Dear Companies, It’s Time To Stop Capitalizing on Minorities’ Struggles

The corporate world as a whole evidently values its customers much less than the profit they provide. In recent years, a variety of social movements have occurred, their impact and influence only bolstered by modern day widespread social media use. Along with these movements came the seemingly earnest and cooperative support of companies — especially those specializing in fashion and cosmetics — whose ethics or products had the potential to be scrutinized by the public. Despite the progressive images these companies attempted to project with makeup and clothing aimed towards people of color and those requiring plus-sized attire, their true values when not monetarily motivated create a sharp contrast from their current actions. Only acting to diversify their products when the potential for mass financial gain is increased, the behavior of these businesses, although beneficial at face value to those initially excluded from their projected consumer bases, is best described as pandering and ingenuine.

Strolling fruitlessly down aisle after aisle at drug and makeup stores, people of color have always struggled to find cosmetics, especially skin products such as foundation and concealer, formulated in shades to match their skin. Born with breathtaking hues of caramel, swirls of bronze, and pools of sable, all tinged with unique undertones, these individuals are no rare sight, their presence just as prominent as their white counterparts in the consumer world. Despite this, companies have only recently begun to cater to their needs, slowly realizing the profitability of inclusivity. An employee for makeup retailer giant Sephora who wishes to remain anonymous commented on the rapid influx of cosmetic brands racing to release products with extended shade ranges and accessibility.

“I mean, it’s obvious that they see the money in it now,” the employee said. “I remember being a teenager and wearing foundation made for someone much lighter in skin tone than me because my local makeup store only carried six shades of it, all made for white people.”

An employee of MAC Cosmetics, a cosmetic company known for having had carried a wide range of shades of skin products for a considerable amount of time, also commented on the matter.

“At [MAC Cosmetics] we’ve had all these colors [of skin products] for such a long time because we know it’s a necessity, not an option,” the employee said.

Unfortunately, the majority of makeup brands did consider inclusivity just that: a choice. Their current bids to diversify themselves and appeal to a wider consumer base are instead obviously motivated by their desire for financial gain and the backlash they have received from the media following the criticisms of several popular internet beauty enthusiasts and makeup artists with large followings. Additionally, on the apparel side of the retail spectrum, the behavior of companies shilling clothing mirrors that of those focused on cosmetics. Through waves of critique and scrutiny with the growing popularity of the “Body Positive” movement, major clothing retailers have begun to make strides towards gaining entry to the wallets of those requiring aesthetically pleasing and well-fitting plus-size apparel. An employee working for the notable fastfashion brand Forever 21 anonymously commented on the subject.

“It’s really great that more people can have easier access to clothes that they actually want,” the employee said. “But of course [Forever 21] wouldn’t have added all of this [plus-size clothing] without, you know, the public telling them to or [the company] wanting more money.”

Many groups of people, especially those of color or in the plus-size community, benefit significantly from the attempts of cosmetic and apparel companies to make their brand more appealing through diversification tactics. However, the true motivations and priorities of said companies must be acknowledged as their actual support for inclusivity and equality is almost entirely monetarily motivated. Backed into corners by social media movements and hungry for potential profit from the half of society they previously ignored, the actions of these businesses are in no way driven by genuine concern or progressiveness. Overall, their blatant refusal to cater to a significant portion of the consumer base prior to the development of potential financial loss (should they ignore the now booming criticism of influential individuals) is utterly reprehensible and must not be forgotten as they attempt to hail themselves as the leaders of diversity.