The Conversation: Women of Colour vs The Industry


“We have to confront ourselves.  Do we like what we see in the mirror?  And according to our light, according to our understanding, according to our courage … we will have to say yea or nay – and rise!” Maya Angelou

The quote above by Maya Angelou was one of the thought-provoking closing remarks by Thandie Newton during The Beauty Project event on Tuesday. Beauty, I believe has to start from within before we start looking on the outside and it all begins with you! The beauty world is a multi-billion dollar industry and still growing, with so many products and brands to choose from why is it still so difficult to find mainstream products on the shelves of department stores  for women of colour? This question among many others were covered at the Pretty White Female even organised by Sali Hughes, The Guardian’s weekend beauty columnist, in Selfridges.

Film star Thandie Newton and her longtime makeup artist and co-creator of blog ThandieKay, Kay Montano, sat alongside BBC Radio 1 presenter Gemma Cairney and health & beauty director of Women’s Health, Anita Bhagwandas. joined Sali Hughes on the stage to debate why non-white women were neglected.


The room was filled with so many beautiful women of all shades ready to talk about why women of colour are largely neglected in the beauty industry. This discussion started with the ladies on the panel sharing their experiences when they were younger on the difficulty of finding products and make up that worked for them with Anita recalling an experience where her makeup resembled that of the scream mask and tearing up and throwing away every picture. I’m sure we all have gone through similar experience where your foundation just does not match you skin especially when a photo is taken with a flash. Nowadays you have to buy two different foundations just to match your skin tone.

Thandie mentioned that ‘if the make-up was in the stores longer, girls would go and get it and then the stores would get more, and they’d realise that everybody wants it, and then they would stock it.’ Unfortunately when it comes to stocking products, there is a 6 month time-lapse to determine what sells and stays on the shelves.  Unfortunately this has resulted in a separation of and ‘ghettoization’ of makeup for women of colour, where you have to go your local hair and beauty store to find products for your skin. Just like if a black woman is on the cover it is assumed to be a specialist magazine resulting in less sales than a magazine with a white woman is viewed as a mainstream publication. One point that particularly stood out for me was the focus on the younger generations.

Does the beauty industry create insecurities or confidence?

We as adults, and a society have such a huge responsibility to encourage younger girls to EMBRACE THEIR BEAUTY and accept themselves first as they are before we create a generation of insecure and artificial adults. We need to convey a positive image of what true beauty is and this includes seeing more women of colour on the covers of glossy magazines and to end this light skin vs dark skin that seems to be creating another ‘sub-seperation’ in our community; to be honest this trend just needs to stop.

We need to realise we have economic power, with women of colour spending 18% more on beauty products than our counterparts. So why not cater to us? “If they don’t make your foundation don’t buy their lipstick!” Thandie Newton I absolutely love this statement and it is so true!

Although there is so much that needs to change in our society it important not to focus our on the negative because it does not achieve anything. ‘If you don’t like something change it.‘ We need to support each other as women regardless of race, we need a revolution. There are so many new businesses and brands that would benefit from our support because it is these business that will lessen the divide in the beauty industry as a whole. This discussion definitely put a spotlight on what needs to change and a I hope this conversation continues and creates a wave of change and acceptance that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes and colours!

It is so inspiring as young woman to see other women that passionate about issues like these. Thank you to Sali Hughes for creating such a forum and for the beautiful ladies on the panel that shared their personal stories that made you feel like you weren’t the only one to go through some of those crazy experiences. I look forward to having more conversations like this!




What are your thoughts? Leave your comments below.




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