Black people are breaking barriers all over the beauty and fashion industries, and it's so lovely to see. To celebrate Black History month, we're focusing on the colossal growth and social importance of the Black beauty industry. Globally, black women invest over $4.8 billion on beauty products and services every year.
Women of color have a standout, multi-dimensional beauty that is all their own. However, it has not always been acknowledged in the mainstream. But thanks to a select group of melanin-poppin’ ladies who broke through the mirrored glass ceiling, the beauty industry has made giant strides in celebrating the diversity of beauty in all of its various hues, textures and forms. By challenging the status quo, these trail-blazing dames went on to change the game and emboldened others to do the same. Here, we take a look at the magnificent milestones of these groundbreaking women who broadcasted ‘Black is Beautiful’ on their own terms and redefined the way beauty is perceived on the whole. Let these boss queens be your endless source of inspiration, the beauty pioneers.
During the late 19th century, chemist & entrepreneur, Annie Malone discovered a way to chemically straighten textured hair without damaging the scalp and hair follicles. She went on to develop a range of hair care products such as her ‘Wonderful Hair Grower’. Malone hired three employees to execute her business plan, grow sales and help demonstrate how her products worked. During this time, racial discrimination was at a high and as black women were denied access to any traditional distribution systems, they were forced to sell products door-to-door. By 1910, distribution had expanded nationally.
In 1958, Eunice Johnson organised an annual fashion event for black Americans – the Ebony Travelling Fashion Fair.
Noticing a distinct lack of foundations for the black models attending the event she, along with the support of her husband, began creating cosmetics for the models in their shows.
In 1973 she launched Fashion Fair cosmetics, which has grown into the world’s largest black-owned beauty brand.
MADAM C.J. WALKER
The first self-made, female millionaire in America and a marketing magician, Madame C.J. Walker transformed every black woman’s beauty hair-care routine when she released ‘Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower’, which focused on preventing stress and hygiene related scalp disease. It has since been argued that this was a fraudulent imitation of her former co-worker, Annie Malone’s initial invention, however, this rose to great success and Walker would often state that “There is no royal flower strewn path to success. And if there is, I have not found it, for whatever success I have attained has been the result of much hard work and many sleepless nights.”
In 1950 Christina Jenkins invented the hair weaving method, still used worldwide by millions of women. She received a patent for her techniques in 1951. Before Christina introduced this method, weaves were only very temporary and often attached to the natural hair with just pins. Jenkins’ method offered a long-term alternative for hair weaves and this changed the game for African-American hairstyling. Christina Jenkins set the foundations for today’s modern methods of hair weaving to develop.
Iman Mohamed Abdulmajid
Fashion model, actress and pioneer in the cosmetics industry for women of colour, Iman would often mix her own formulations for make-up artists to use on her. In 1994, Iman Cosmetics was born and remains one of the most successful beauty brands for dark skin worldwide. From the very beginning of her career in 1975, Iman challenged the notions of mainstream ‘beauty’, bringing black models and diversity to the forefront of the fashion and beauty industry.
There are sooo many more but this list would be endless. Celebrate the queens around you breaking barriers in their own way. You never know who might be next.