Consumers are holding beauty companies to a new standard in the midst of the country’s racial reckoning.
Over the weekend, protests and riots broke out nationwide, making visible the rage caused by hundreds of years of mistreatment of black people in America. Social media flooded with messages of solidarity with the black community and George Floyd, who died on May 25 after being forced by Minneapolis police officers to suffer sustained pressure to his neck and back.
Beauty companies, big and small, began to join in on social media’s resounding dialogue. Some have used social media before to share apologies or messages of inclusivity and diversity when attempting to soften a public gaffe. But over the weekend, a new kind of messaging emerged in which brands used their handles to share resources and publicize their donations to causes related to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Instagram user @hapaskin began compiling a list of beauty brands that stated on social media that they had or would donate to relevant causes. By June 3, the list consisted of dozens of companies.
The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. said in a statement shared with WWD Beauty Inc that the company and its brands — including Aveda, Bobbi Brown, Bumble and bumble, Clinique, Estée Lauder, La Mer, Lab Series, MAC Cosmetics, Origins, Smashbox, Tom Ford Beauty and Too Faced — “will collectively donate over $1 million to organizations providing education and advocacy for social, economic and racial justice.”
In a statement shared with WWD Beauty Inc, L’Oréal USA said that its brands and employees had “collectively committed to donate more than $400,000 to the NAACP and Black Lives Matter” since the weekend. “The donation figure continues to increase across the organization,” noted a representative.
L’Oréal Paris publicized its “commitment” to the NAACP on Instagram, drawing criticism from black transgender model Munroe Bergdorf. Bergdorf made headlines in 2017 when she was hired as the company’s first transgender model, and later fired after speaking publicly about demonstrations in Charlottesville, Va., that year.
“Black Lives Matter is a movement for the people, by the people. It is not here to be co-opted for capital gain by companies who have no intention of actually having difficult conversations regarding white supremacy, police brutality, colonialism and systemic racism,” wrote Bergdorf on Instagram, who went on to write the company should acknowledge “past mistakes or conscious acts of racial bias.”
View this post on Instagram
I wanted to give @lorealparis 48 hours before writing this to see if a public apology was possible. But their choice to ignore me and not acknowledge the emotional, mental and professional harm that they caused me since sacking me in 2017, after speaking out about white supremacy and racism, speaks volumes. So does their choice to not engage with the thousands of black community members and allies who have left comments of concern on their last two posts, in response to their claim to support the black community, despite an evident history of being unwilling to talk about the issues that black people face globally because of white supremacy. Black Lives Matter is a movement for the people, by the people. It is not here to be co-opted for capital gain by companies who have no intention of actually having difficult conversations regarding white supremacy, police brutality, colonialism and systemic racism. It cannot be reduced to a series of corporate trends by brands like L’Oréal who have no intention of actually doing the work to better themselves or taking ownership of their past mistakes or conscious acts of racial bias. I would not have been sacked if I had said what I said and was a cisgender, straight, white woman. It just wouldn’t have happened. If you want to stand with black lives matter then get your own house in order first. This could have been a moment of redemption for L’Oréal, a chance for them to make amends and lead by example. We all get things wrong, we all make mistakes, but it’s where you go from there that is a signifier of who you are. L’Oréal claiming to stand with the black community, yet also refusing to engage with the community on this issue, or apologise for the harm they caused to a black female queer transgender employee, shows us who they are – just another big brand who seeks to capitalise from a marginalised movement, by widening their audience and attempting to improve their public image. Brands need to be aware of their own track record. It’s unacceptable to claim to stand with us, if the receipts show a history of silencing black voices. Speaking out can’t only be “worth it” when you’re white. Black voices matter.
Anastasia Beverly Hills pledged via Instagram $1 million “towards the fight against systemic racism, oppression and injustice.” The company said that it had also donated $100,000 across Black Lives Matter, The Innocence Project, The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Black Visions Collective and The Marshall Project.
“We are taking the time internally to discuss new initiatives that will financially support Black owned businesses and artists in the beauty industry,” the company wrote on Instagram. “When the details have been finalized, we will announce the process for submission or nomination, and we will update you monthly on recipients.”
Skin-care company Biossance pledged $100,000 across the American Civil Liberties Union, Minnesota Freedom Fund, Color of Change and Black Lives Matter.
“In some cases, words and sharing good messages are definitely important and certainly to make a difference,” Catherine Gore, president of Biossance, told WWD Beauty Inc. “There also comes a time when maybe words are not enough. We wanted to put our money where our mouth is.”
Glow Recipe shared on Instagram that it would donate $10,000 to the Black Visions Collective.
“We as a company felt very passionately that we needed to say something, speak up and do something as a brand, especially as a brand with a platform,” said Christine Chang, co-ceo and cofounder of Glow Recipe.
“We have a growing community that is passionate about this topic and we prioritize it as a company,” said Sarah Lee, co-ceo and cofounder. “We thought this was beyond product or business. We do need to share our stance.”
Hand sanitizer brand Touchland pledged all of its weekend’s profits, amounting to about $5,000, to the ACLU.
“Normally, we don’t get involved in any political perspective, but we felt as a brand that this was basic human rights and we have to take a stance on matters that are morally right or wrong,” said Andrea Lisbona, Touchland’s founder and ceo.
After mounting pressure from social media users demanding it speak out about the protests, RMS Beauty issued an apology and a statement saying it would donate $25,000 each to Black Lives Matter, the NAACP and The Bail Project. RMS Beauty declined to speak with WWD Beauty Inc.
The donation pledges mark a first for the beauty industry, which seems to be collectively striking a new tone in the midst of the country’s racial unrest. But some are calling for more than just money.
On June 3, Uoma beauty founder and ceo Sharon Chuter launched a campaign called #PullUpOrShutUp, calling for any and all companies who have shared statements of solidarity with or donations to the Black Lives Matter movement to publicly reveal the percentage of black people they employ and further specify the number of black employees in leadership positions. The campaign also encourages consumers to join in on holding companies accountable and refrain from buying products from the companies in question for a period of time.
“Corporations tend to absolve themselves like it’s somebody else’s problem,” Chuter said. “Your million dollars is good, but you know what’s better? Providing employment so that these issues can stop.
“Don’t give me hush money,” Chuter continued. “Give me my right.”