On May 23rd, Sephora debuted a new brand platform and tagline, “We Belong to Something Beautiful.” According to a statement released by the beauty retail giant, part of the brand’s purpose has always been to cultivate an inclusive community. Now, this new manifesto is meant to “speak to the retailer’s values, beliefs and the commitment it’s making to its community.” As part of this commitment, Sephora will also have a company-wide shutdown for one hour on June 5th for a workshop on inclusion that focuses on belonging.

The shutdown comes a little more than one month following an incident in one of its Calabasas stores. Award winning singer and songwriter SZA tweeted on April 30 that one of the store’s employees had called security on her to make sure she wasn’t stealing.

Directly following the incident Sephora tweeted the singer, who is a former Sephora employee herself, and released the following statement:

“We have been informed of an incident at our Calabasas store and in addition to reaching out to SZA directly, we are gathering more information about the incident in order to take the proper next steps. We take complaints like this very seriously, profiling on the basis of race is not tolerated at Sephora. Our purpose has always been rooted in our people and ensuring that Sephora is an inclusive and welcoming space for all our clients.”

Fans of the singer, were not impressed with the retailer’s response, and took to social media to demand more. When the news regarding the workshop became public, some considered it “too little too late,” upset that the company didn’t take the same action in 2017 after a video went viral of two Black women confronting a Sephora employee who they said had racially profiled them.

But representatives of Sephora say that the new initiative was in the works long before the SZA incident took place.

“Sephora is a client-centric company and creating a welcoming space for all our clients is our top priority.  The ‘We Belong to Something Beautiful’ campaign has been in the works for a year, and the plan to close our U.S. stores, distribution centers, call centers and corporate office for a one-hour inclusivity workshop with our 16,000 employees has been in development for over six months, timed with our first campaign chapter debuting on June 6th,” the company told ESSENCE.

“While it is true that SZA’s experience occurred prior to the launch of the ‘We Belong to Something Beautiful’ campaign, the campaign was not the result of this tweet. However, it does reinforce why belonging is now more important than ever.”

Singer SZA on the red carpet, Photo: Amy Sussman

In 2016 Sephora began Classes for Confidence, 90-minute in-store classes for people going through major life transitions, which includes their 2018 addition BOLD Beauty for the Transgender Community class. They also began internal programs such as SephoraNoir for Black employees, SephoraPrism for LGBTQA+ employees, INspirASIAN for Asian employees, Mi Gente for Hispanic and LatinX employees, EllesVMH, a LVMH leadership program for women, and Working Parents program for employees with children. Sephora did not share the details on how these specific programs benefit the groups mentioned.

According to the retailer, this Wednesday’s workshop is just one of many inclusion trainings planned for the company’s 16,000+ employees in the U.S. Sephora says that the workshop will be discussing what it means to belong across different lenses, including gender identity, race, ethnicity, age, abilities, and more.

On June 6th, the first chapter of the ‘We Belong’ story is slated to launch. Entitled, “Identify as We,” it’s a campaign on gender fluidity and beauty, in celebration of PRIDE month, and exclusively features members of the LGBTQA+, transgender and gender non-binary communities.

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