The Evolution of (Black) Beauty


Our perception and definition of beauty has morphed over time, so instead of trying to define everything we focused on three areas of the beauty industry: haircare, skincare, and makeup — to show you just how far the industry has come. #BeautyGurus

– Hi. – Hey.
00:03
– You’re not– – I’m not.
00:04
Azie has moved on to other projects,
00:06
and we’re sad to see her go,
00:07
but also excited to see what she does next.
00:09
– To get your Azie fix,
00:10
make sure to follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
00:13
I’ll miss her ledgers!
00:15
In the meantime, Hallease will be stepping in
00:16
to help me to continue to bring you all the funnies.
00:19
– So let’s get into it!
00:20
(upbeat jazz music)
00:25
– Hello everyone, and welcome to my channel.
00:28
Today I’m gonna show you my every day, simple routine.
00:32
So, if you wanna know how I went from this, to this,
00:35
please keep on watching.
00:38
First, let’s make sure our complexion
00:40
is presentable and fair.
00:42
This blemish cream fades all darkness’ and imperfections.
00:47
If you want to be light and bright,
00:49
try Tan Away!
00:51
Coupon code in the video description box.
00:54
Now that our skin is prepped,
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let’s play in some makeup.
00:57
Now, you’ll want to use
00:58
the proper shade for your complexion.
01:01
There’s one other shade in this range.
01:04
I’ll swatch it for you.
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It’s nice, isn’t it?
01:13
Check my channel out next week,
01:14
when I go through my high curl tutorial next.
01:17
– How do I look?
01:18
– Human beings have valued beauty for a long time.
01:21
Winged eyeliner’s been on point
01:23
since the Ancient Egyptians!
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It’s the way we communicate how much money we have,
01:27
our social status, and values like modesty.
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– But the perception and definition
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of beauty morphs over time,
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and our society is no different.
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I mean, makeup trends went from this
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to this in just a couple of years.
01:40
– And when it comes to Black beauty?
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Consider our cocoa butter curiosity piqued.
01:44
We wanna learn more!
01:45
– Finding the beauty in all our shades and textures
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has a complex history that’s changed with the times,
01:51
just like the depiction of women
01:52
in advertising, for eaxmple.
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– Some of it warms our hearts,
01:56
and some of it makes us cringe.
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– So, instead of attempting
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to define and explain everything.
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– Which is high key impossible.
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– We picked three products or items:
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one in hair care, one in skincare, and one in makeup
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to show you just how far the far the world
02:12
of black beauty has come.
02:13
– And, ah, research.
02:16
– Let’s do this, yes.
02:18
– We can learn about, oh!
02:21
– Yes, I’m going straight for it.
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Consistent, beautiful.
02:24
Oh, that’s a lot, that’s a lot, okay.
02:26
– I have a pallet, I have a couple pallets.
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And, you’re like, “Evelyn, you don’t wear eyeshadow.”
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So, I’ll buy them.
02:32
– You remember your momma having to do.
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(Evelyn laughs)
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And then parting the read sea (laughs).
02:37
– You want some?
02:38
– Sure, mist me.
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I’ve got my glasses on, but whatever.
02:43
– Oh, look at the baby. – Look at these perfectly
02:45
manicured ‘fros.
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– Okay, that’s not real.
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– [Hallease] That’s not.
02:49
First product, head wraps!
02:50
– Oh, that’s all me, that is all me.
02:54
– I mean, I’m wearing one too, but okay.
02:56
I’m wearing one too.
02:57
– Wait, where did we find out about head wraps?
02:58
– Yeah, okay.
02:59
When you think of head wraps now,
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you probably imagine stunning models
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with sky-high pieces of colorful patterned fabric.
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And Evelyn, I guess you think of Evelyn too.
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But historically, in the U.S.,
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Black women covered their hair for more practical reasons.
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You can imagine imagine slave owners
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didn’t particularly care
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about hygienic working conditions, or,
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because it was the law.
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– [Evelyn] Ah, yes, tee-known, tig-non?
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I know it had to do with the French.
03:27
Creole, tignon!
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– The same gross logic
03:30
that empowered slave owners
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to forcibly shave the heads of enslaved women,
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made an appearance in 1786,
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when Spanish colonial Governor Don Esteban Miro
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enacted the Edict of Good Government,
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also called the Tignon Laws.
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It prohibited Creole women of color in New Orleans
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from displaying excessive attention to dress.
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– Basically, some of ya’ll
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are little too light skinned,
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or your bundles are a little too luxurious
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and we can’t have you have you out here
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whipping your curls around looking this fly.
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So they were forced to wear a scarf or handkerchief
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called a tignon as a public signifier
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that they belonged to the slave class.
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Even if they were free.
04:06
– Louisiana has always been unique
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because French and Spanish colonial rule
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worked a lot differently than the English.
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The Spanish law of coartacion put a market value,
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and actual price on and enslaved person,
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and stated that if you could raise that money,
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you could buy back your freedom.
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– Now before you go praising
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this particular flavor of colonizer,
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it was just a different strategy.
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The idea was, if they allowed somewhat
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of a Black middle class to exist,
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the institution of slavery would last longer.
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But plot twist, now you’ve got a growing population
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of free Black people, you got hella mixed people,
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and Louisiana is now a little too much of a melting pot.
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– Before the tignon laws,
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free women of color in New Orleans
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would use beads, feathers,
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and other forms of jewelry in their hair,
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adding to their exotic allure.
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– That’s kinda gross. – Yeah.
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– So, Governor Don Esteban thought a piece of fabric
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would dim a sista’s light.
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He thought we’d look homely.
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Homeboy was sadly mistaken.
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Come through head wrap with vibrant colors
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and elaborate tying techniques!
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You betta give us Marie Laveau,
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both the historical figure
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and Angela Bassett’s flawless television adaptation!
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– Because we are who we are, and we do what we do,
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we turned it into something beautiful,
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continuing to cover our hair throughout the decades,
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cooperating with businesses
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in African nations to source fabric.
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Even our Creole Queen used it to call back to her culture!
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– Good hair, bad hair, I am not my hair.
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Instead of researching relaxers,
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or making fun of Jheri curls.
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Actually, let’s do that.
05:35
– Yeah, let’s do that, yeah.
05:36
♪ Just let your soul glow ♪
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♪ Just let it shine through ♪
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♪ And just let your soul glow, baby ♪
05:47
♪ Feeling, oh, so silky smooth ♪
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♪ Just let it shine through ♪
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♪ Just let your soul glow ♪
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– Like hair, skin tone
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has such a deep-rooted hold on our perception of beauty.
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It was used as descriptor in slave records,
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and had very real violent implications
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when it came to social structures.
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It could determine one’s fate as an enslaved person.
06:12
In a world of 10-step skincare routines,
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and black don’t crack,
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we wanted to see how far our complexion products have come.
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– So, we found that skin lightening products
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emerged for the Black elite in D.C.
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Around the 1840s and 50s,
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and continued after emancipation
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into the early 20th Century.
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These days, ingredients like hyrdoquinone
06:33
are used to block the enzyme present
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in the melanin-producing process.
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But, not much is known about the ingredients
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used back then, or their effectiveness.
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But we do have throwback advertisements.
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I mean, the names of these products are wild.
06:47
Doctor Read’s Magic Face Bleach?
06:49
Tan Off, Black Skin Remover?
06:53
– So, there’s and ad by The Colored American
06:56
which dates February 15th, 1902.
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And on this ad, we have, you know,
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the title is “Black Skin Remover”,
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“A wonderful face bleach and hair straightener”,
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and has a before image of a darker skinned woman
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with kinkier hair, and then the after image
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is a very, very fair woman with straight hair in a bun.
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The words to even describe that,
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or the fact that, that ad was even playing on insecurities
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of Black seeming to be negative, seeming to be poor,
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seeming to be everything that you would not want to be,
07:29
has definitely been detriment to Black culture.
07:32
– Now, even though white-passing was a thing,
07:35
it’s an oversimplification to assume
07:37
people with dark complexions who used these products
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wanted to be white.
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Folks were more concerned with the color complex
07:43
within Black communities.
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Remember, skin tone could impact how you’d go on
07:47
to fair in the world.
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What jobs you’d get hired for
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and how you’d be treated.
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Nobody was under the delusion
07:53
that they would actually become white.
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These products simply played
07:57
to the realities of being black.
07:59
– You know, this is not called
08:00
the place of the American Dream for no reason.
08:03
Everyone wants to participate in that dream
08:05
and wants the very best for themselves.
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And, if this is a way to get there,
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then maybe, you know, in this desperate attempt
08:13
to be seen as human, to be recognized, to be appreciated.
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Then, I need to straighten my hair, discolor my skin,
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and then maybe society will become a more bearable place.
08:28
– Whew, that’s heavy.
08:29
– A little bit.
08:30
– We need some comedy.
08:31
– Yes, yeah.
08:32
♪ Just let yourself ♪
08:35
♪ Glow, oh! ♪
08:37
– And we’re back! – Yeah!
08:38
And to be clear, we’re not saying
08:40
that in the olden days
08:41
everybody struggled to accept their beauty.
08:43
The Lonesome Hearts column
08:45
from the African American newspaper,
08:47
the New York Interstate Tattler,
08:49
that ran from 1929 to the early 1930s
08:52
showed that yes, skin tone was always top of mind,
08:55
and used to describe someone before, say, height.
08:58
And yes some valued features that supported colorism,
09:01
but also yes, some people liked being brown
09:04
and felt worthy of asking for a love connection.
09:07
Whether it’s an ad, a tabloid column,
09:09
or music in movies,
09:11
mass media can give you a peek into society.
09:14
Much like hair, representation of different skin tones
09:16
in the media increased over time,
09:18
albeit super slowly.
09:20
– [Male] Yes, your natural expression of pride
09:23
is beautifully expressed with Afro Sheen.
09:26
Afro Sheen, beautiful products, for a beautiful people.
09:30
– And while we’d all love
09:31
to believe we’re free thinkers
09:33
above the influence of pop culture,
09:35
seeing different types of people
09:36
lauded as desirable and beautiful
09:38
shape the way we feel about ourselves!
09:41
So when superstar James Brown
09:42
screamed “say it loud, I’m Black and I’m proud”
09:44
with his hit 1968 song, people felt that.
09:48
– He didn’t say, I’m medium brown, or like,
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I’m Black, but not like Black-Black, and that matters.
09:53
Though skin-bleaching creams are now generally taboo,
09:55
or at least reason for pause
09:57
in internet ridicule and pity, they still exist.
10:00
On one hand, thanks to social media and beauty gurus,
10:03
there’s more hashtag melanin on camera than ever before!
10:07
But the same issues follow us on the web.
10:09
– You’re probably wondering, Jackie,
10:10
what the hell was the point of you wasting all this makeup.
10:12
Like what, what was the end goal?
10:14
What was there to learn here?
10:16
What is the topic of discussion?
10:17
When you say stuff like, I don’t take color,
10:18
you just, you end up looking like this, silly as hell.
10:21
– With our mass return to natural ingredients
10:23
like coconut oil, shea butter,
10:25
and the influx of Black-owned brands
10:27
catering to melanin’s unique needs,
10:29
now skincare products focus on a glow,
10:32
ensuring that you shine bright like a diamond,
10:34
no matter your skin tone.
10:35
– Rihanna, let’s talk about makeup.
10:37
– [Hallease] Yes, yeah.
10:38
– Shout out to Anthony Overton
10:39
for our first look, hastag notspon.
10:42
He was a black lawyer with a chemistry degree
10:44
who saw that women of color
10:46
didn’t have much to choose from
10:47
when it came to makeup.
10:48
In about 1900, he formulated a face powder
10:51
in the color High Brown and it was a hit.
10:55
He made sure the ingredients weren’t harmful,
10:57
he expanded the shade range to nut-brown,
11:00
olive tone, brunette, and flesh pink.
11:03
Huh, that last shade name is questionable,
11:05
but Overton gave us more
11:07
than any other brand did at the time, a legend.
11:10
(upbeat jazz music)
11:17
– A big obstacle for Black makeup manufacturers
11:20
like Overton was that department stores refused
11:23
to carry their products,
11:24
so they had to sell door-to-door.
11:26
Even media mogul John H. Johnson ran into difficulties.
11:30
Imagine, the creator of Ebony and Jet magazine,
11:33
bastions of Black beauty,
11:34
struggling to convince department stores
11:36
and existing makeup brands to expand their offerings.
11:39
So, in 1958 he made his own.
11:42
It’s because of him, and his wife Eunice,
11:44
that our grandmas and aunties were able
11:46
to purchase Fashion Fair for all their looks.
11:48
(upbeat jazz music)
11:54
– Nearly 100 years after Overton blessed us with High Brown,
11:58
supermodel Iman created Iman Cosmetics in 1994.
12:02
Using her name and fame to call attention
12:04
to the continued lack of diversity in makeup,
12:07
not just for Black women but for all women of color.
12:10
But, to this day, models and actresses
12:12
and even regular folks at the makeup counter at the mall,
12:15
deal with uneducated makeup artists or brands
12:17
unwilling to offer darker shades.
12:20
So, once again, someone had to shake up the game.
12:23
(upbeat jazz music)
12:28
– Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty blew the beauty world’s mind
12:31
because at its launch in 2017,
12:34
the makeup isle still looked like this.
12:36
– Overton would be so disappointed.
12:37
– I mean, don’t get me wrong,
12:39
Covergirl Queen Collection came in clutch circa 2007,
12:43
but I remember friends having to drive around
12:45
and figure out which store stocked certain brands.
12:48
And while Fenty Beauty wasn’t the first makeup brand
12:51
to have a large shade range, I see you Lancome,
12:54
they were smart about advertising that they did.
12:57
– I mean, Rihanna’s face certainly helps, but it’s true!
13:01
When I look up reviews on YouTube,
13:03
I add for dark skin at the end of every search.
13:06
I need to know you’re giving me something deeper
13:08
than a toasted almond!
13:10
– Fenty’s forty shades
13:11
coupled with products that promoted the idea
13:13
of a glow adds to the excitement
13:15
and cemented the shift in standards of beauty
13:18
from dull and powdery to moisturized and beaming.
13:21
(upbeat jazz music)
13:28
– And if you want to really know
13:29
who’s doing the Lord’s work?
13:30
Balanda Atis is a cosmetic chemist
13:33
and manager of L’oreal’s Women of Color Lab
13:35
and has invented 30 new shades.
13:39
Science!
13:40
No more Dark 003.
13:42
– Much like names, the way you present yourself
13:44
has implications in the outside world.
13:46
Discrimination in the workplace and schools
13:49
are prime examples of how perceptions of Black beauty
13:51
and even cleanliness are politicized and punished.
13:55
The products and practices we’ve used over the years
13:58
to enhance our beauty tie back to one thing.
14:00
As humans we just want to be accepted.
14:02
And if our appearance is the reason for alienation,
14:05
we invent ways to tailor our looks
14:06
to the requirements of the day.
14:08
It’s not shameful, it’s a form of survival.
14:10
– Every dark skinned beauty guru
14:12
striving for visibility on social media,
14:14
every person whipping up concoctions
14:16
for curls, coils, and kinks,
14:18
and every parent walking up to the school
14:20
to defend their child’s hairstyle deemed distracting.
14:23
It’s our perseverance and ingenuity
14:26
not society’s kindness that has allowed us
14:28
to make the strides we have.
14:29
So, how has your idea of beauty changed over the years?
14:33
Who’s your beauty icon, let us know!
14:35
– [Hallease] If you enjoy watching Say it Loud
14:36
then you’ll probably like our friends
14:38
over at America From Scratch!
14:39
It’s another PBS Digital Studios show
14:41
that explores questions like,
14:43
what might the U.S. be like
14:44
if it was founded today?
14:46
And what if there were no states?
14:48
Should we lower our voting age?
14:49
Should we colonize Mars?
14:51
It’s basically your civics class, but fun!
14:54
Check out America from Scratch
14:55
at the link in the description below.
14:57
– [Evelyn] Click here to watch more episodes of Say it Loud,
15:00
click here to watch Danielle from Origin of Everything,
15:02
and click here to watch Vox explain more
15:05
about the makeup industry.
15:06
And we’ll see you next time.
15:07
Bye! – Bye!
15:08
(upbeat jazz music)
15:16
(soft bells)

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