Empty shelves and used up testers in the Fenty Beauty section at Sephora are nothing new. The store location I frequent had several women gathered around it when I visited, searching for something to try – or buy. One woman was on her phone buzzing away at a friend to let them know they were at the store and was filling them in on the product line. Some were getting assistance from employees with the perfect shade of foundation that they wanted to purchase. I was mingling around checking out the textures of everything on display. I smiled to myself and thought “this line is a winner”.
But why? Why has this makeup line burst through the gates with a launch that hasn’t been seen in quite some time? This brand, not even on the market a little while ago, has become a must have by professionals and amateurs alike, and is making established brands with loyal followers sit up and take notice.
An employee told me they’ve had several shipments of product come in and by noon the same day, many of the colours have sold out. The deepest shades are never there for women of colour, and everyone else for that matter can’t seem to get enough of something they’ve been waiting for for a while. I’ve heard the notion that it’s because Rihanna is a celebrity and people are flocking to try something new. The reality is that isn’t what’s keeping the shelves empty.
Fenty Beauty obviously isn’t the first line of makeup to focus on inclusion in their skin tone range. Companies like Bobbi Brown and Nars (two of my personal faves) have been doing this for years and have been doing it well. Truth be told, as an artist, I definitely have loyalties to certain brands. This is how I was when MAC came on the scene. They’re truly one of the first brands to broaden the range of skin tones available, garnering them the cult following they still have today. But for me, they’ve lost their edge. Shades that haven’t been updated or tweaked in years keeps them below the line of perfection. Yep, they have deeper tones but something is still “off” (that’s a whole other article right there). Just having darker colours is not enough, however, with other brands boasting the same amount of shades as Fenty Beauty (40 to be exact), but still not getting the loyal following.
It’s having the right colours that matters, and to me, that’s what places FB among the ranks of the well-known and respected brands on the market. Frankly, she got it right. Cool colours that aren’t too pink, warm ones that are nice and “yellow-y” and neutrals that are balanced well.
At the end of the day, as women of colour, we don’t want to have to order our makeup predominantly online or find that one shop that sells the brand we covet. We want to be mainstream. We want to walk into the Sephoras of the world and see ourselves represented on the shelves – to be included. Women like to have common ground and being able to use the same brand your girlfriends use (regardless of their ethnicity) makes us feel included.
But let me be clear, it’s not for a lack of options. There are over 30 Black-owned cosmetic brands that I guarantee you’ve never heard of. Sadly, most of these companies are relegated to selling online as many will never be given the opportunity to sell on a large-scale retail level because they’re not “well-known”. You would be hard pressed to find any “obscure” brand at a store like Sephora and if you do, it wouldn’t be for a company that sells makeup for women of colour (just my two cents). But when you’re Rihanna, you don’t need to get your foot in the door – you just kick that sucker down and walk in.
What this line shows how much Rihanna’s personal brand has evolved. When she first came on the scene we only knew her as a singer. She was un-American and beautiful so people took notice. Then she changed her look and the style of music she sang and was full of edge. People took even more notice. Then she began her philanthropic work and attended charity balls in avant garde couture. The high fashion world took notice. Now Rihanna is regarded as an icon in the fashion industry, a trend setter that never takes a wrong turn, and so the launch of a beauty line was a perfect storm of circumstance and planning.
Rhianna is protective of her name as a brand, so we trusted that a launch of a makeup line from someone who cares about her image this much would be worth a try. And we were right. For me, it hits all the right notes. The collection isn’t too overwhelming (yet) as there are no shadows or lip colours to contend with (well there’s one universal gloss). There are highlighters and contours correctors, foundations…basically it’s focus is on the skin.
The big players better take notice if they want to stay competitive and relevant. It would be a mistake to chalk Fenty’s success to being a part of the “one hit wonder” syndrome. We deserve to be represented – all of us do, so any brand that can put in their money with their mouth is and invest the dollars into thorough research and development to produce a line this inclusive is worth our support. This MUA is all for it!