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Black-owned beauty companies seize the moment for inclusion


Rihanna put her foot on the makeup industry’s neck when she launched Fenty Beauty in September 2017 with an astonishing array of 40 foundation shades, setting a new standard for inclusivity that drew instant acclaim — and tremendous acclaim — from customers happy to see all skin tones represented.

And the numbers don’t lie — the entertainer-entrepreneur’s makeup line brought in over $570 million in revenue less than a year and a half after it launched, according to Forbes, which estimated the business’s value at more than $3 billion.

Fenty Beauty — Rihanna’s full name is Robin Fenty — follows the path that black-owned cosmetic lines started blazing long before Max Factor devised “light Egyptian” makeup for Lena Horne in mid-century Hollywood. (The makeup was later used to darken white actresses’ skin so they could portray women of color.)

According to Racked, the first businessperson to successfully target black women’s makeup needs was Anthony Overton, a black man who founded Overton Hygienic Manufacturing Co. in 1898 with “high brown” face powder. The company folded in 1983. Fashion Fair Cosmetics started in 1973 after makeup artists for the legendary Ebony Fashion Fair show couldn’t find suitable makeup for their models. Somali-born supermodel Iman launched her eponymous makeup brand in 1994 due to her frustration with the dearth of foundation for darker African American skin.

Fenty Beauty will be available in 32 Boots locations. For the ultimate convenience, you can even place your order online with Order and Collect on May 10, 2019 in Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom.

Since then black-owned brands have continued to sprout up — including Ka’oir Cosmetics, founded in 2011 by Keyshia Ka’oir; Jasmine Rose’s Law of Nature Cosmetics brand, founded in 2015; and Pat McGrath Labs, founded by renowned makeup artist Pat McGrath in 2016. 

Lips that raise the bar

In 2012, Melissa Butler started The Lip Bar, a cruelty-free, non-toxic and vegan lipstick brand while working as a financial analyst in New York. Butler was frustrated with the lack of lipsticks that worked with black women’s skin tones . She took her business to the TV show “Shark Tank” where the judges harshly rejected her appeal for financing. But Butler kept focused on her vision. 

The Lip Bar founder and CEO Melissa Butler created the cosmetics line in 2012 due to the lack of colorful lipsticks available to women.

Today The Lip Bar is featured in more than 450 Target stores nationwide and has a flagship store in Butler’s native Detroit. 

“From day one, The Lip Bar goal has been to challenge the beauty standard,” Butler said. “That means a lot of different things. It means making sure that we have inclusive imagery. It means making sure that we have an inclusive assortment and means making sure our product are not toxic.” 



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