Admittedly, my heart dropped in happiness when I saw the late and great Aaliyah’s face in an email a few weekends ago. The email was from MAC, announcing their Aaliyah inspired makeup line. To many black female millenials like myself, Aaliyah was the epitome of natural black beauty. Her hair was long, black, thick, and gorgeous. Her skin was brown, her face youthful, her soul seasoned with the wisdom of an age she would never attain in number. Aaliyah was a beautiful girl inside and out, who seemed did not seem tainted or motivated by money or fame, Aaliyah seemed to genuinely love what she was doing. She was a young black woman who exuded the essence of black female allure–a natural sex appeal, talent, and grace not duplicated in or after her time on earth. She was one in a million, yet MAC attempted to counter this fact in resurrecting her memory for profit.
Now, I anticipate that many will counter my response in pointing to Rashad Haughton, Aaliyah’s brother, cosigning the project. This, however, does not negate MAC’s motives. MAC’s motives are not to honor Aaliyah’s legacy or heal the wounds of her family. MAC’s goals are to make money off her memory, a memory enhanced with an authenticity only Rashad (or her parents) could bring to the project.
Thus, the Aaliyah line by MAC is one of deprivation. Let us not forget that black women remain an afterthought to a beauty industry that sells, not lauds black beauty. Black beauty brands like Mented, and Gold Label Cosmetics have come to claim the black consumer, an act MAC retaliates in aiming to usurp the black producer. Specifically, MAC feels the heat and resurrects one of our angels to lure the black female body back into the lion’s den of consuming white products.
For those of us hurt, and acquainted with the harsh reality of mortality in hearing of Aaliyah’s death as preteens and teenagers, a chance to reacquaint herself with her essence seems tempting. However, her essence never left us. Buying a MAC lipstick won’t bring her back, and is not a means to pay homage to a starlet gone too soon. The videos and postings of beauty vloggers featuring the products support a veiled truth— Aaliyah was never the muse for MAC’s latest business venture. No, the muse remains the white female buyer that the company was designed to make beautiful. However, this pseudo homage to the 90s unveils that all the beauty industry creates is ugliness, an ugliness that continues to engender violence onto the black collective.
Simply put, this Aaliyah Mac line is a violent attempt to exploit another black body. It is yet another attempt to cast the dark body into a dollar sign. Simply put, the black female body will never be more than money to an industry that seeks to ensure that the white female body remains the standard of beauty. So when we say “one in a million,” all our oppressors heard was “million,” fomenting their effort to rock a boat heading towards a peace not granted in life, and as illustrated by this recent gesture, death.
May this performative act of homage, function as a harbinger of the fear induced by black production.
Black Power ❤