The term “nude” as a colour descriptor is rooted in exclusion, just like the beauty and fashion industries that often employ it.
When i was a young girl and signed up for ballet classes, I couldn’t find a leotard, tights or slippers that matched my skin tone. And when I was a teenager shopping for nude bras, underwear and lipsticks, the same problem resurfaced. Even when I started working as a makeup artist at a Bobbi Brown counter in 2012, it and M•A•C were the only cosmetics brands that carried “mochas,” “caramels” and “terracottas.” “It was challenging for me to find diverse shades at the beginning of my career,” concurs makeup artist Andrew Ly. “You really had to dig deep and search multiple brands to make sure your kit was fully prepared.”
To me, as a woman of colour, this lack of options was another reminder that the world we live in was not made for us. The term “nude” as a colour descriptor is rooted in exclusion, just like the beauty and fashion industries that often employ it. Though there has been some improvement, the current systems still foster an environment in which lighter skin tones are prioritized and valued over darker ones. Take Band-Aid Brand, which launched a new product line that embraces diversity only last June. How it took it 100 years—and last summer’s protests—to acknowledge that “flesh tone” is not a universal one-size-fits-all colour is beyond me.
Even today, few beauty brands have a truly inclusive range, but we’re headed in the right direction. Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty is making a positive impact with its broad spectrum of shades, and Dior, NARS and CoverGirl have all extended their offerings in the past five years. Like Rihanna, Canadian Gina Delisme founded her brand, Nagi Cosmetics, to celebrate the melanated and provide products formulated with women of colour in mind. This gradual move toward inclusivity has been noticed by con- sumers and industry professionals alike. “I personally noticed the industry shift back in 2013, the year NARS launched its Radiant Creamy Concealer in 10 shades—now available in 30,” says Ly.
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“It’s important for me to make sure that clients sitting in my chair feel welcomed, appreciated and celebrated.”
Though the beauty industry finally seems to be listening, this may in part be because there’s money to be made: In 2017, Black shoppers in the U.S. spent $580 million on skincare alone. Black culture is also influencing countless trends right now, in everything from music and fashion to art and entertainment. BIPOC represent the majority of the world’s population; in Canada, they make up 22.3 percent (that’s about 8,502,744 people), and it’s projected that they’ll make up a third by 2036.
If brands want to stay relevant, they have to be serious about catering to a diverse group and make an effort to speak to consumers who have historically been ignored. Though it has been a long time coming, “nude” is finally starting to be shown in all of its hues.