Top beauty retailer Sephora is using their international reach to emphasize how Black beauty and Black trends are the blueprints for the beauty industry. In the short film, Black Beauty Is Beauty, Sephora traces the history of your favourite beauty trends to their Black roots.
Directed by Garrett Bradley, the first Black woman to win best director at Sundance for her documentary Time in 2020, the short film begins in a beauty shop.
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The camera pans over Black women waiting under dryers as the narrator poses the question, “What is beauty without Black beauty?” Repeatedly, Black people create trends and receive no acknowledgment while white industries co-opt and monetize Black genius. Did you know a Black woman invented the hairbrush? Lyda D. Newman was an inventor and activist for women’s suffrage. She patented the first easy-to-clean hairbrush with synthetic bristles. In Black Beauty Is Beauty, Newman gets her flowers, with her patented hairbrush design highlighted in the film.
The film shows a white person applying a cut crease, then cuts to a trio of drag queens beating their face, then to vogueing at a drag ball. The message is clear: these trends are Black and queer. From the Black mom who laid our edges as children and taught us to use thick lotions instead of that watery mess, we birthed make-up and skin care with our love and shared it with the world.
Thanks to Bradley’s vision, inclusion of history and all body types, orientations and races, Black Beauty Is Beauty doesn’t feel performative. No one feels left out. The film has more inclusion in its under-a-minute runtime than 2-hour features have in their whole film. Rather than dipping a toe in “diversity,” Bradley and Sephora fully submerged us and created a beautiful film that sees us. And we didn’t even have to wait until Black History Month to be acknowledged.
It doesn’t end there. Sephora’s page has links to Black-owned brands, and Sephora pledges at least 15% of their shelves for Black-owned brands. Useful information about the challenges Black brands face is also on the page, plus a link to apply for their brand incubation, Sephora Accelerate, helping founders of colour create a successful business. The deadline is September 20th.
Sephora is leading through words, actions, and money for Black beauty innovators. Precisely as it should be.