Over the last week I’ve watched numerous videos surface in celebration of Fenty Beauty— pop-star Rihanna’s new makeup line. Black women dominated much of the uploads and commentary, which seemed overwhelmingly positive. Perhaps positive is an understatement. The feedback was not out only abundant but elated at the opportunity to now access Rihanna’s aesthetics. Interestingly, the excitement surrounding Miss Fenty’s latest business venture surfaced at the same time of ESPN correspondent Jemele Hill’s contentious tweet that prompted many to call for her firing. These events shared more than just their involvement with black women, but a conflicting message.
On one hand, much of the black female collective celebrated Fenty’s product launch, or what may be construed as a means for black women to “cover up,” yet in the same week many black women spoke out about Hill’s coercion to “cover up” her views. Moreover, while many black women nodded their head or even raised their fist in solidarity with Ms. Hill, and were offended at the demand for black women to mask their views, many did so while wearing a mask of their own. The dichotomous reaction induced by both Hill and Fenty expose the cognitive dissonance to which the black female body is nurtured to encompass as systemized beings.
Rihanna is the name and face of Fenty Beauty, but Fenty Beauty is not a black owned business. This is not to say Miss Fenty is not intelligent or ambitious enough to start her own makeup line—she is—but the brand is still overwhelmingly geared towards white women and non-black persons of color. A fact substantiated in the reality that more than half of the foundationshades target women of a lighter hue.
A core component of white supremacy is to use members of the black collective to deflect blacks from our collective greatness, and it seems Fenty Beauty is the latest manifestation of this approach. Fenty, as a woman revered for her beauty, is a perfect tool to enslave the black mind and convince the black collective that if they are not Rihanna, a figment of white creation exotified by the white male gaze as an African displaced outside the Americas, they are not worthy of visibility.
Case in point, black women do not need makeup. Would you have to make-up a tutoring or exercise session that you were there to initially receive? Of course not. This same logic substantiates why makeup is superfluous to black women. Makeup does for black woman, what a makeup exam does for someone who has already taken and aced an exam—nothing.
Makeup items like foundation, mascara, bronzer, lip liner etc all function to enhance white women in their plight to possess what the black woman has naturally— the benefits of melanin. Black women are born with varying complexions with undertones that reflect the richness of our ancestry. White women, and fair-skinned women of other demographics, purchase makeup to compensate for the color contrast gifted to black women at birth. So while many purchase and wear the Fenty Beauty products believing that they are supporting the black female collective, it is imperative to note that to purchase these items is to comply to the belief that black beauty must be enhanced by something external.
Two years ago, I wore a full face of makeup every day. I countered and highlighted my face, lined my lips to “put on” a caricatured version of black beauty manufactured by white franchises. It was not until a random Saturday when I ventured to the mall with my natural hair and makeup free face, that I felt the freedom of natural beauty. I realized that makeup had not improved my appearance, but reduced my beauty to an approachable product of white supremacy that consequently made me look less youthful and appear less human.
To look in the mirror and love your reflection in its most pure state is just as important as speaking out about racism. It is to stand at the mountaintop and look down on all that exists to subjugate you. It was not until I made the decision to stop covering up my face, that I emerged in full form and became confident enough to eschew covering up my views, and feelings. I am no longer afraid of any aspect of my blackness, be it my face, my hair, or what’s on my mind. I am not afraid because my individual features and perspectives are a part a collective greatness that I will not apologize for or conceal.
I say this to say that blackness is something blacks are conditioned to apologize for in a variety of ways. From hiding black hair under weaves, wigs, color, or perms, to masking black faces with white products veiled by a black spokesperson—the black collective faces the incessant burden to cover-up and silently apologize for blackness in small strides to attain visibility and inclusion. Apologizing for blackness illustrates that most blacks are unaware of their majesty— an oblivion that paves the path to the gallows with a pseudo means to greatness.
To know our worth as a collective to is acknowledge the cognitive dissonant patterns that allow us to take two steps backwards for every step forward. If black is truly beautiful, and it is, then the black body must be celebrated in her pure state, whether this pure state is a makeup free face or uncensored speech.
To know our worth is to acknowledge that covering our faces, or banishing our perspectives to silence is to acquiesce to inferiority. It is to silently dig your own grave with a foundation or contour brush, to which the black female body, hollowed by white objectivity, lies beat down by insecurities exploited by the white collective and worn as jewels on a stolen crown.
Black power ❤