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How Much Progress Is the Beauty World Making With Race?

Every day presents an opportunity to look at what we find beautiful, but because today celebrates the life, work, struggles, and successes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I've been thinking a lot lately about race—and more specifically, how our ideas of beauty have (and haven't) progressed since his activist days.

Today, beauty icons are more diverse than they were in King's day. Jessica Alba, Beyonce, Lucy Liu, and Aishwarya Rai can't step on a red carpet without thousands of women wanting to look like them. That's a big improvement from the '60s (just try to find a woman of color in vintage ads).

But at the same time, I can't help but notice that with the exception of a few models like Liya Kebede, Du Juan, Oluchi, and Chanel Iman, women of color haven't exactly been getting a lot of runway time at recent fashion weeks. And I'm amazed that major cosmetic launches don't include foundation for women of color. So I'm curious: How much progress do you think the beauty industry has made?


Join The Conversation
amaydlove amaydlove 9 years
more diversity, please!
Nataliee2007 Nataliee2007 9 years
There's Been Alot More Different raises seen as icon's and model's theese days. and if there not getting picked for modeling jobs its probley nothing raiscist or personal
sparkleluvr sparkleluvr 9 years
I love Tyra!
caramelqtee75 caramelqtee75 9 years
nothing has changed, if the model is black or Spanish she looks white.
staceeamos staceeamos 9 years
i'm surprised that CARGO, LANCOME, and STILA, NARS weren't an option for you. I'm a shade darker than Halle Berry and have always found options within these lines. NARS and CARGO being my favorite.
Baby-Girl Baby-Girl 9 years
I just went shopping for foundation two weeks ago at a Sephora, and I wanted to try a different brand instead of MAC and my liquid stand by Revlon. Let's just say that I ended up going into a MAC store and back to Target. I was shocked that so many lines didn't have foundations shades dark enough for someone Halle Berrry's complexion. I actually got pissed and stomped out.
orkhid orkhid 9 years
The only place I've seen asian girls prosper is the porn industry or car modeling. Now if "hot asian girls" are so joked in our pop culture...then why don't we see any more in fashion. And I've seen the few girls that are exotically dark--and i mean, DARK (nearly black)--are probably the most recognizable and loved.
Martini-Rossi Martini-Rossi 9 years
I believe a lot has changes compared to 20 years ago. But I was just at Macys a few hours ago, I was at the cometics section and though I did see many brands enbracing us what bothered me a little was the fact that there's still a seperation. For example, Fashion Fair, MAC, Iman and a new line targeted to Hispanic women,( I believe its called Bonita? I may be wrong)are for women of color. Chanel, Lancome, Sheshido (sp?) Estee, Dior etc still does not have my skin tone! its annoying, Yes alot has been done but we're not their yet.
veronicaraye veronicaraye 9 years
latina have gotten more attention...however all I seem to see on runways are those with white skin, including asians with light skin...almost never "black" or "brown"
breakbrooklyn breakbrooklyn 9 years
i agree with the comments posted. we need more diversity. i think there are definitely a good number of latinas on the runway, it's just that the latinas we see on the runway are white latinas like giselle and b/c ppl see them and say "oh there's a white girl", the fact that they are latina gets lost in the mix. i think specifically there needs to be more multiracial (like jlo) or black (like zoe saldana) latina models. i think there should be more asian supermodels. i have seen asian (all fair-skinned) models on the runway but if you asked me to name one asian supermodel, i'd probably only think of devon aoki and idk if she's even considered a supermodel. and like i said, the asian models on the runway are NEVER tan/medium/dark so it's easy to not notice them b/c they blend in with the white models. we need more indian models, cambodian, etc. and though there is a good number of black supermodels, there aren't many black women on the runway. i noticed that the runway shows are always going for fair-skin/light-skin so that the girls blend in which is probably why there are hardly any black women on the runway (unless of course it's a black girl that can "pass"- even if her features are stereotypically black, if she has very light skin,she could pass- think rihanna sans tan).
staceeamos staceeamos 9 years
I'd love to see more diversity across the board (age, race, color/creed, etc.) because I think beauty is recognized when we can visualize ourselves when admiring any woman. I agree with most of the comments that more needs to be done - so let's keep talking about it. ;-)
haute77 haute77 9 years
I agree with what everyone is saying. There isn't enough diversity, but it's a lot better than when I was growing up. If you didn't have blonde hair, fair skin, or blue eyes you were not considered pretty at all! (or at least that's how I was made to feel) I'm really glad a Korean won the Ford's Supermodel of the World this year. She doesn't have stereotypical anything. She represents Korean beauty.
bigestivediscuit bigestivediscuit 9 years
Wow, I agree with what mostly everyone has said and it's so encouraging to know that I am not the only one who thinks there needs to be more black, ASIAN, and bi/multiracial models out there - both on the runway AND even in mainstream magazine ads! And yes, fully agree with Chellybean's points about "absorbing" (great word) women of other races rather than celebrating them. And also, do you ever notice that there is one particular "look" advertising companies/agents/whatever go for when they pick ethnic minorities to be in their ads? Every East Asian person I've ever seen in ads here in the states involve women with very stereotypical features and always, always, long hair. If you look in any Chinese/Japanese/Korean/etc. magazines and the women in the beauty ads they have there, you'll see the difference, I promise! Sorry to rant, but this is an issue that is really close to my heart and I'm so glad you keep bringing it up Bella!!!
Tullia Tullia 9 years
There has been progress made, I know. especially after looking at those vintage ads. however, like plasticapple said, even when using colored woman on runways, they always try to make them resemble..caucasian :\ even Aishwarya Rai and Rihanna have their skins to look more white. What I want to see is Middle Eastern and African woman with their REAL skin colors.
LaLa0428 LaLa0428 9 years
I think its improved but not enough. In fact, this comes up when me and my mom go cosmetic shopping. In her day there was only one major brand (Fashion Fair) that catered to women of color, but now there are more major labels that have foundation for everyone. I say in her day, granted she is only 51, but I have more options than she did when she was my age. And I completely agree with bellaressa!!!! I think they automatically make darker shades, when there are many of us who fall into the medium categories.
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
I think there needs to be more diversity. Even with make-up lines that are "ethnic" are not actually ethnic, there are a lot of pigments and shades inbetween whether it's Asian, Latino, or African American. Only because your African American does not mean you are in the dark catagory. I just find it ridiculous when I go to the store and see 5 to 12 shades for everyone.
SugarKim4203 SugarKim4203 9 years
There is a lot more that can be done. I'm biracial (half Vietnamese and half Caucasian) and I know that there weren't a lot of faces that looked like mine or my "etnic" relatives growing up. Even though I'm often mistaken as being a "white girl" I still would have enjoyed seeing faces like Lucy Liu or Kimora Lee Simmons on tv or in print adds.
musewings musewings 9 years
I have a multiracial daughter who already has her mother's love for makeup, so it should be interesting to see how we fare when it comes time to buy the *real* stuff, like foundations, etc. I have a hard time finding a good foundation, too, because I'm SO fair, but I think the real issue here is what some others have pointed out--the "ideal" beauty. I always enjoy looking at my Sephora catalogs, because I think they do a pretty good job of selecting diverse models. The runways, though, are definitely lacking. What's interesting is that so many African women have that "ideal" body type... I remember comparing an Inuit woman's build to an African woman's in my cultural anthropology class! So why don't we have more African models? I think it's an indicator, unfortunately, that it's less about build and more about color.
plasticapple plasticapple 9 years
Oh, and not to mention when they do use women of color they often try to make them look more mainstream (white) by straightening their hair or using makeup to play down their features.
Dana18 Dana18 9 years
I is very unfortunate that the fashion cosmetic industry does not realize they are missing out on a large group of consumers. If they are stuck in their old fashion ways of thinking are missing the opportunity to profit from other ethnic groups.
plasticapple plasticapple 9 years
I think the small amount of progress we've seen from the big companies is purely for PR.
PinkNC PinkNC 9 years
It's 2008 now. And there still needs to be more diversity.
bingkaycoy bingkaycoy 9 years
Chellybean---white women do not age the least gracefully. A lot of them do age gracefully. However, white or Caucasian skin ages the most because of the make-up /composition of their skin. They have less melanin in their skin--the component that inhibits dangerous sun's rays. Black and Asian (especially the brown-skinned Asians) skin have more melanin, thus making them more protected by the sun's dangerous rays. This means white skin (Caucasian skin) are more prone to wrinkles if left unprotected and abused exposing too much in the sun---who are also more prone to melanoma--a type of skin cancer.
menthadict menthadict 9 years
It still bothers me how much the fashion world is lacking in majorities- ESPECIALLY in asians. Now I may be a little biased, because I am asian, but there are certainly more black or latina models than asians. In general WE NEED MORE MINORITIES. Seeing an almost white world does influence a person's mind...
mrsk02 mrsk02 9 years
Why can't cosmetic companies look outside the crayon box for a moment and open their eyes to look and see not every woman is a shade of just white?I have seen some very gorgeous latina, asian and black women, and I feel they are being slighted when it comes to makeup specifically for them.
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