It's 2017 and dark-skinned women can't buy makeup in most stores, at least not the way most of the population buys makeup. In my teenage years, I used to go to the store with my friends to buy clothes and makeup, much like every other teenage girl. I would stand there in the aisle searching for my shade as my friends quickly grabbed their foundation, lipstick, and eyeliner.
My friends would join in the search after noticing the confusion and frustration that seemed almost engraved on my face. Eventually, someone would suggest that I find a manager and ask if, by some chance, they had an unopened shipment of makeup in the back. The first time this happened during my quest for makeup, I was at Walmart.
When I located the manager and inquired if they had darker shades, she told me that, "They didn't carry it because black people really don't need makeup." There I was going through puberty, yet unable to buy makeup that was my shade.
As I got older, I began to see how important wearing makeup can be for social and economic advancement in this country. Many people don't realize how difficult finding makeup for darker skinned women can be. Most people make snap judgments about character, work ethic, etc., based on appearance.
It is not only important to be well coiffed and dressed appropriately for a job interview, but women, more often that not, must wear makeup for obvious reasons.
When a woman of color goes to a job interview typically we know we must put our best foot forward to combat implicit biases. We know that even with higher education, a strong work ethic, and the drive to succeed, it may not be enough to get a job or promotion we are more than qualified for.
In essence, you are robbed of the ability to make a good first impression in professional, casual, and romantic settings. The one thing most women of color that need makeup know for certain is:
"No Makeup No Job"
Many women of color, like my cousin Danielle, have given up the notion of wearing makeup because of their inability to buy their shade. Some women of color gamble with shades that are kind of close, but somehow end up making them look a bit off. While other women make their own makeup by finding a darker shade of eye shadow without glitter to mix with the darkest foundation they can find.
I live in a large city that is often warmly referred to as "Chocolate City," yet even here I struggle to find anything darker than a brown paper bag and hues of brownish red.
There I stood in Walmart staring at the makeup display looking at the pictures of dark skinned women of color and the custom shelf displays for darker makeup. The slot for darker makeup, as in most chain stores was always empty. Tears began forming in my eyes as I said, "It's 2017 and I can't just drive to the store and buy makeup!"
I started to remember Christmas day a couple of years ago I was in Ithaca, New York. I had gotten a Target gift card and decided to drive over to Target and pick up some makeup. I couldn't find any foundation my shade so I stopped a female employee and asked if they had my shade in the back.
The woman looked at me straight faced and suggested that I "shop somewhere else."
I was absolutely taken aback. It didn't matter how many times I'd run into this problem, it still hurt. I have been given many ridiculous reasons why a store didn't carry darker shades, the most common reason was usually, "We don't carry darker shades because they always get stolen." I have offered to pay in advance to have chain stores carry my shade to no avail.
My mother has to drive over 54 miles each way, from her home to drive to a specialty store to purchase makeup that is her shade. That's over two hours total driving time just to buy makeup when there are literally hundreds of stores that carry makeup in between her home and the specialty store.
The average woman of color can now purchase darker makeup online if there isn't a specialty store within a reasonable driving distance. If there is an unexpected important meeting, date, interview, or event, waiting for makeup to be shipped to your home may take too long.
In my 34 years on this earth, I've had to learn some hard truths about the country I live in. In a society built and driven by capitalism (supply and demand), money from women of color is worth half as much when it comes to buying makeup.
I'll leave you with this one question to ask yourself:"Why is it that most stores, as a standard operating procedure, don't carry a variety of makeup for women any darker than a brown paper bag, yet they carry mascara from a company whose heir was sentenced to 124 years (reduced to 50) in prison for filming the brutal rapes he committed?"