6 WOC In The Beauty Biz Who Fought For Representation

The beauty industry has treated women of color like second class citizens since it started

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/SIGMA

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/SIGMA

The beauty industry has treated women of color like second class citizens since it started. Luckily, women from this neglected community took it upon themselves to expose the beauty industry’s ignorance. They proved that focusing on Eurocentric standards of beauty and pretending like this demographic doesn’t exist was a huge mistake. From influencers to entrepreneurs, these are some of the game changers that fought to give those of us that felt unseen the representation and respect we deserve.

1. Rihanna

Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty makeup line shook up the game and made people who were STILL ignoring women of color in this industry wake up last year. The advertising campaign embraced diversity in every way and its inclusive 40 shades of foundation backed that message up. “That was very important to me,” Rihanna told InStyle. “I wanted everyone to feel included. We actually started with foundation because it’s the very first makeup product I fell in love with,” she added. Such a wide selection of shades is unheard of for a new brand. Catering to the deeper end of the spectrum while caring about undertones is even more groundbreaking. But Fenty Beauty proved that it was a winning strategy when the product flew off the shelves. wp_*posts

2. Iman


The level of ignorance and disrespect towards women of color that Iman had to endure throughout the life of her cosmetics brand IMAN Cosmetics is infuriating. The supermodel launched her line in 1994 at J.C. Penney. Despite having made millions in sales, when the brand moved on to the mass market with Procter & Gamble ten years later, the new retailers would only give the brand placement at a fraction of their stores. Iman faced another battle when it came to introducing foundations. “Last year, I decided to create a liquid foundation, which I have been told numerous times by the retailers, ‘Oh, black women don’t buy liquid foundation,’ right?” she told The Cut in 2012. Iman moved forward anyway, and within three months the product was her top selling item.wp_*posts

3. Eunice W. Johnson


Johnson was already fighting for the representation of the Black community in fashion before shifting her attention to beauty. The lack of foundations available for women of color became clear when she struggled to find matches for models in her traveling Ebony Fashion Fair shows, which started in 1958. Johnson was ignored when she asked beauty brands to address this gap in the market. She solved the problem herself and in 1973, Fashion Fair Cosmetics was born. It was the first prestige line of makeup African American women could buy at department stores. According to the New York Times, her success made brands like Revlon, Avon, and Max Factor introduce complexion products that catered to women of color. wp_*posts

4. Carolina Contreras aka Miss Rizos

The Afro-Latina made waves by opening the Miss Rizos Salon which celebrates natural hair in Dominican Republic. Eurocentric standards of beauty reign supreme on the island and Contreras was bullied and discriminated against over her pajon. “In the Dominican Republic, having kinky or coarse hair is perceived as something that is unclean, unkept, something that is simply not beautiful,” Contreras said in a profile by Great Big Story. “The salon really cares about the way curly hair is perceived in society and we want to be a part of that change fully,” she added. The entrepreneur is successfully doing that, one client at a time. wp_*posts

5. Nyma Tang

The beauty YouTuber went viral last year with her video series called the “The Darkest Shade.” As the name suggests, she tests the darkest shade of face products carried by every brand she can get her hand on to see if they truly cater to women with her skin tone. “The Darkest Shade’ series was inspired by going to different makeup counters and not being able to readily find makeup in my shade,” Tang told Allure. Even if she knows the darkest shade a brand carries won’t work for her (the KKW Beauty contour kit is one example), she will still try it on camera, which puts them on blast and ultimately brings awareness to the fact that women like her are being ignored. “People tend to not know what to do with my complexion,” she said. “Also, my ‘Darkest Shade’ series can be used as a reference list of different cosmetic companies that cater to deeper skin tones.” wp_*posts

6. Jackie Aina

The influencer has been advocating for representation in the beauty industry on her YouTube channel for years. She even won an NACCP YouTuber of the Year Award for her efforts! Aina’s work caught the attention of Too Faced Cosmetics and the brand hired her to help extend its Born This Way Foundation shade range. “I will be working with one of my favorite brands @toofaced to help expand their Born This Way foundation line and create darker AND deeper shades for all of you,” she wrote on Instagram. “I’m so glad that all of the awareness we’ve created about INCLUSIVENESS is finally being heard and I get to curate these new shades from the FORMULA all the way to the shade names that will be available to all of you in the near future!!! This is literally one of my dreams!”

In this Article

curly hair empowerment Fenty Beauty Makeup representation rihanna WOC
More on this topic