14 June 2014

Pretty White Female - How Beauty Can Appeal to Every Woman - #beautyproject at Selfridges

A couple of months ago, I was excited to see Selfridges promoting their big summer beauty event, The Beauty Project.

It's been a six week programme of what Selfridges describe as "pioneering talks, interactive debates and immersive beauty experiences" and what tour de force it's been.

I have enjoyed seeing and meeting some of my favourite beauty experts, writers and bloggers, sharing their experiences and inviting debate about a range of beauty topics from body art to ageing gracefully (or in my case probably disgracefully!)

Sali Hughes hosted the discussion entitled Pretty White Female – How Beauty Can Appeal to Every Woman. In this talk, Sali asked such questions to a panel including Health & Beauty Director of Women’s Health magazine, Anita Bhagwandas, BBC Radio 1 presenter Gemma Cairney and founders of multicultural beauty site, thandiekay, the actress Thandie Newton and make-up artist and Beauty Director of Lula magazine, Kay Montano

Sali posed questions such as 'Are beauty brands doing enough for non-white women?' and "Are there enough women of colour in the media and beauty industry?". I was excited to hear Thandie's views having watched her inspiring TED Talk - 'Embracing otherness, embracing myself', in which she shared her experience of growing up as a mixed race child in Cornwall, and she didn't disappoint.

It was lovely to see an audience representative of many different cultures and backgrounds who participated in a lively debate about the lack of representation of WoC in women's magazines and feeling excluded by cosmetic and beauty companies.

Each of the panellists described their experiences through life of feeling 'otherness', of not feeling represented and not having role models with whom they could identify. 

It was moving to hear Anita’s story of how a teenage mishap with foundation, caused by limited choice at the time coupled with being sold a wholly unsuitable product, motivated her to become a journalist and writer and now beauty editor, allowing her to work from the inside out to influence and change perceptions of what WoC want.

I was especially buoyed by Thandie’s suggestion that women of colour take a positive approach to this by voting with their feet by supporting brands that are inclusive (shout out to my personal favourites MAC and Bobbi Brown and one new to me, Becca) and using the power of social media to champion the most inclusive brands and call out, in a positive way, those that could do better. 

As Sali said, beauty brands are in the business of making money and that if brands offered a greater range of colours more widely and took time to promote them for longer, women would see more choices, develop a loyalty for the brands and generate the sales they desire. 

Kay said that beauty professionals, such as herself, have a duty to promote more non-white models and use their influence to redress the balance.

I was saddened by Gemma's comments that she has struggled dealing with the pressure of fitting the traditional “Caucasian” mould but the quote of the evening that has stuck with me was Thandie's comment that we should be proud of our individuality;

'You are everything you need to be without doing anything to yourself''.

It was most enjoyable evening, gave me food for thought about confidence, self-worth, the need for positive role models and how much influence the consumer really has.

What do you think? Are non-white women fairly represented in the beauty media or by beauty brands?

I'd love to hear your thoughts here or via twitter using #beautyproject.