Uplifting people of color was never a trend for the Iman.
The #PullUpOrShutUp challenge started by Uoma Beauty founder Sharon Chuter has pushed brands to be more transparent about the lack of diversity on their corporate teams. Seeing the dearth of black people on staff at many well-known companies is frankly disappointing, but there are also plenty of brands that have been committed to serving and uplifting the Black community since day one to support. On June 10, Iman Cosmetics shared its team demographics (100 percent women, 85 percent Black) along with a statement from its founder, Iman Abdulmajid, about what this support for the community has looked like since she started the brand in 1994.
The supermodel uploaded a video to her Instagram account showing various campaign images from her cosmetics line featuring women of color. She starts the caption by quoting herself: “If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, let the beholder be you.”
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I’ve been in the game of beauty since 1994. Pre-IMAN Cosmetics, as a supermodel being strewn to all luxuriant pockets of the world on location with access to the most coveted innovators nothing should have been off-limits when it came to beauty. However, I would show up to a shoot fresh-faced, ready to be primped into divineness, and the makeup artist of the moment would greet me with what was a commonplace opener at that time: “Did you bring your own foundation?”. And we all knew what that meant. “There are no foundations for your skin tone”. Ouch! This is not the uniqueness I was going for. When I launched IMAN Cosmetics in 1994, we were touted as the prestige brand for women of color, which in marketing speak was really just a PC way of saying Black. And even though our brand positioning and advertising shows a vast array of skin tones from what people identify as Hispanic and Asian, I was admittedly comfortable with IMAN Cosmetics being identified as a the beauty brand that filled the gap for Black women because it was deeply personal for me. It was more than foundations and powders for me; it was appealing to a deep psychological need that I think all Black women needed at that time: To be told that they were beautiful, invited to sit at the table, and courted in high style: women of all skin tones want to look good when they rule the world. Everyone is hip to the fact that if you want to be in business, you clearly have to be in bed with the multicultural consumer. It would be an exercise in foolishness to not invite this customer out to play. But the playground mentality has been industry standard for longer than it needs to be, where someone new rolls on the scene and all of the attention goes to that new person. I wasn’t going to wait for a seat at the table… I just build my own table! Been celebrating our beauty since 1994! IMAN Cosmetics is about a celebration of us….. Women with Skin of Color. www.IMANCosmetics.com. [Link in bio]
In the caption, Abdulmajid also recalls some moments of discrimination she’s experienced during her modeling career. It was common for makeup artists to ask if she brought her own foundation because they didn’t carry her color.
Creating a diverse range of foundation shades was important to Iman, but it was deeper than that — it was about affirming Black women’s worth and beauty. She writes, “It was appealing to a deep psychological need that I think all Black women needed at that time: To be told that they were beautiful, invited to sit at the table, and courted in high style: women of all skin tones want to look good when they rule the world.”
Sadly, the issues Iman suffered during her early modeling days still continue widely today. In 2018, Duckie Thot shared with Es, The London Evening Standard’s Magazine, that she brings her own foundation to shoots. As Aimee Simeon reported for Refinery29, Black models were still having to fix their own makeup backstage at Fashion Week in 2020.
While we can only hope that the #PullUpOrShutUp initiative provides a tangible change in the beauty industry, it’s important to support those who have always been about it. To follow brands responses to the #PullUpOrShutUp challenge, check out the Instagram account Chuter created to track them all.
Originally published on Allure.com