The European standard of beauty is always in our face; mainstream beauty is exclusively white. An article by Susan L. Bryant called “The Beauty Ideal: The Effects of European Standards of Beauty on Black Women” she says, “Black women are particularly vulnerable to the effects of European standards of beauty, because these standards emphasize skin colors and hair types that exclude many black women, especially those of darker skin.” Many celebrities have been ‘white washed’ especially more now than in the 80s & 90s, whether we realise it or not and if it’s been said or not, implied or not, mixed & black women have always been made to feel that our natural beauty cannot be embraced. While all images in advertising very narrowly reflect society, there’s no doubt that it’s highly more Eurocentric beauty driven. Melariche is a brand that exclusively carries brands for women of colour. A one stop online shop for products and advice. I was asked to share my Melariche story about how the western beauty standard has affected my self-esteem...
Growing up there was not as many mixed or black children within my environment as there is now - such as school, after school clubs. I knew I was different, I just had to look around and when you are given Barbie's that look nothing like you, Disney Princesses are what most little girls want to be & subconsciously these things are fed to young children. There's a thought; Would I be pretty or enough for others if I didn't look like what was popular and flying off shelves?
It wasn't until I was 11, did I have my first incident of being attacked for my race & skin colour. I was bullied for being mixed race – yes it happens. I am a child from a black mother and white father but solely know and raised by my black family. Black culture was all I knew. The girl told me such things as ‘You’re a half breed’, ‘You should die’, ‘You’re disgusting’, ‘Mutt’. And this came at the hands of a black girl, my age, who was of a darker complexion who possibly was too a victim also of the European standard of beauty and she probably saw in me that I had ‘light skin privilege’ - FACT: Light-Skinned Privilege Doesn’t Make You Immune To Discrimination. She attacked me and any confusion I had begun to resonate more where my self-esteem was diminished. I didn’t feel beautiful; I didn’t belong anywhere. I felt excluded by my white family - possibly because of who my mother was and I am the product. During my teens I wasn’t too fussed over make-up it wasn’t a big thing around me, too much of a tomboy, makeup wasn't a thing in my home so it didn’t affect me until I was about 18 and started to take an interest in make-up, purchasing magazines. Browsing the aisles and noticing that there were hardly any women of colour friendly shades, even for me. Foundation stopped about between 4-6 shades, all of which wouldn’t accommodate me unless I purchased 2, just to mix.
For years, when I got into makeup, I never wore foundation. I'd simply just do my eye makeup and lips to be honest, my skin didn't really need it looking back but just because I didn't then, doesn't mean others didn't. I think it took me until I was about 21 before I started using foundation. I didn’t realise at the time but this makeup wasn’t made for me at all – and neither was the ideal of beauty that I saw on T.V & magazines. It’s as if we don’t exist.
Now I know as someone with a lighter complexion besides the occasion when younger and while visiting Paris - This was the first time I'd experienced racial taunting as an adult. As I boarded the train, I was the only person of colour in the immediate 2 carriages and refused my seat by someone sitting in it, they made monkey noises at me and kept referring to me as one and ugly. After I kept insisting for them to give me my seat, they moved exclaiming they wouldn't want to sit anywhere near a monkey. During that journey until I left, I kept having to hear the remarks. It doesn't do much for your self-esteem. - I’ve not had it as hard as my darker complexioned sisters. At the same time, it’s still a problem because we have varied skin tones, undertones as women of colour and shouldn’t be excluded for that reason. The excuse that there’s no demand is bullshit; it doesn’t take more time to do darker foundations. The women of colour they have fronting campaign, majority have smaller features to look similar to their white counterpart. So although companies ‘try’ they still exclude more ethnic features. I feel the beauty industry thrives off manipulating women’s feelings, making us feel bad about ourselves, we need to change our ‘flaws’ that don’t fit into their standard and it seemed to show looking at the brands.
Sleek Makeup use to be called Sleek Cosmetics, it was very women of colour friendly and catered predominantly for Black Mixed Race and Asian women (their words), it use to be found in our hair stores, normally right by the counter. When Sleek Cosmetics went through its rebrand to become Sleek Cosmetics, it completely dropped the friendly aim towards women of colour, discontinued shades that were WOC friendly and started to cater more to others which left a lot of women of colour disappointed and began selling in Superdrug & now Boots but I do think the brand has over the years become very diverse. In all, the beauty industry is coming along but it's still got very far to go.
Self-esteem building can start at home. I was told I was beautiful and fussed over but when you're seeing and hearing different from your peers, what your family or family friends say it becomes "but you're meant to say things like that...!".
I think brands can start with helping girls from in their teens by front campaigns to help self-esteem, by either keeping it up or building it. Letting them know that they're a beauty and to not be discouraged by a lot of the cultural appropriation that's going on, the white washing within the media & negative comments. Brands could also team up a lot more with positive figures from the community - by having ambassadors, who also have a story of their own and how they overcame them. There's so much more now in terms of the internet with exposure and it can be a good and bad thing but as long as there's more awareness, multi-cultural images and campaigns aimed at young girls hopefully they'll know to love themselves and to not feel they're less than & to always compare themselves to European beauty standards.