Thoughts on Representation, Diversity and Inclusion

Thoughts on Representation, Diversity and Inclusion

There’s been a lot going on in social media this week.

On Monday, spirits were high after Oprah’s speech at the Golden Globes.  But, as inspiring as her speech was, I couldn’t help but feel some ambivalence towards the whole #TimesUp movement.  Yes, it’s amazing that well-known women are using their voices to shine a light on sexual harassment and violence, but I couldn’t ignore the self-congratulatory nature of it all.  These women don their designer black dresses and fail to acknowledge in any meaningful way the immense amount of privilege they possess. I will never say that speaking out about sexual assault isn’t hard.  Of course it is and it requires a crazy amount of courage to do so.  But there’s a lot less at stake for a multi-millionaire who doesn’t have to worry about how to pay her rent after she’s fired…and then not hired again.  For an ordinary woman, not only is there a very real fear that her story won’t even be heard, she has to worry that she’ll be fired or demoted at work.  Her hours could be cut.  She might not get a recommendation or reference to find another job.  She has so so much more to lose then these Hollywood women, and I really didn’t feel like that fact was acknowledged at all.  So, yeah, it’s nice that the topic of sexual violence is being discussed in public forums, but I refrained from cartwheeling and instead continued to recline on my couch and scroll through Instagram.  Not to mention the Golden Globes honored Kirk Douglas who has been dogged by accusations of sexual assault and rape over the years…

Needless to say, I had some pretty mixed feelings about the Golden Globes.

Then there was a firestorm in the black fashion Instagram community after Valerie Eguavoen went off on the e-commerce powerhouse Revolve for it’s consistently all skinny and all white influencer campaigns. Then Denisse Benitez (or thugnanny if you obsess over follow her on social media) added her two cents and issued a call to action for minority bloggers to forget Revolve and create our own platforms (seriously, check out their articles). Benitez’s article has since been shared and quoted all over the Internet, including on HuffPost, Essence, Refinery 29 and Allure.  Several new Instagram accounts have popped up to showcase content creators of color, which has introduced me to some fab fashion bloggers (I’d recommend You Belong Now founded by Eguavoen because the women who have been featured thus far are amazing).

I saw lots of posts from influencers sharing their thoughts and experiences about racism, colorism and discrimination when working with brands, but for some reason I didn’t feel compelled to chime in right away. It’s not because I don’t think inclusion and diversity are important.  They are very important. The absence of dark skinned women, kinky haired women, plus-size women, regular size women, women over 25, etc. in campaigns and collaborations says that these women aren’t beautiful or important or even visible.  And that’s an incredibly damaging statement. It’s so much more interesting, affirming and accurate to see variety in the models and influencers that brands highlight and collaborate with. It shows we’re valued (and not just our coins). Despite having lots of opinions on the topic (I always have opinions), I still didn’t feel like adding to the conversation right away.  It’s only after having thought about this this for several days that I feel ready to share my thoughts.

Unlike most people addressing the topic on social media, blogging / social media is not what pays my bills, so I haven’t really focused on what it would be like trying to make ends meet in the notoriously exclusionary and discriminatory fashion/beauty industry.   Truth be told, one of the reasons that I enjoy blogging so much is that it’s NOT my job.  I do it because I like love it. I love talking about makeup and skincare and I get to do that whether or not a brand ever decides to work with me.

When I think of a career path in beauty, it’s more on the business side (hello, CVTD Beauty).  And while it’d be awesome to get on a few PR lists (and get hella free makeup), working with brands isn’t something I obsess over.  But we all know this is about more than free makeup.  It’s about representation and embracing difference.

The debate between “a seat at the table” vs “let’s build our own damn table” has surfaced in conversations this week in a compelling way.  These ideas have been at the heart of many anti-discrimination movements, so that’s nothing new.  But this is the first time I’m seeing this discussed by more “mainstream” black bloggers and influencers.  There’s a real tension between advocating for inclusion, and deciding to create our own spaces where our norms and values can shine.  My question is, can these two ideas co-exist?  Is it possible to demand that brands truly embrace and showcase diversity while creating our own platforms/brands/outlets as alternatives? Or will the movement to create our own spaces dwindle as brands throw out a few collaborations and features?

So now that I’ve sorted through my thoughts, what do you think? What’s the best way to see more representation in fashion and beauty?

Share your thoughts in the comments!

  • Cemal Goss

    Super insightful and on point, keep it up!

  • You made a great point-inclusion behind the scenes is important too! I agree that starting separate brands/companies is a great way to truly showcase our value which often does lead to mainstream brands taking note.