When Being Beautiful Equals Being White

The beauty industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. It is also one of the most profitable ones, accounting for up to $511 billion in 2021 alone. But there are many problems with this industry, and one of the major problems is representation. 

I remember reading magazines as a young girl and peering at the pictures of the models and thinking to myself, “She is so beautiful”, while constantly second-guessing myself. 

I remember my first make-up item. It was a Jackelin lipstick in red. I remember the first time I wore it too, how embarrassed I was when someone commented that “it didn’t suit me”. 

I think the only thing the beauty industry hasn’t done is send a worldwide broadcast saying “being white is the S.I unit for beauty” because, in every other way, it has expressed that being white is tantamount to being beautiful. 

It’s everywhere, from the beauty ads, videos, pictures, to the shades foundations come in, to the composition of make-up products, almost everything for the non-white market is an afterthought. 

Here are ways the beauty industry has implied that being beautiful equals being white:

The women who are “beautiful” are white

I did a quick google search of beautiful women and the results showed one black woman, two Latina women, and twelve white women. This is a simple representation of the beauty industry. For every black woman on a runway, there are twelve other white women who will most likely be considered for more jobs. It’s almost as if the only reason they even included black women is so that we can shut up about “representation”. Meanwhile, in reality, there is still barely any amount of accurate representation.  

Straight hair equals perfect hair

I saw a tweet sometime ago where a woman wrote that her employer queried her for having an “untidy hairstyle”. The hairstyle in question was her natural hair in a fro. The beauty industry promotes that black women must have their hair straightened to make it “tidy”, which is because only white people have naturally straight hair. 

Women of colour struggling to find beauty products

From struggling to find your foundation shade to struggling to find a good sunscreen. For women of colour, the struggle almost doesn’t end because the beauty industry never manufactures products with us as its target audience. The only part of the industry that targets us is those who produce beauty enhancement products and feed off the insecurity of women of colour who want to look like white women. 

Lighter women of colour are deemed more beautiful

If you pay close attention to the beauty industry, the “brand” of women of colour who are glamorised are the lighter-skinned women, who are mostly mixed raced. The media also promotes this subtly when mixed-raced black models are chosen over darker models, implying that darker-skinned people are not as beautiful as the lighter-skinned ones.   

White people set the beauty standards

Braids were uncool and unprofessional until white women started wearing them, same with afros, and many more hairstyles. It’s funny because it’s a trend for these women, but women of colour have been suffering for ages for wearing braids and having their hair in afros, and suddenly white women wear them and they are cool? 

It’s unfair to have only white women determine what beauty standards are because that way only they can attain them.

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