Talk of diversity and inclusion in the beauty industry often surrounds shade range in foundation. However, when it comes to skincare, how do we approach representation and anti-racism beyond a diverse group of models? At the end of the day, plastering a diverse range of shades on an Instagram feed is nothing more than a performative, superficial act if there is no work to dismantle racism behind the scenes. As both a commitment to customers, and a call to brand owners to think about how to address these multi-faceted, important issues, I wanted to share the following.
One of my goals when I launched Be Fancy was to create a skincare brand that was accessible to many —specifically through an affordable price point and customer ability to purchase and receive products easily through online platforms that provide quick delivery. Skincare is for everyone, and safe, high-quality skincare is for everyone.
There is no shortage of vegan, cruelty-free skincare brands, but is there intention and thought going into having a wide-ranging customer base? Through high price point and availability mainly at upscale brick and mortar stores in mostly white areas, or online through a website that seems to target a white demographic, both implicit and explicit messages are often sent to potential customers.
If someone works long days, they will struggle to find the time or energy to make it to a brick and mortar store to make a purchase. Are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) customers going to feel welcome and seen on the brand website? If a brand’s products are sold at high-end stores in a predominantly white area, and the price point really necessitates that someone sample a tester before purchase, is someone from a marginalized group necessarily going to feel comfortable going in to make the purchase? Are they going to be followed around the store?
There simply can’t be an expectation of a diverse customer base without the intention of reasonable pricing, accessibility, and visibility in a country where race, income, time, ownership of space, and geography are inextricably tied together through centuries of systemic racism.
While there are certainly ingredients that can drive up the cost of producing a product, there are other things such as packaging, marketing, and product placement decisions that can offset these costs without compromising on quality. This is a decision I will continue to consciously made for Be Fancy. I will always cut costs on packaging or marketing, rather than cut out customers. Be Fancy will always be available on large online platforms that allow for quick buying and delivery, and easy returns.
It’s true that not every brand or product in any industry needs to be accessible to everyone. However, how can brands genuinely commit to anti-racism work without finding ways to reach more customers? Who are the brand's customers? Attending a clean beauty trade show or an indie trade show could have one thinking that white women are the target, sought-after consumer. How could anyone know when BIPOC consumers from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds aren't being reached? This is both a call I make to other brand owners, and an ongoing commitment to my initial mission when I launched Be Fancy. We must continue to honesty reflect on our commitments and shortcomings.
Inclusivity, of course, also extends to inside the company. Without true diversity of employees, there is no diversity of thought or experience, and there will certainly be no ability to ensure every potential customer is reached with inclusivity and compassion. Without a diverse makeup of employees, and a stated commitment to anti-racism, there is no accountability. The same forms of racism that exist in the outside world, also take place in the workplace, ranging from BIPOC being passed over for promotions, or never hired in the first place, to workplace dress codes that police the natural hair of Black women, to microaggressions such as questions like “what are you?” or “where are you from?” that erase or minimize the citizenship and humanity of the person being questioned.
Right now, I, a multi-racial Filipina Latina, am the only employee. I certainly don’t do everything alone, but the work I don’t do is contracted out, or done with the help of family. When the time comes to hire, I commit to making sure the brand, at a minimum, accurately represents the demographics of the United States. Black Americans make up 15% of the population and I will make sure they are represented at least at this percentage at every level of the company.
There will be mandatory and ongoing anti-racism education, with attention not only to bias in hiring practices, but also making sure the workplace itself is safe for BIPOC.
There will be initiatives to support BIPOC (with an assurance that Black-owned businesses will be represented) in launching brands in the beauty industry. The barriers to entry are high, as the capital required to have a strong launch out of the gate is beyond what most people have at their disposal. When you take into account that generational wealth rarely extends beyond white families, and banks often are discriminatory in lending practices, other means such as family or bank loans are unlikely to be helpful to BIPOC founders. There are certainly success stories of brands founded with no capital and bootstrapped to success, however this is a tough road. I know, and I want to help BIPOC enter the industry on a more even playing field.
In the interim, I commit to re-evaluating where I can diversify contractors (designers, copyeditors, etc.) and vendors (packaging, labs). I launched Be Fancy by spending under $700 to hand-fill and hand-label 100 units of a white label makeup remover that would later be reformulated to become the So, So Coco on shelves today. Over the past two years, I have relied mainly on contractors through Upwork for single jobs, nearly all of whom are located abroad. While I highly recommend this approach for those starting with very little, the brand has reached a point where I can and will be intentionally seeking out US-based BlPOC contractors.
I am open to questions, inquiries, and comments about anything above, or any other way in which Be Fancy can be a part of actively dismantling anti-Blackness and all forms of racism in our society.