Brown Skin Girl: Being a Beauty Influencer with Dark Skin

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A little while back while scrolling through Instagram, I was double-tapping on one of my faves pages when I noticed another one of my faves had left a comment. It was like OMG MY FAVE KNOWS MY FAVE! But um, of COURSE my fave knows my fave. We all live in the same city and are all native New Yorkers who discuss beauty and fashion online. We all also have dark skin—something that in essence should literally just be skin color, but in the world of beauty can have deeper political meaning.

I knew I wanted to do a group shoot with my long time boos Alissa of Stylish Curves and Erica of The Glamorous Gleam, but like how my other boo (I have a lot of boos…lol) Monroe Steele did when we collaborated about the good, the bad, and the ugly of blogging, I wanted it to not just be cute pics. So I hit my Instagram Stories (follow me if you aren’t already!) and asked you guys to send in some questions on what it’s like being a beauty influencer with dark skin.

Erica of The Glamorous Gleam

Blog: The Glamourous Gleam
Youtube: Glam Mz More
Instagram: @glammzmore

When and why did you start your blog?

I started my blog on September 1st, 2009. I’m excited to be approaching my 10 Year Blogiversary (blog anniversary). I’ve always loved all things beauty & fashion related. When I was a little girl I used to carry my church purse everywhere. It was patent leather with a bow, trimmed in pearls. I would cry if you tried to take it away. I was a fashionista in the making. But I got it from my momma. She was fly in her day. I started doing hair when I was 12 years old and would try all of the new hairstyles on my own hair before doing it for others. I was already a go-to hairstylist by the time I got to high school. But I didn’t really start getting into makeup until my mid twenties. I’d wear a little brow pencil, powder foundation, and some black lip liner with taupe gloss (yup, I I did that lol). But I didn’t really know what I was doing. Then I discovered YouTube tutorials and realized that there was so much more to learn. At that time, I also started following beauty blogs and communities like Specktra. I was so intrigued and wanted to be a part of this makeup movement. So I started my blog to document my makeup journey and daily musings. It has since blossomed into so much more. Sorry. I know that was long. I’ll try to do better lol

What’s it like being the only one (only Black person) in the room at beauty events?

It’s uncomfortable and upsetting. I feel like a token at times. It’s 2019. At this point there is no reason why all brands shouldn’t have diverse representation not only at events, but in campaigns. On their social media feeds. Everywhere. And I don’t mean a single black person to make them feel like they’re really being inclusive. Makes me feel like I’m being used in a sense.

Do you think the current wave of “inclusivity” in the beauty world will continue or is it just a trend?

Honestly, it’s fake inclusivity. It’s always been. For example, back in the day the brands would release 10 shades of foundation with a single dark shade that was never dark enough. Now we’re getting collections with 50 shades and 8 of those are for our complexions. Sometimes out of the 8, you still won’t find a shade deeper than my own complexion. I believe the majority of these brands want to make us feel included a little bit because they want our coins. They include us to compete with their competitors. But catering to our beauty needs is not at the forefront. With that being said, the wave of “inclusivity” will continue because brands now realize the power of our dollar.

Do you think you get paid less as a Black blogger than your white counterparts?

I do. Sometimes brands don’t want to pay us at all. I mean big brands. I know this from personal experience. They’ll offer to send product in exchange for a post. When you mention money they’ll hit you with the “unfortunately we don’t have a budget for this campaign.” But I know that you just did a campaign with XYZ who is white and from my research you paid a grip. I believe that brands will undercut us whatever chance they get. That’s why we have to know our worth and stop letting these brands play us.

Do you find that you have to present yourself a certain way at all times in order to get jobs?

[audience question]

I do. Like sometimes I can’t completely be myself in fear of being passed over by brands because I’m too “urban.” Or because I don’t fit the mold. I’ve been in the game too long though to not completely be myself. People can see when you’re not genuine. I can only be me. So that’s how I’m going to present myself. Yes, I keep it professional. But I’m not going to alter my personality to fit the mold. For every brand that doesn’t find me to be a good fit for a job, there will another that will.

Do you feel like brands only leverage your skin tone when trying to show off their range?

[audience question]

Yes. That’s how you end up being the one black person in the room. For me, this also happens with my hair. I’ll be the only one with kinky type 4 hair in a room full of loose curls and wavy hair. So imagine what it feels like to be the only one in the room with dark skin (or any melanin at all) and kinky hair.

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the space in the past year?

[audience question]

The biggest change I’ve seen in the space this past year is that everyone appears to be stepping up their game on social media, and the blogosphere period. I guess we owe it to the Influencer book, and Instagram constantly messing with the algorithms. Speaking of algorithms, I’ve noticed a lot more people publicly voicing their frustration. Which is expected when you’re stepping your game up but not seeing traction. Like your hard work is in vain. But I see you, sis. Keep doing what you’re doing!

How did you get comfortable wearing bright eyeshadow (or any makeup they tell us darker skin shouldn’t wear)? I’ve always felt I was too dark for them.

[audience question]

I grew up feeling that I wasn’t as pretty as I could be because of my dark skin. I was teased by not only people outside, but by some of my own family members. Blacky. Burned toast. You name it, I’ve been called it. Guys would always hit me with the “you’re pretty for a dark skinned girl.” It took me a long time to be completely comfortable in my skin. But by the time I got into makeup I had already gained some confidence. I actually might’ve had a little bit too much lol. As I mentioned earlier, I was stalking YouTube videos. I saw people that looked like me wearing color so I never shied away. In fact, I was recognized out of the gate for wearing lip colors that women with dark skin typically shied away from. The only color I was apprehensive about wearing was red because my Grandma told me when I was younger that red lipstick and nail polish was for ladies of the night lol. However, my Nana (other grandma) wore both. So I was torn. Even my mom wore red lipstick. Sometimes with black lip liner (yes, they did that). Eventually red lipstick won me over and if my grandma was still here today, I think she’d like the way it looks on me.

Do you face a lot of resistance on a daily like people treating you less because of your skin?

[audience question]

During the day I work at an institution with predominately white people. There is always an air of superiority and privilege. Some people won’t treat you differently outright. But others make it very clear that they think they’re better with their attitude and actions. Sometimes it gets to me. But I try to just keep a thick skin. You have to in the world we live in. I don’t think we’ll ever be treated as equals. Not only amongst white people, but with our own people that have lighter skin.

Alissa of Stylish Curves

Blog: Stylish Curves
Youtube: Stylish Curves
Instagram: @stylishcurves

When and why did you start your blog?

I started my blog in May 2009 because at that time there weren’t many shopping resources for plus size women. I wanted to create a space for plus size women to get style, shopping, and fashion tips that would build their body confidence.

What’s it like being the only one (only Black person) in the room at beauty events?

Oh boy, sometimes it’s a little awkward. In my mind I’m thinking everyone is staring at me. Most of all it’s a little disappointing. I say to myself, there are countless black beauty influencers and you only include one or a few??? The worst is when the beauty event doesn’t have makeup that works for your skin tone.

Do you think the current wave of “inclusivity” in the beauty world will continue or is it just a trend?

I think it will continue if we continue to demand inclusivity and if we create our own spaces and be inclusive. However, I do believe some brands are just doing it for clout and most of the time it shows because when they try to be inclusive it’s a huge fail. Remember tarte and their foundation launch?

Do you think you get paid less as a Black blogger than your white counterparts?

In the beginning yes. It wasn’t until I started talking to other black and white bloggers that I found out it was happening. Some brands don’t think black bloggers have the same reach or influence. They also think that our audience is only black not realizing that just like non black bloggers we have a diverse audience too.

Do you find that you have to present yourself a certain way at all times in order to get jobs?

[audience question]

I don’t feel like I have to present myself in a specific way. I make sure I’m always myself. However, I feel like I have to make sure my work is always on point.

Do you feel like brands only leverage your skin tone when trying to show off their range?

[audience question]

Absolutely. When brands want to show they’re diverse with foundation or concealer they use black influencers. However, you never see black influencers being included for anything else.

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the space in the past year?

[audience question]

To me there aren’t really big changes but I do have to acknowledge that we are seeing more people of color become influencers and we are starting to see more black owned beauty brands. Back in the day there were about three.

How did you get comfortable wearing bright eyeshadow (or any makeup they tell us darker skin shouldn’t wear)? I’ve always felt I was too dark for them.

[audience question]

People use to tell me I’m too dark for red lipstick and white eyeliner and I should only use neutral eyeshadows. I became comfortable with wearing bright colors because that’s what my eye was always attracted to. Also when I put bright makeup on I liked how I looked with it so I ignored the naysayers. I became more comfortable when I learned what shades worked best for my skin tone. With red lipstick, I like a blue-based red as opposed to an orange-base red. Also, I have to say when I was younger and went to the MAC makeup counters those artists would be like girl you better wear that color and they showed me how to wear color in a way that flattered my tone and embraced it.

Do you face a lot of resistance on a daily like people treating you less because of your skin?

[audience question]

I often feel excluded because of my skin. When you’re in the deep dark skin category, only one of us are chosen to work with brands. There’s never more than two.

Danielle of The Style and Beauty Doctor

Blog: The Style and Beauty Doctor
Youtube: Style and Beauty Doctor
Instagram: @stylenbeautydoc

When and why did you start your blog?

I started in 2007 right after I started my image consulting business. I initially started my blog to gain more clientele for my business and then I realized I could reach more people by tweaking my content. I wanted to be the Oprah of image consulting…lol. I started to do more beauty reviews and makeup swatches to help my fellow beauty lovers with dark skin. This was in addition to style guides with shopping and travel mixed in.

What’s it like being the only one (only Black person) in the room at beauty events?

It sucks and shouldn’t be happening in nearly 2020. I make mention of it now though and have a list of Black influencers I love that I suggest brands reach out to. Technically I could collect a fee for doing this because there are agencies who get paid to do exactly that, but 1. that line of business is not my main passion and 2. I just want to see more people who look like me get put on.

Do you think the current wave of “inclusivity” in the beauty world will continue or is it just a trend?

I think it’s partly a trend. A lot of these brands are just adding shades without really studying the demographic they’re targeting. There’s still a lot of education that needs to come with these shade extensions—I see this with the type of questions I get when I do a Youtube video or blog post on a new foundation. You can’t just throw the shades out there and be like “HERE YA GO.” A lot of people with deeper skin tones still struggle with finding their shade match especially with our unique coloring (some of us can be much darker on the body than we are in the face; many of us are lighter in the center of our faces and darker around the perimeter; some have hyperpigmentation and discoloration that can be challenging when selecting a foundation, etc.). And goodness, if those deeper shades are not sold in store where people can swatch and get *expert* help from the people that work there, why are we even doing this?

Do you think you get paid less as a Black blogger than your white counterparts?

It depends. I see way too many influencers who buy followings and engagement and literally every other post is sponsored. I know how much work I put into sponsored content (as well as my editorial content) and there is no way I’d be able to have so many sponsored posts back to back, so it makes me wonder if some influencers are twerking for pennies for an audience of bot accounts. I have seen folks whose strategy it seems is to take the sponsorships that pay like maybe $300-500 max but then they do one of those every other day. WHO wants to follow someone where nearly every post is sponsored? People want to follow people they relate to—they want to know what you ate for breakfast, what your favorite eyeshadow is, what TV shows you watch, etc, etc. not someone who posts selfies holding up some random product every other post. Get money, girlfriend (because I get mine…lol) but be smart about it. I only want to do like maybe 3-4 sponsored posts MAX a month so I charge accordingly.

On the other hand, I have seen instances where brands have an “ethnic” budget and it’s typically way lower than general market. Like Alissa said, brands feel like we don’t have as big of a following as white bloggers/influencers do BUT that is also rooted in racism. A blonde haired bubbly beauty girl with fair skin will likely have a majority of followers who look like her just as the kinky haired bubbly beauty girl with dark skin will also likely have a majority of followers who look like her. But brands push the blonde girl more (who might also have followers who have tan skin, brown skin, dark skin, etc) because she’s more “relatable” to audiences and gets more likes and engagement than the kinky haired girl (you don’t even have to a ton of research to find that to be true—just go on any major beauty brand’s Instagram page and make note of the vast difference in likes and engagement on the Black people they post vs the white ones).

But as a whole, white influencers are definitely getting paid more than black influencers.

Do you find that you have to present yourself a certain way at all times in order to get jobs?

[audience question]

Not any more. Authenticity sells now and brands realize this. But also as I get older, I no longer feel I need to be a watered down version of myself. There are still things I won’t do: like in my real life I curse A LOT, but I wouldn’t do that on social media.

This also comes with age—you start giving less you-know-whats (I told ya’ll I don’t curse on my platforms…lol) as you get older. But I did have a brand try to rewrite a sponsored post draft I sent over and that mess enraged me…lol. I wrote back like “Hey, I’m not posting this. It’s been totally watered down to where it doesn’t sound like me—here’s what I plan on posting. Please advise.” They got with the program QUICK. Don’t be afraid to speak up.

Do you feel like brands only leverage your skin tone when trying to show off their range?

[audience question]

Hard to say because I’ve personally had relationships with a lot of brands for yeaaaars (my blog has been around for 12 years) and some of them have increased shade ranges in this time. I tend to look at things like this on a case by case basis and my history with the brand. I only work with brands that make sense for my brand, what my audience is into, and if the opportunity will further my career. But you really have to evaluate each circumstance because not everything is black and white (literally and figuratively lol).

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the space in the past year?

[audience question]

Definitely the shade range extensions and I see more and more influencers with deeper skin tones. It’s a beautiful thing to see, so keep posting, ya’ll! Also if you want to get into this space, JUST DO IT. Don’t be that scaredy cat who takes ten years to jump into the double dutch rope–get in there. It doesn’t need to be perfect–heck, my content now isn’t “perfect” even 12 years later but I keep going–but you do need to start.

How did you get comfortable wearing bright eyeshadow (or any makeup they tell us darker skin shouldn’t wear)? I’ve always felt I was too dark for them.

[audience question]

You really have to deprogram yourself from that line of thinking because it’s SO completely false. We look amazing in bright colors—whoever came up with the notion that we’re too dark for bright colors was probably jealous.

Take baby steps—add a pop of color on your bottom water line and inch your way up to wearing color on the lid. Now of course you wouldn’t wear a bright pink shadow to work if you work in a very conservative environment, but when appropriate, break out those brights!

Do you face a lot of resistance on a daily like people treating you less because of your skin?

[audience question]

Yup. Even as simple as getting on the Long Island Railroad and dealing with friction with the ticket takers—it’s like, SIR, you’re in a customer service job!?!?! Navigating through mostly white spaces is tough but you have to keep your head held high and realize you belong. Again, this comes with age, but I ain’t got time for ridiculous folks and their silly, racist or colorist antics. I’ve got businesses to run, skin to moisturize, and hair to grow—I AIN’T GOT THE TIME.

My outfit details:

Duster: Suakoko Betty (Black woman-owned biz!)
Dress: Express (old)
Shoes: Schutz
Hair: Big Chop Hair Kinky Curl u-part 24″ (Black woman-owned biz!)

For Alissa and Erica’s outfit deets, please check them out on their respective platforms :)

Photos: Dadouchic

NOTE: If you repost any photos from this post, please credit @dadouchic as photographer, and tag @stylenbeautydoc @stylishcurves @glammzmore.

So while having dark skin often means having a totally different experience than your counterparts with lighter skin, I still say get in there and shake ish UP. Don’t play into that notion that there can only be one of us or that you have to do it like the other dark skin girls do in order to make strides in the influencer space. The less we do this to ourselves, the more we can fight against the larger systems. Stop comparing one dark skin influencer to another. Start asking brands why they don’t include more of the influencers you love who have dark skin (whether you’re an influencer or consumer)—it’s so much easier to make noise that sparks change these days thanks to social media. And if you don’t have dark skin, BE AN ALLY. Sad but true, sometimes the voices that are heard and valued the most when it comes to racism and colorism are the ones coming out of lighter toned bodies.

Are you a beauty influencer with dark skin? What is your experience in this space? Tell me in the comments!

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About Danielle

A former finance girl, Danielle is a New York City based freelance writer and fashion and beauty expert. She's a Hofstra University and Fashion Institute of Technology grad with an obsession with fashion and beauty which she loves to tell you all about every weekday on her award-winning blog. Think of her as your style and beauty entourage all wrapped up into one bubbly brown package. Danielle's work and expertise can be found in print and across the web in Cosmopolitan for Latinas, Allure.com, and more! She's also appeared as an on-air style and beauty expert on The Real, CBS New York's "The Couch" and WPIX11's Savvy Shopper segment.

12 Responses to Brown Skin Girl: Being a Beauty Influencer with Dark Skin

  1. Marie says:

    I can only imaginee how much work went into this post, and all views expressed are appreciated and quite relatable. Thank you for putting this forward xx

  2. N says:

    Great interviews

  3. Kathy says:

    Thank you Ladies for this very informative post. This just makes me admire your work and dedication even more. I wish you all continued success and blessings

  4. Gail says:

    I am sorry you feel this way. I live in the South and there are dark skin women at the counters everywhere. I have to say that I don’t feel the sharp divide here. I enjoy going to the YMCA here and talking with women of all backgrounds. We don’t always see eye to eye but we do keep talking, which I think is so important. Yes we are different but we all want the best for all of our futures. Love your blog. Companies should know you are the future, if smart they will grab you up. Keep being you.

  5. Lynn B. Ramsey says:

    APPLAUSE APPLAUSE APPLAUSE!!!! This was a poignant, powerful and emboldened article. Being in this BLACK skin is not easy on so many levels. Yes we have made some strides and have overcome so many obstacles, however there is STILL a monsoon of barriers to break down. You don’t want us at the table equally…we”ll build our own!!!! Bravo You Melanated Beauties?

  6. Claudette Morgan Gray says:

    Wow, girl. What a revealing post. Great job.

  7. Shannon says:

    Thanks for sharing. I’m starting to get more into beauty blogging and this was eye-opening. I really enjoy your content. Keep posting! :)

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