A 50+ year old beauty editor reflects on age equality and diversity in magazines

Beauty editor? I had never heard of such a thing when I graduated from Vassar in 1990. I spent a decade trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, before I entered the world of magazines: I taught sixth grade English. , who worked for a lobbying firm in Washington, DC, started an Interior Design certification program, but nothing stood still. I finally moved to New York in 1998, with no job opportunities and no plan. I learned to love New York while in college and even though I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, I took the leap and prayed for the parachute to appear. She did it. A year later, in December 1999, I got a job as a beauty and fashion writer for Essence Magazine, and have since had a front row seat in the evolution of the beauty industry, especially when it comes to the representation of age and diversity.

The first time I saw a Essence The magazine was on my grandmother’s coffee table. I was in elementary school. My grandmother was reading Essence, but so was my 18-year-old cousin at the time. Now as a woman of color, working in a magazine dedicated to black women, I realized that our notions of beauty weren’t necessarily in line with those of mainstream or mainstream publications. Essence’s cover topics ranged from political figures and corporate leaders, to models and celebrities. They were of all ages and sizes. We have never been obsessed with young people, but rather celebratory of our unique spectrum of beauty.

Essence existed to uplift all black women – not just those in their 20s – and although our beauty section attracted readers and was certainly considered essential (because black beauty was not addressed so fully anywhere else at the time. ), the magazine’s features were the brand’s meat and potatoes. Who wanted to read these real-life issues, how to create generational wealth or combat systemic racism in public schools or address the discrepancies of missing black women in the media? Black women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and so on. Inclusiveness was in the brand’s DNA.

In many ways the beauty industry today has finally started to catch up EssenceThe principle behind inclusiveness, which has often been an afterthought elsewhere. Black beauty brands like Fashion Fair and Iman Cosmetics have always had the shade ranges for women of color, but now there are the LVMHs of the world signing the likes of Rihanna – who insists on a proper shade range for the colors. core to Fenty Beauty – setting the bar other brands can reach.

In 1999, I believe I met three women of color who worked in the beauty field in mainstream publications and were in lower-middle-level positions. Three. Today, you can find women of color in virtually all reputable media and at all levels. Underrepresented women understand the importance of representation, so in addition to addressing the most pressing issues in the lives of women of color, we made sure to show a range of skin tones, sizes and ages so our readers could see themselves in any problem.

But to be completely honest, I’m not sure if this push to portray traditional beauty is really about actual inclusiveness or just saving face and keeping customers. It is most likely a mix. But today, unlike in 1999 when I started, there are a lot more choices when it comes to beauty. If mainstream Brand X doesn’t recognize me or understand what I need, I can definitely find a Brand Z that does. It’s no longer about drugstore beauty versus department store beauty. Now women simply find the YouTuber or Influencer whose hair is just like hers or whose skin tone is a perfect match and learn from her. And in many cases the brand these influencers swear by is created by someone who also looks like them.

In the same way that influencers have joined the publishing landscape, independent beauty brands have infiltrated the more traditional beauty market. Of course we’re still buying CoverGirl, Pantene, Clinique, and CHANEL, but I think today’s women are just as excited about Elf cosmetics, Glossier, Mented, Kosas, Pat McGrath Labs, and Augustinus Bader. It is also surprising to see black women representing luxury brands, such as Zoë Kravitz and YSL, and Yara Shahidi and Dior.

In terms of age, I think there is a shift taking place in Hollywood, where we are seeing a broader spectrum of age and diversity on the red carpet. It’s refreshing to see true beauty through the likes of Helen Mirren, Jane Fonda, JLo, Halle Berry, Salma Hayek, Viola Davis, Penelope Cruz, Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, among others, rather than just in their twenties. It wasn’t like that ten years ago. These women are over 45 and are fine, period, not “for being over 45”. I see this shift reverberating far beyond Hollywood, to how we all feel about aging and glamor, painting it in a much more positive light in 2022 than it did 20 or even ten years ago.

Speaking of beauty and age related improvements, it’s also quite refreshing to see so many new brands addressing hormonal beauty issues; Pause Well Aging, Better, Not Younger, Womaness, Dr. Xenovia Skincare, SukiEra and Rosebud, just to name a few. I believe all of these brands were founded and are owned by women, no wonder.

I interviewed at least five of these founders, and although they came from diverse backgrounds in the beauty industry, they all responded to the lack of something in the beauty and wellness industries, in regards to hormonal changes. They had all experienced the symptoms of perimenopause and were bothered by the lack of available products and solutions. This particular hormonal trend is still relatively new, so the verdict is still pending on their staying power, but I think, overall, there is more appreciation these days for more targeted and artisanal beauty brands.

So, has the beauty industry arrived at “We Are the World” moment? Absolutely not. Yes, things are better, but it is not nirvana. The beauty industry is in sync with American culture, so like beauty, there have been some stark improvements: Biden has more women in his cabinet than any other president before, we have a black vice president (and possibly a court judge. suprema nera) on the way), but we still have a long way to go.

Women do not have full power over their bodies (in every state, that is) and equal voting rights for all are still a dream. I’m not stressed out for any of this – the arc of progress is long, however, the beauty industry would benefit from having more women of color at the proverbial table and women of all ages. Beauty desires and needs are ageless, so it would be beneficial (and profitable) if the industry approached this fact and addressed women over 40 with the same vigor, across all beauty categories, as they do. women between the ages of 18 and 35. We will get there. I still have faith in the universe and that alone is beautiful.

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