The beauty industry is in the midst of a reckoning.
Last week, beauty influencer Jackie Aina asked brands to pull up or shut up. She echoed the message of Pull Up For Change, an Instagram account curated by Uoma Beauty founder and CEO Sharon Chuter created to hold brands accountable. Brands that posted a statement of support for the Black community on their Instagrams in the days following the senseless murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests across the nation had to release the number of black employees they have at a corporate and executive level within their organizations within 72 hours—or else.
Aina expressed the need for consumers to hold these brands accountable and asked her followers to hold off on purchasing from these brands until they released their numbers. Aina essentially said, “don’t talk about it, be about it.”
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Within days, the numbers came pouring in. Nearly every major and indie beauty brand including Shiseido, Sephora, Ilia, and Thrive Cosmetics, answered the call. Pull Up or Shut Up shared the responses and thanked the brands for their transparency. The movement is the real-life iteration of a popular sentiment shared across social media in the wake of these protests: saying you’re not a racist isn’t enough. You have to be actively anti-racist.
Beauty brands whose numbers were disappointing created action plans and expressed their commitment to doing the work to stand with the Black community. Some initiatives they’re working toward is diversifying hiring and placing them in positions of power to truly level the playing field at the corporate level. But change doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t come from the top down.
Many beauty influencers watched as these brands exposed themselves and questioned how they benefited from and became complicit in this system that doesn’t prioritize BIPOC in positions of power. This has a trickle effect. As such, these brands don’t prioritize BIPOCs in marketing campaigns and content creation efforts. In a time where the entire nation is being called upon to lift up Black voices, white and non-BIPOC beauty influencers felt called upon to do the same. They began sharing their favorite Black influencers on their feed and in their stories, flooding Instagram with talented Black creators that all too often go overlooked and under-appreciated when brands seek out talent to promote their latest product or post about their marketing campaign.
Some influencers, like licensed esthetician and skincare influencer Devan Jesmer, @devsday on Instagram, vowed to do more to make the beauty space more equitable. On the recommendation of @beauty4brownskin, she created a template for white and non-POC influencers to pass on PR and campaign opportunities to Black creators.
“The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” says Jesmer, to Very Good Light. “Within three hours I had an outpouring of people sharing brand responses with me. Almost all brands were extremely receptive of the idea, and were happy to be introduced to more Black creators in the beauty space.”
Influencers are recognizing that the responsibility to make the beauty industry more inclusive doesn’t just lie with the brands. We all have a responsibility to uplift more Black and POC voices, whether that’s as an influencer calling upon brands to hire more Black influencers, or us as consumers engaging, liking, and commenting on campaign images that feature Black and POC talent.
“Brands have really been forced to look at their internal practices and make systemic changes, and we need to continue to request transparency, action plans, and follow up with brands to hold them accountable,” says Jesmer. “In addition to passing opportunities to Black creators, [influencers] need to make sure every campaign we work on is inclusive, and every brand we support is inclusive.”
If you want to support more Black influencers and encourage more brands to work with them, we’ve rounded up 40 of our favorite Black influencers that we’d love to see get more shine. Support them now and always—follow, like, comment, and tag the brands who you would love to see work with them. We have the power to make a difference, and use our voice to amplify others.