How FENTY Beauty Changed the Diversity Standard

Rihanna’s new makeup line has sparked a change in how brands should approach diversity.

Over the past years, beauty standards have made strides in the spectrum of representation of diversity. Though we are a long way from true equality across the rainbow of skin colors, the recent Fashion Weeks have shown that we no longer celebrate just skinny, white bodies. However, one of the areas of the fashion community that has struggled to change is the makeup world. Between high-end and drugstore brands, thousands of foundations, concealers and powders are available across the world, but they typically cater to only “mainstream” skin tones (beige to deep tan). Extremely pale or deep skin toned beauty product seekers are often left searching across shops and websites for their matching color (or may not find one at all).

On September 8, music icon Rihanna released a line that would shake the beauty community to the core. FENTY Beauty, named after Rihanna’s rarely heard surname, was in production for over two years due to Rihanna’s determination to provide shades for all skin tones. Teasing the release of the line in an Instagram video, Rihanna used female models of many races ranging from deep-toned African American women to Asian women to hijab-sporting Middle Eastern women.

Upon the release, fans were shocked to see the amount of inclusivity in FENTY’s foundation and concealer arsenal. Capping at forty colors in total, the foundation ranges from an extremely light (for people of albino coloring) with pink undertones to very deep coloring with subtle red undertones. In her personal statement on foundation, Rihanna explains “Foundation is one of those areas in the beauty industry that has a big void for women at extreme ends of the shade spectrum. There’s this middle ground that’s covered really, really well. But then if you’re very pale or if you’re very dark, there aren’t a lot of options. And so, I wanted to make sure that women of all skin tones were covered so they could be included in what I created.” Based on this remark alone it is clear that diversity and inclusion was one of Rihanna’s top priorities in the creation of this line, which explains the two-year development time.

Along with the exceedingly successful color diversity, Rihanna has championed her counterparts in celebrity beauty brands with the amount of available product in her warehouses. At the current writing date of this article, FENTY Beauty has been on the market for twelve days already and only twenty of the foundation shades are sold out on the Sephora website. Compared to other popular celebrity brands (cough, cough, Kylie Cosmetics), Rihanna’s line may seem unsuccessful but this is clearly not the case. Over the course of her two-year development, Rihanna cleverly foresaw the success of the line and stockpiled all forty shades so every woman would have a chance at their color.

The burgeoning question after this incredible advance in diversity is: why has this taken so long? Early ideations of makeup was invented over twelve thousand years ago by the Egyptians, who are obviously people of color. Over the centuries, makeup has woven in and out of fashion, yet has stayed consistently popular during the past eight or so decades. Civil rights and the appropriation of people of color has been a struggle in America for many years, even today, and the makeup industry is one of the biggest proponents of this issue. Although some high-end and drugstore companies carry a wider range of foundation colors, they are often not carried in all stores, forcing women outside the “middle” range to order online or hunt around for their shade.

Since the release of FENTY Beauty, the rest of the makeup community has scrambled to promote their own “diverse” ranges. On the same day of Rihanna’s release, Kylie Cosmetics tweeted a since-deleted ad for their “Brown Sugar Matte” lip kit, modeled on Kylie’s dark-skinned friend Justine Skye. Twitter users admonished the company and the “timely” release of the advertisement, citing the release of FENTY Beauty for the sudden show of diversity. Other makeup powerhouses such as Estee Lauder, Hourglass, L’Oreal and Lancôme have recently been touting their range as well, with L’Oreal even announcing new shades for their “True Match” line to “celebrate diversity.”

Not only limited to her expansive foundation range, Rihanna developed contour and highlight sticks in a massive range of colors from beige to deep to a vivid purple. The collection also includes a lip gloss, six powder highlighters, a primer, five makeup brushes, a blending sponge and blotting papers. Not to fall short after such a success with the foundation, Rihanna created another holy grail product: a translucent powder that actually works on all skin tones. In an interview about the line with Refinery 29 while speaking about the difficulty of this feat, she states “it was really hard to make a product like that. It actually works on all skin tones, but is still invisible for real.”

As for real-life consumers, FENTY Beauty is far from disappointing. As a Rihanna fan myself, I personally purchased her Metal Moon Freestyle Highlighter from the Sephora website on the release date, and I am obsessed. YouTube beauty gurus such as NikkieTutorials, James Charles, Nyma Tang and Makeupshayla have overall praised the product for its inclusivity as well as the good quality of the products themselves. Obviously, no product will be perfect for every single person, but all of the pieces of the collection have fantastic ratings on the Sephora website, and it is clear that the beauty community is loving it.

Celebrity makeup lines are not a brand-new phenomenon, and Rihanna is not even the first woman of color to release her own products. Jessica Alba, Eva Mendes and Iman all had their own lines before FENTY Beauty, but none have been nearly as inclusive. This explosion of victory and applause from beauty consumers is unprecedented and more companies need to take note. These bitches better have Rihanna’s money.

FENTY Beauty is only available at Sephora or the FENTY Beauty website.

Keegan Fornoff, Southeast Missouri State University

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Keegan Fornoff

Southeast Missouri State University

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