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Did Fashion And Beauty Brands Keep Their Promises To The Black Influencers They Pledged To Support?

With all the racial reckoning of 2020, brands grabbed at the chance to work with black talent in efforts of solidarity against racism. Many promises were at exposure and opportunity were made, but now a new piece from Reginald Larkin at Huffpost is exploring whether the promises were kept.

Credit: ERIC BARADAT VIA GETTY IMAGES

In the summer of 2020, the world finally took notice of the disproportionate rate at which African Americans were being murdered at the hands of law enforcement. People on social media took these injustices to task and drew attention to the plight that has long affected the Black community. 

Black beauty and fashion professionals used their online platforms to share experiences of discrimination and unfair treatment in their respective industries. Out of fear of “cancel culture,” many brands scrambled to assess their history for signs of complicity and made promises to hire diversity officers and support Black voices in social media moving forward.

Now that 2020 is behind us, are those brands fulfilling their promises? We spoke with industry insiders and four Black influencers from the beauty and fashion spheres to check on how corporations are doing, and what steps are being taken to support a more equitable environment.

How industry professionals see things shaping up

Since last summer, public relations consultant Keisha McCotrysaid she has noticed more people of color being featured on beauty brands’ social media pages.

“I think it’s great, but I think it is super late,” McCotry said. “I do think that some of it is performative. [Brands] feel they have to do this or they’re going to get backlash.”

Avon Dorsey, a celebrity stylist, said he’s tried to keep an eye on whether fashion brands are really making an effort to improve their companies.

“I would say it’s like 50/50,” Dorsey told HuffPost. “For diversification, some brands have hired more Black models, which to the public, we have more Black models and that’s cute. But we don’t know what’s happening on the back end.”

Unequal pay is a significant problem in these industries, as influencers of color are often paid less than their white counterparts.

McCotry, who has worked with influencers in the beauty PR space, said that whenever she recommended African American influencers to brands, those brands would “push back” on their rates — something that never happened when she suggested white people.

“If two influencers said their rates are $5K and they had the same following, and if one was white and one was Black, you would get different responses,” she told HuffPost.

To help address transparency around pay disparities, the Instagram account Influencer Pay Gap allows influencers to anonymously share their rates and compare notes about their experiences working with brands.

How influencers see things shaping up now

Taleah Griffin

Credit: BRANDON APPLETON

Taleah Griffin is a Chicago-based model, actor and half of the “Beauty Needs Me” podcast. Griffin used the pandemic as an opportunity to focus her energy on developing a beauty brand of products that are minimal and effortless. 

Followers: 2,000+

Brand category: Beauty

Brands she’s worked with: WhoWhatWear, Pantene and Sephora 

Since summer 2020, have you seen a change in the brands you work with? 

Summer 2020 changed everything. George Floyd’s murder happened the day after my birthday, and by Juneteenth, we launched the podcast “Beauty Needs Me.” All the corporations are taking all the challenges and hiring a diversity officer. I think it’s high time, but there is a financial aspect that’s still missing. For the podcast, we’ve got a lot of press, but no one is sponsoring an episode.

Do the brands directly come out and acknowledge your race when they say they want to work with you? 

Yes, [because for beauty] it’s more about skin tone. A brand would love to show how beautiful their product shows up on your skin tone. Or when a brand is trying to show the efficiency of a hair product, they choose a lighter-skinned influencer with a looser curl. When a brand is trying to show that their sunscreen doesn’t look chalky on Black skin, they go with a darker-skinned model.

Do you see a change in the money you’ve been offered? 

I think there is a change. I’m negotiating my own contracts now. I’m not shy to ask for money I think I deserve.

Has there been a change in your followers? If so, what does that change look like? 

I’ve gotten a lot more female followers ― they are starting to relate to me. [Originally], over 60% of my followers were men.

What do you think your future with corporations looks like? 

I feel it’s good. I feel like I’m manifesting a lot of positive interactions with brands that I feel connected to.

Get the full story at HuffPost.

Vanessa Roberson

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