Fenty Beauty is a Love Song to Women of Color

Everything Rihanna presents to us is meant to push the boundaries, break a ceiling and ignite passion and rhythm into our lives; so when I first learned she was creating a cosmetics line, I was certain it would do the same. 

After must anticipation and fanfare Fenty Beauty was released to the world earlier this month, and it feels completely different than any other celebrity makeup line (celebrity products are a bit of a cliché). Fenty Beauty feels genuine, and is, because it is here to change the lives of women of color. 

When it comes to my beauty routine, I like to keep it very simple. I don’t wear foundation. It always seemed like too much work to find the right shade, out of the very few shades, to match my chocolate, citrus tinted complexion (I told my friend the other day that I always recognized myself as a chocolate dipped tangerine). 

On the few occasions that I did wear it, it never felt quite right: heavy and most importantly, discolored — like melting frosting spread on a warm cake too soon. For shows, events and photo shoots, makeup artists would mix two or three browns together to try and match my shade. 

“You’re a mocha 43 – caramel 5 – chocolate truffle 58,” they’d inform me, waving 3 foundation bottles from different brands in the air, but I damn sure wasn’t going to remember those names or numbers, nor did I care to. 

Most dark-skinned women have a complicated relationship with makeup. We struggle finding the right colors that not only match our skin tone but compliments our undertones. There’s much mixing and blending and shading to be done. When applying makeup, we become someone between a scientist and a painter, experimenting with colors until they make sense, make a masterpiece.

So when Rihanna revealed the treats within her line: a plethora of highlighter sticks, rosy lip gloss and 40 shades of foundation — I was hype. She has always inspired the shit out of me. From her edgy, sensual and eclectic style, to her sassy, syrupy voice and her unwavering resilience and strength — she’s a real one.

Certain that the whole line would sell out within minutes, my best friend stayed up till 3 am (the line launched at 12am PST) and purchased two Confetti Match Stix for us — a whimsical aqua-lavender, it was the perfect first Fenty purchase. I have nothing like it, and when I wear it I feel like a Lisa Frank painting come to life.

That’s what makes Fenty Beauty interesting: while other beauty brands flaunted shimmer sticks in gold, silver and rose, Rihanna said “naw, I’m going to make a rainbow line of highlighters.” Rihanna made a highlighter stick to match our every mood, outfit and skin tone, which is something most beauty brands are too lazy to think about. 

It is her insistence to fill in the gaps, to recognize the untapped, under attended to areas, that makes Fenty Beauty worthwhile. Rihanna’s colors proves that inclusivity is not only necessary, but achievable, and that when done with care and meticulousness, it can exhibit the beauty of diversity.

This had to be done by a black woman. 

As black women, we are confronted with or dismissed because of our skin color on the daily, so we are already hyper-aware of the intricate, multi-hued make up of our body’s canvas. Rihanna took this knowledge and applied it to making shades that all women of color can find themselves in.

Besides being inclusive, Fenty Beauty is cruelty free — a stand that more beauty brands should take — and they know how to have fun — Rihanna swiftly clapped back at Makeup Forever when they shared an Instagram post claiming that 40 shades is nothing new to them. Yes, 40 shades is nothing new if only a handful of them are dark.

For too long, catering to women of color has been an afterthought in the makeup world, as if we aren’t worthy of perfectly matched colors, or worse — our complexion an inconvenience. With Fenty Beauty, we’ve always been the center of attention: our differences exalted, instead of excused.

Like her music, Fenty Beauty encourages us to stand out and shine!