From The Grio — In 1992, Veronica Webb became the first African-American model to sign a major advertising contract with Revlon. Today, it’s not uncommon for black celebs to land lucrative ad campaigns promoting beauty products. So does this trend reflect a genuine commitment from the global cosmetic industry to embrace diverse beauty?

Indeed, twenty-five years ago it would have been near impossible for a black woman to be the face of trusted brands such as L’Oréal, Revlon and Estée Lauder. Today all that’s changed with the likes of Beyoncé, Halle Berry and Thandie Newton snagging profitable, six-figure deals, to market beauty products to women of all races across the globe.

This development, though, is not limited to the beauty industry. Singer and actress Jennifer Hudson fronts commercials for Weight Watchers and “whitewash” Beyoncé in its 2008 ad campaign. She appeared to look almost white, with pale skin and strawberry-blonde hair. Nevertheless, Oyebade concedes there has been change in the industry based on calculated economics. “The global economic downturn has had a huge impact on mature Western markets and the industry is looking to find business in new and emerging markets such as Asia, African and the Caribbean.” These cash economics weren’t so badly affected by the credit crunch, he says. “I’ve started noticing cosmetic brands hosting fashion shows and sponsoring events in Africa and Caribbean, which have now become viable areas to make money,” and add new customers until economics in the West improve, says Oyebade, who also works as a creative director for international fashion shows. Perhaps, this is the motivation behind one of Estée Lauder’s latest ad campaigns. This year’s product launch is fronted by Chinese supermodel Liu Wen, Puerto Rican-born Joan Smalls and French beauty Constance Jablonski. However, Aerin Lauder, senior vice president and creative director of Estée Lauder, said earlier this year at press event in New York, the company is committed to diversity. “Estée’s choice of models throughout the brand’s evolution was always extraordinary,” said Lauder. “We continue this legacy with a new group of diverse faces that truly represent a modern vision of beauty.” Whatever the reasons for women of color fronting major ad campaigns, it can only be a good if this fad continues. Trends such as western markets becoming more multiracial and emerging economics, such as Brazil, China and India, carving out dominant positions in the global economy, means the cosmetic industry may have no choice but to change. Most importantly of all women need to see their skin and shape reflected in the media.”>Janet Jackson is new face for the Nutrisystem diet. Men have also been cashing in. Tiger Wood’s good looks and “multiracial” appeal was enough for him to earn millions fronting major campaigns; of course, before his popularity plummeted when he was caught cheating on his Swedish wife?

Sola Oyebade, the chief executive of Mahogany Models Management, Europe’s largest agency for models of color, however, is skeptical about the cosmetic industry’s commitment to embrace multicultural beauty.

“The major cosmetic brands tend to use black celebrities to promote products,” Oyebade told There is still the perception that “black doesn’t sell” and white consumers will buy into products if the women of color are well-known, he says.

(Continue Reading @ The Grio…)

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  • I love how the comments whitewashed, light skinned and biracial come up. Black is black. When they see a black woman they see a black woman, whether she’s light skinned or dark skinned, you’re not European. If our only validation is that a dark skinned black woman get some shine we’ll never be satisified with how they portray us because they don’t play those appeasing shades of black games that we do. Why can’t we just be happy that a sista gets some shine at all.

    • So we should settle for less? Insulting! Black is not black so we need to stop with the groupthink excuses. If Covergirl can hire Brandy then surely these companies can do better.

  • libby

    Thanks chanela…I was about to say that..

  • I like how they act like these women are the true representation of black beauty. All of these women are black 2.0. I noticed that P&G recently hired Paula Patton with no shame whatsoever. You can’t sell makeup to dark skinned women with light skinned chicks. Where are the Tika Sumpters, Renee Goldsberrys, Angela Bassetts, Naomie Harris’s, and the Keke Palmer’s? The reason why these companies aren’t making headway with black women is because they are telling us we aren’t good enough to represent their product. they all can go to hell. Black Opal, Black Radiance, Black|Up, Fashion Fair, and Sleek Makeup all hired dark black models. Why can’t companies here do that? I didn’t know my unmistakeable blackness was so offensive!

    • lulu

      lol @ black 2.0

  • Von

    Twenty five years ago? Or are we only talking about celebrities as being the faces of these brands? I have several black magazines from twenty five years ago that featured several top models of color in ads for Revlon, L’Oréal products and other well known beauty products. Massed produced beauty products have always marketed to the black and brown consumer, it is some high-end brands which never fully marketed to that type of consumer, even Chanel once marketed through Essence magazine in their advertisements. I guess with polarization after the ’80s, advertisements became racially exclusive and we still supported these brands even when they didn’t court us. Since celebrities are gracing the covers of magazines and now hopefully selling beauty products this is a trend and really nothing new.

  • AnnT

    The statement ‘There is still the perception that “black doesn’t sell”…’ is directly proportional to the statement that “Black doesn’t crack” in terms of cosmetics.
    Although Black women, or any woman of color for that matter, do like cosmetics, and look for sources and products that represent us and understand our beauty needs, we simply don’t need as many cosmetic products as fairer women.

    • rosie

      why, that’s always, always the excuse for why bw are never included with other women….they’re soooo different.

    • I love the excuse that black women don’t need cosmetics. Yes we do. We use makeup, lighteners, peels, sun screen , color cosmetics, moisturizers, and lotions just like everyone else. There is no such thing as “Magic Black”.