Beauty editor over 50 reflects on age equality and diversity in magazines
Beauty editor? I had never heard of such a thing when I graduated from Vassar in 1990. I spent about ten years trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, before entering in the world of magazines: I taught English in high school, worked for a lobbying firm in Washington, DC, started an interior design certification program, but nothing stuck. I finally moved to New York in 1998, with no job leads and no plans. I had grown to love NYC while in college and even though I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, I took the plunge and prayed for the parachute to appear. It made. A year later, in December 1999, I landed a job as a fashion and beauty editor for Gasoline Magazine, and since then I’ve had a front-row seat to the evolution of the beauty industry, particularly in regards to age representation and diversity.
The first time I saw a Gasoline The magazine was on my grandmother’s coffee table. I was in elementary school. My grandmother was reading Essence, but so was my 18-year-old cousin at the time. Now, as a black woman, working at a magazine dedicated to black women, I realized that our notions of beauty did not necessarily conform to those of mainstream or mainstream publications. Essence’s cover subjects ranged from political figures and business leaders to models and celebrities. They were of all ages and sizes. We have never been obsessed with youth, but rather celebrating our unique spectrum of beauty.
Gasoline existed to uplift all black women – not just those in their twenties – and while our beauty section appealed to readers and was certainly seen as essential (because black beauty was not covered in such depth elsewhere at the time ), the magazine’s hallmarks were the brand’s meats and potatoes. Who wanted to read these real-life issues, like creating generational wealth or addressing systemic racism in public schools or addressing the gaps of missing black women in the media? Black women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 60s, etc. Inclusion was in the brand’s DNA.
In many ways, the beauty industry has finally begun to catch up Gasolineunderlying principle of inclusivity, which was often an afterthought elsewhere. Black beauty brands like Fashion Fair and Iman Cosmetics have always had shade ranges for women of color, but now you have the LVMHs of the world signing Rihanna — who insists on an appropriate shade range for foundation colors. complexion at Fenty Beauty – setting the bar to reach for other brands.
In 1999, I think I knew three black women who worked in beauty at mainstream publications and they were in mid to entry-level positions. Three. Today, you can find women of color in virtually every reputable media and at every level. Underrepresented women understand the importance of representation, so in addition to addressing the most pressing issues in the lives of black women, we made sure to feature a range of skin tones, sizes and ages so that our readers can see themselves in each post.
But to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure this increase in mainstream beauty representation is really about real inclusivity or just saving face and keeping customers. It’s most likely a mix. But today, unlike 1999 when I started, there are so many more choices when it comes to beauty. If the mainstream Brand X doesn’t recognize me or understand what I need, I can absolutely find a Brand Z that does. It’s no longer about drugstore beauty or department store beauty. Now women just find the YouTuber or influencer whose hair is like hers or whose complexion is perfect and learn from her. And in many cases, the brand that these influencers swear by, someone who looks like them too.
In the same way that influencers have joined the editorial landscape, independent beauty brands have infiltrated the more traditional beauty market. Sure, we still buy CoverGirl, Pantene, Clinique, and CHANEL, but I think women today are just as excited about cosmetics Elves, Glossier, Mented, Kosas, Pat McGrath Labs, and Augustinus Bader. It’s also amazing to see women of color representing luxury brands, like Zoë Kravitz and YSL, and Yara Shahidi and Dior.
In terms of age, I think there’s a shift happening in Hollywood where we’re seeing a wider age range and diversity on the red carpet. It’s refreshing to see true beauty through the likes of Helen Mirren, Jane Fonda, JLo, Halle Berry, Salma Hayek, Viola Davis, Penelope Cruz, Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, among others, rather than just twenty years. This was not the case ten years ago. These women are over 45 and they just look great, period, not “to be over 45”. I see this shift reverberating far beyond Hollywood, into how we all feel about aging and glamour, painting it in a much more positive light in 2022 than 20 or even ten years ago.
Speaking of improvements around beauty and age, it’s also quite refreshing to see so many new brands that address hormonal beauty issues; Pause Well Aging, Better, Not Younger, Womaness, Dr. Zenovia Skincare, SukiEra and Rosebud, to name a few. I believe all of these brands were founded and owned by women – no surprise.
I interviewed at least five of these founders and although they come from a variety of backgrounds within the beauty industry, they all responded to a lack of something in the beauty and wellness industries. , regarding hormonal changes. They had all experienced symptoms of perimenopause and were annoyed by the lack of products and solutions available. This particular hormonal trend is still relatively new, so the verdict is still on their staying power, but I think in general there’s more appreciation these days for more focused, artisanal beauty brands.
So, has the beauty industry arrived at a “We Are the World” moment? Absolutely not. Yes, it’s better, but it’s not nirvana. The beauty industry is in tune with American culture, so like beauty there have been marked improvements – Biden has more women in his cabinet than any president before, we have a female vice president (and maybe a black female Supreme Court justice on the way), but we still have a long way to go.
Women don’t have full authority over their bodies (in every state, that is) and equal voting rights for all is still a dream. I’m not stressed about any of this – the arc of progress is long, however, the beauty industry would benefit from having more women of color at the proverbial table and women of all ages. Beauty wants and needs are ageless, so it would be helpful (and profitable) for the industry to catch up to that fact and cater to women over 40 with equal vigor, across all categories. of beauty, only to women aged 18 to 35. We will get there. I still have faith in the universe and that alone is beautiful.