It’s been a triumphant year for black beauty entrepreneurs. At the start of the year one of the world’s most popular makeup artists, Pat McGrath, unveiled her delectable self-titled makeup range, a swoon-worthy range of lipsticks, blushers and eyeshadows that is in keeping with the high-quality aesthetic we’ve come to expect from one of the most respected backstage runway makeup artists. And just last month our favourite bad gyal, Rihanna, had us breaking out in a collective sweat with the unveiling of Fenty Beauty, which made global headlines due to its staggeringly expansive 40 foundations formulations and super- inclusive advertising campaigns.
Slowly but surely, the beauty landscape is changing and becoming more reflective of the wonderfully diverse planet we occupy. It’s safe to say that none of these monumental wins would’ve existed as easily without the path that other trailblazing black beauty mavens have trodden. In no particular order we pay homage to five of the best to have ever done it.
Iman – Iman Cosmetics
As a busy, in-demand high fashion model throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, Iman was well aware of the severe lack of suitable makeup products available for women of colour. In the spirit of a true entrepreneur, the supermodel decided to use this negative to her advantage by creating Iman Cosmetics, a range of products that caters to the cosmetic needs of women of all shades. Launched in 1994, over 25 years later IMAN Cosmetics remains a global beauty brand that is said to have amassed over £20 million in sales, and remains a firm favourite among makeup lovers due in part to its varied and accurate foundation shades.
Naomi Sims – Naomi Sims Cosmetics
Naomi Sims was a trailblazer her entire life. She was the first African American model to grace the cover of lifestyle magazine Ladies’ Home Journal, a move considered by many as a pivotal moment for the ‘Black Is Beautiful’ movement that was gaining traction in the US during the 60s. Further success would follow including an iconic cover in Life magazine in 1969, which led to her being widely-regarded as the first black supermodel. But soon Naomi would grow disillusioned by the fashion industry and launched her own wig collection in 1973. Shortly thereafter she launched Naomi Sims Cosmetics, a range of quality foundations, skin care products, lipsticks and fragrances.
Cheryl Burgess – Black Opal
In 1994 Black Opal Cosmetics was launched, a line of cosmetics and skin care products designed for women of colour. One of the co-founders was Dr Cheryl Burgess, an African American dermatologist who was determined to create a brand which addressed the unique needs of black skin. Thirty plus years later and Black Opal is still going strong, recently the brand underwent a revamp and is currently sold in over 30 countries worldwide.
Eunice Johnson – Fashion Fair
Creating a brand that has lasted 40 plus years in the competitive and fickle world of beauty is no easy feat. And yet, that’s the legacy of the late Eunice Johnson, co-founder of the iconic cosmetics brand Fashion Fair. Eunice was the wife of Ebony magazine publisher John H. Johnson who founded Fashion Fair in 1973 when she struggled to find suitable cosmetics for black models who walked during her annual fashion show. The success of the brand was almost instantaneous, and over forty years later it is still regarded as one of the leading makeup brands for women of colour.
Beverley Knight – K Cosmetics
Not content with conquering the music and theatre world, Beverley Knight’s foray into cosmetics took the world by surprise when she launched her K Cosmetics line in 2009. The range consisted of a quality range of foundations, lipsticks and eyeshadows and was positively received by beauty journalists, bloggers and the general public alike. Although it was relatively short-lived, Beverley will forever belong to an exclusive club of black female cosmetics entrepreneurs.