina, Asian, and Middle Eastern women of all hues, all being wooed and catered to by experts at each cosmetics counter.

The event has only become more popular, and this year, Chanel, Dior, Benefit, Lancome, Goldenfaden, Clinique, MAC — all counters were at least five bellas deep, all seeking consultations.

I was fortunate enough to spend my time with the Macy’s PR (big shout out to Ivonne! She was very accommodating) and interview two celebrity makeup artists.

I really can’t say enough nice things about Patrece Williams. There’s always something a little magical when I meet another Patrice, whatever the spelling!

Believe me when I say, this sista is on the rise. Patrece has so much personality, so much presence and power, she needs to be on television. I want to see her hosting her own show on Bravo, she is THAT warm and wonderful and funny. If I had to compare her, personality wise, to anyone — I’d say she’s a little Mo’Nique and a little Niecey Nash, with a voice made for cartoons. You just want to be her best friend, have dinner with her, then let her give you a makeover. More on Patrece — with videos of her giving makeup tips! — in an upcoming post.

In her well-attended presentation, Patrece addressed the warm spirit and palpable excitement in the room with empowering words. “Women of color, embrace those full lips. Embrace that beautiful skin. People pay money to get what we got for free!”

Her top choice of makeup came as no surprise. “I love MAC foundations. I think they’ve taken the time and done the research to really cater to women of color. I worked for them for five years, so I can attest that they take it seriously.”

MAC’s name is already golden amongst black women, and I believe some other brands have tried to step forward to address the beauty needs of women all shades of beautiful.

Make Up For Ever has stepped up its shade game. Of course there’s Prescriptives, which offers so many shades it’ll make your head hurt, and I know quite a few dark skinned bellas who swear by NARS, and some who love Lancome. A few other major department store makeup brands offer more than 12 shades of foundation. And there are quite a few with woefully few options, that don’t venture past shades with names like “honeyed beige” or “ochre.”

I also had the pleasure of interviewing makeup artist to the stars, the Eyebrow King, Damone Roberts, in the green room upstairs as he tried to match the foundation for the model he was going to use during his presentation. Mr. Roberts had like 10 different shades of foundation and an entire coffee table of makeup out before him, as he tried to settle on what colors to use and what shades blended almost-perfectly.

We chatted about makeup and the divine Mrs. Obama — he’s dying to get his expert hands on her brows, and I think he’s the man for the job! Damone believes think a change’s gonna come in the cosmetics industry.

“They have to! We’re a powerful market and you can’t deny it. Not anymore. There’s a first lady in the White House who is a beautiful woman of color! Makeup for women of color is a neglected market. And when I say women of color, I’m not just talking about African Americans. I mean Asian Americans, Latin Americans, Native Americans — it’s all America!” he declared.

It’s ridiculous to think that Michelle Obama couldn’t find her shade of foundation at the department store in 2009, but even today, it’s kind of true. Her options are still limited. She’d have to look at a few big-name brands that truly cater to her skin tone, because not all of them do. Yet. Things have come a long way, but we’ve got a ways to go.

Seeing the excited crowds at the Women of Color event gave me hope. I hope that Macy’s makes it a traveling event, because this could be huge in a city like Atlanta, Washington DC, Dallas, New Orleans, or heyyyy – Chicago, where I’ll be living soon. It might be one day out of the year, but it’s a start. More on my interview with Damone Roberts to come, including his top tips and product recommendations for brown skinned beauties!

What do you think, bellas? Am I looking at the industry from a glass half empty perspective? What are your predictions? Do you see change coming to the department store cosmetics counters?

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Comments

  1. I definitely think change is coming sloooooowly but surely. I started out solely rocking MAC, afraid that other lines would not flatter my caramel skin, but thanks to Sephora I now have makeup from Tarte, Stila, Benefit, Laura Mercier (best tinted moisturizer!) and would love to rock more Nars, Makeupforever, etc if I could afford it! I still cling to my beloved MAC, but I love that there are so many different brands creating shades of makeup that are flattering on WOC.

    I agree with you that foundation is the last great frontier when it comes to makeup for WOC, but as my Jamaican aunties would say “soon come”!

  2. Wow, that sounds like a wonderful event! I wish something like that would come to SoCal!

    I’ll tell you what is coming, though– CHANGE! And, as Ghandi said, we much become the change we want to see in the world . . . so Women of Color need to recognize their beauty! Embrace it! Love it! Covet it! And society will do the same!

    Thank you for this, Bella!

  3. I loved this article!

    As a (dark skinned) stylist and makeup artist who blogs, I get a lot of inquiries about where to find makeup for darker skin. Some even gripe about it being so hard to find makeup for their skin tone, but I honestly think there’s so much out there for darker skin tones—you just have to really know your undertones and unfortunately be willing to pay the premium. Drugstores seldom ever carry makeup I can use so I go to tried and true brands like MAC, NARS, Becca Cosmetics (have you ever tried Becca—they literally have like 30+ foundation and concealer shades!), etc.

    But I’m always giving the side-eye to brands like Chanel who offer great quality makeup eyeshadow and blush-wise but then their darkest foundation shade is for Halle Berry…lol.

    I hope they bring this show to NYC—I would really like to go :)

  4. I stick to MAC mostly because I don’t believe the other brands cater to WOC. I feel like MAC has worked to offer colors that work for WOC. However, I am glad to see that is slowly changing and that other brands are coming around.

  5. Bella, from your blog to Macy’s ears about that beauty event coming to other major cities. But there are other alternatives (many that you have mentioned on this blog) that cater exclusively to women of color, so larger beauty manufacturers can sleep if they want to, and my money will continue to go to those who are actively seeking it.

    Has anyone else noticed that even those foundations/skin coverage products that match a greater variety of brown skin-tones don’t necessarily photograph well. Make-up that looks flawless in person can look downright tragic in photos–particularly when lots of light or a flash is involved. I don’t think it’s enough for companies to carry a variety of colors, or give us some warm fuzzy ad campaign, they’re going to have to put some serious money and thought into quality products.

  6. You are so on point with this one Bella.I guess i have’nt tried makeup because i’m afraid of looking like a member of the Insane Clown Posse.I feel a change comin on for myself as far as wearing makeup,and yes they should bring the Woman of Color event to the DMV area(D.C, Maryland, Virginia).

  7. ITA with Kiara. I just got into wearing makeup daily, and splurged at the MAC store after a makeover. Kiara, try a MAC makeover. I picked the consultant with the color and style I liked the most and asked her to give me a makeover. I loved it. S/He’ll ask you some questions and show you how to put it on correctly. (I went to the one at Fair Oaks Mall, Pentagon City is waay to crowded for me).
    I would LOVE to see a WOC event in Da DMV, as we say. :)

  8. ETA: I heart Damone Roberts!! I love him on 10 Years Younger, an I want his hair AND eyebrows.!!!

  9. westindiangal says:

    @nina
    generally the foundation won’t photograph well due to the presence of titanium dioxide. Not all foundations contain that ingredient, or some might contain lesser amounts that would photograph better.

    I myself use many brands of cosmetics. I find that the one big issue is finding a good match for foundation. Other than that, most brands offer colors that work well for WOC.

  10. I have used Prescriptives for years as a foundation due to the variety of shades and the ability to custom blend your foundation.

    I also use Bare Minerals foundation and love the color match and texture of the mineral foundation.

    So glad that companies are stepping up and offering shades for ALL WOMEN.

  11. @nikki thanks girl,and i surely will try your suggestions.I was just talking to a friend of mine today about Damone, his perfect hair ,and eyebrows.

  12. :) glad to help. :) ( and how does he get his hair like that!?! I love it!!)

  13. I’m dark skinned and have been using Perscriptives foundations for years. It’s works, it’s light and blends in well.

    I don’t have problem with make up at all. I stick to the brands that work for me, Bobbi Brown, Prescriptives, Chanel, Stila (lip gloss) and Tish McEvoy (sp). I know they are more expensive that drugstore brands but I have a short natural, and I’m older so I can’t mess around with my skincare or make up. I would rather skimped on something else.

  14. Maybe Im the only one ..but I’ve used Mary Kay for years..not for the lack of not trying to find other products.But I’ve found that MK (even using medium coverage)makes me so oily especially in the summer. Im thinking about trying Dermablend and believe it or not Avon has a new mousse foundation stick that’s said to be good. I found MAC to be too heavy for me..any words of help?

  15. You could go to Sephora, where they’re not inclined to sell you a particular brand, unlike when you go to a specific counter. You could go back to MAC and see if maybe a different formula would work for you. Or maybe you just need to use a setting powder, if you’re not already.

  16. If getting makeup for black skin is hard in the USA you can’t even imagine how hard it is in the UK. I was on a mission to get makeup a few months ago and the only makeup that claim close to my complexion was orange! And the women at the counters had the audacity to tell me it looked good and was a perfect match LOL! I just don’t understand why companies will put black/brown women on their campaigns but not cater to us and why is it so hard for them to create makeup in a variety of tones. Come on its 2009 now!

  17. Thanks westindiangal, at least now I know what to avoid. Titanium dioxide sounds familiar. It’s probably the same ingredient in moisturizers with spf that makes me look ashy and grey.

    PrimaD, I’m right there with you, and I often wonder how much of their own products these cosmetic companies use on the models in their advertisements. But I guess it’s all par for the course when you consider how many hair care companies use models with hair pieces in their ads.

  18. topseekrit says:

    Hey Afrobella!

    Do you have any tips for using loose or pressed powder for us brown sistahs? Should we use the translucent or one that matches our skin tone? Is it better applied with a sponge or brush?

  19. mochachoc says:

    Sounds great. It’s high time these large companies realised our money is as green as the rest. I’m looking forward to high profile event like this in London. We have the Afro hair and beauty show but it has a long way to go in my opinion.

  20. All I have to say is IMAN Second to None Luminous Foundation. I am Earth 2 and it is heaven on my skin. Best of all it cost me 14.99. You will have to order it online if you don’t live in an area with tons of black people. I bought it online at Target, you can also get it at drugstore.com. Try her!

  21. IMAN Second to None Luminous Foundation. I am an Earth 2 and it is heaven on my skin. Only thing is it’s hard to find so best bet, buy it online. I bought online at Target, and I beleive drugstore.com sells it too. It only costs 14.99 plus shipping and handling. Loves it!

  22. sorry for the duplication. Having computer problems.

  23. cdona: you may have to change the type of makeup you use according to the season. In the winter and fall, I use the creme foundation. In the spring and summer, I use the powder as foundation because of the humidity, or skip it all together. Oil + makeup + sweat = NOT CUTENESS!! lol I’ve heard good things about Mary Kay (love their skin care line) and Iman.

  24. @ PrimaD, I do’nt know where you live in the UK, but I live just outside London and have easy access to MAC, Bobbi Brown, Prescriptives, Becca, Iman, Bare Minerals and more.
    I know outside the major cities availability is not the best which may be a problem for you if that is where you live.

    Selfridges or Space Nk are good places to start.
    Harvey Nichols is also great.

    I find it depends a lot on the consultant but buy nothing with out taking a sample and at least you will of wasted nothing but your time.

    I keep a empty sample bottle with me in case they say they do’nt have one.

  25. thanks to all the good advice.. im pretty good with my make-up but as i get older(37) i’ve noticed a change in my oil production and being a fla girl that can be not so cute at times and trust cuteness is always a major factor;)!!! thanks again

  26. michelle says:

    As soon as Obama is not president anymore the whole black obama effect will slowly die out. They aren’t doing this because they care about black latina, asian, even more so black. They are they are putting on a show so they can sell.

  27. rissa86 says:

    omg kiara I feel you. I am experimenting with make up because I feel that when I put it on I look crazy. As a young woman I don’t always have the mac budget, but what I love about sephora is that you can try things on and you have so many brands to choose from. And as far as drug stores go, I am usually the last available shade for foundation, so lord help me in the summer.

  28. lexibugg says:

    i love MAC, and will not support any brand thet does not fully acommodate the varied complexions of women of color!! i have a very “strange” tone, very deep and has a strong red undertone!! bareminerals is also great, no mica so no ashy cast on my skin!!! a lot more women of color need to hit up a make up counter, not cause they arent beautiful, but because they look crazy trying to figure out how to do their own make up!!! and speaking of coveting our own beauty, am i the only sista obcessed with lip plumper!! i was robbed in that department!!

  29. Milani makes great, affordable cream-to-powder. A cousin turned me on to it, I’ve been buying it for years now. You can find it at Walgreens or Longs Drugs. It’s only around $5.00. Even my mom, who only buys MAC (since like everyone else said, they offer our colors) uses Milani when she doesn’t feel like handing over $25. My only issue is that it rubs off a bit easily, but I’ve learned now to put moisturizer on before hand so I don’t feel the need to touch my face =D

  30. What about Fashion Fair? Im 25 and it is better than all these companies that’s out. It’s only for women of color. The line totally changed since the father died. I have mixed under tones and it works great. Try their fast finish foundation stick. I use pecan. I always get people saying I have have great skin when I wear it.

  31. Hi Afrobella,

    I have for many years been a loyal MAC customer enoying the effortless catering to my needs however as with such loyalty I have noticed the feeling of being taken for granted.

    The range of foundations etc have continued to satisfy my needs and still leave me happy – as do the “classic” lipsticks/glasses but the new promos are increasingly aimed at a more narrow band of women. This impression has been bourne out while visiting MAC counters in NY, Paris and London (my home)where Beauty advisers have confided that since being under the Estee Lauder umbrella the emphasis has continually being concentrated on white women. Most recently, while talking with two advisers in particular on separate occasions while optimistically viewing the Hello Kitty range an indian female of mid-range tones spoke of how she had looked fwd to recent colours only to be let down when she found the new choice limited without mixing – even Lavender Whip lipstick was unsuitable. At another flagship counter a Jewish lady raved about Chignon lipstick which was a break from the usual new nordic palettes. An important message conveyed by the Indian lady was the fact that at “her” counter in the heart of London’s premier store, Black and Asian women were the bulk of the shoppers who are being given a second-rate service. What I think is so sad is that Mac still continues to do well because what’s the alternative? The choice is even less value elsewhere but I do think we should ask for more bang for our buck!

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