Mediocrity and Jackie Aina don't mix. Ten years and over 800 reviews and tutorials in, the YouTuber has proven that — when it comes to product quality, performance, and inclusivity — she doesn't turn a blind eye.
Aina holds every product she encounters to an elite standard: If something doesn't work with all manner of brown skin tones, then the brand is eligible for a takedown. She has been both praised and chastised for her brutal honesty, but her voice is one that has led the beauty industry to be more inclusive overall. Aina's also made a major impact on the way brands formulate for diverse skin tones through her own product collaborations. Case in point: her (now discontinued) limited-edition highlighter launch with Artist Couture, which featured shimmer shades suitable for all complexions, especially dark ones. Or, her collaboration with Too Faced Cosmetics that expanded its Born This Way foundation line with nine darker shades. This summer, she's representing for brown-skin girls once again with a new makeup launch.
Anastasia Beverly Hills has worked with Aina to release her first namesake eye palette, and the collaboration is one ABH fans have been begging for. "Norvina, the president of the brand, reached out to me and told me that she was getting requests to work with me," Aina tells Refinery29 exclusively. "I attended a creative brainstorm with her team and, at the time, a palette wasn't even on the table." Instead, highlighter and bronzer were bounced around as ideas, but Aina's gut landed on eyeshadow. "In my opinion, ABH leads the way for quality in that category. I love its shadows, but as a consumer, I felt like there were some voids I could fill."
One of those voids was shade inclusivity. "Many eyeshadow palettes are made for the masses," she says. "You always have two or three shades you never wear because you don't like them or the pigment doesn't work on your skin tone." Instead, Aina's goal was to create colours that were flattering on all complexions, with a focus on the darker end of the spectrum. "Even if someone doesn't like a particular colour in the palette, there are definitely shades that will look good on medium and dark skin."
A year of sampling, rejecting, and finalizing shades and textures resulted in a beautiful, 14-pan palette that includes metallic shadows in shades of purple, copper, and pink. "I wanted the colours to be a combination of my personality and my everyday looks," she says. Also noticeable in Aina's palette is the presence of cool-toned shades right alongside warm ones. "I started my channel to help Black women think out of the box," she says. "You don't have to stick to shades that match your complexion; you can play around with colour and cool tones," Aina tells us. "I wanted this palette to service the person who wants to experiment and the person who prefers neutrals, too."
Aina's personality is also evident in the shade names. Wiggalese, a coppery pink, is an ode to her love for wigs. Sponsored, a shimmery silver with hints of green, is a nod to being an influencer. Trust Issues is a smart play on iridescence that looks silver in the pan, but swatches green on the lids. "I wanted the shade names to mimic my frequently used phrases," she says. "I also wanted people to laugh and have fun saying them when they are reviewing it [the palette]."
Aina's loyal subscribers were top of mind when creating her latest release. "I didn't get feedback directly from my supporters, but I definitely paid close attention to what they wanted during the process." Aina tells us that fan reactions to launches on Twitter and Instagram set the bar for her to create a quality item. "I absolutely cannot put my stamp of approval on something unless I feel confident about it," she says. "Yes, there were challenges along with way, but it was all worth it."
The Jackie Aina stamp of approval goes beyond a love of formula or shade range. She also critiques a brand's values, and has been a champion for those most underserved in the makeup aisle. As Aina's platform grows, her message remains consistent. "Collaborating with Black influencers puts your money where your mouth is," she says. "It's easy to expand a product range, but it's another thing to hire, consult, and give people of colour a seat at the table." Aina's collaboration with Anastasia Beverly Hills, which sold out during the pre-sale ahead of its August 6 launch, is proof of that. "There's power in working with Black beauty influencers," she says. "I think I've really proved my worth, and hopefully, more brands can take a page out of this book to make sure everyone is more visible."
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