In days gone by, the beauty industry has been veiled by a false perception of who their consumer is – notably, they’ve been wrongly assumed to be cis-gendered, white, female and turning to beauty for a need to conform, rather than as a route to self-expression. Thankfully, in recent years, brands have sought to invest in who their communities actually are; that whether you’re male, female, transgender, non-binary, straight or gay, and regardless of race, size or religion, you deserve to feel represented, reflected and seen by brands across the industry. Read to learn more about diversity in beauty.
In the last year, the beauty sphere has taken some mindful steps towards inclusivity and representation of their transgender customers. Perhaps one of the first and most significant turning points for transgender representation within the industry was when luxury leaders, Chanel, hired Teddy Quinlivan to star in it’s global beauty campaign, as she made history as the first ever trans woman to do so.
Teddy shared the news on her Instagram account, noting “I am the first openly trans person to work for the house of Chanel and I am deeply humbled and proud to represent my community,” with the partnership signaling a hugely positive change for luxury beauty. We’re now looking to the brands that are giving the transgender community a voice and seeking out what more can be done to take action across the wider industry.
THE IMPORTANCE FOR BRANDS TO USE THEIR PLATFORM TO GIVE BACK, BEYOND PRIDE MONTH
Beauty is a key tool for experimentation, identification and empowerment; pillars that have been at the centre of the queer community for decades, which is why their respresetationrepresentation is key for brands to execute in a thoughtful and mindful way. In the past, mainstream brands have adopted aspects from the LGBTQ+ community, such as iconic club culture, and claimed them as their own, often with lack of representation of the individuals that had established and developed these movements.
Leading mainstream beauty brands are becoming accountable for the importance of giving back, whether that’s through creative representation or monetary support. NYX, who teamed up with Angel Merino for their #LuvOutLoud campaign, actively donate to The Trevor Project, a confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ+ youth in the US, alongside Morphe, who last year, pledged to do the same with 100% of the proceeds from their Live in Colour collection.
Brands may choose to move away from promoting Pride orientated collections without donation, as the need for substance to back up the deeper meaning behind the cause is necessary to progression. Without this, collections can appear more of a bandwagon marketing ploy than genuine allyship.
The brands that do it best have a true interest in the lasting impact of their allyship with the transgender community, promoting respectful and authentic progress rather than timely acts of collaboration. Herbivore Botanicals, a US-based vegan skincare brand, make donations to the LGBTQ+ community throughout the year through the sales of its Prism Exfoliating Glow Potion, with $1 of each purchase going straight to the Trans Women of Color Collective, who’s work establishes safe spaces for transgender and non-binary people of colour.
Jessica Blacker, founder of gender-free makeup brand Jecca Blac, expressed how important long standing relationships and transparency across the wider community are to establishing a brand that encompasses inclusivity for the right reasons. “As a brand, if you can see that you have room for improvement, challenge yourself and your team about why that is and strive to show up for the trans community in the best way that you can.” she says. “It’s also essential to book trans talent for modelling jobs and campaigns – not just white trans models, but trans people with disabilities, trans people of colour, and trans people from minority groups.
Any trans person could purchase your products and because of this, they deserve to feel represented and their talent amplified. You’d be amazed at the community your product can build, if you begin to include those who always feel overlooked.”
ONLINE COMMUNITIES ARE KEY TO POSITIVE IMPACT
Within the LGBTQ+ community, a sense of understanding, compassion for each other’s experiences and individual journey is key, which is why it isn’t enough for brands to show support from the sidelines. In order for the positive change in inclusivity that is so needed across the beauty industry, brands must strive to hear, listen and reflect the ideas and beliefs of transgender customers from within, at the very conception of new product development, across each customer touchpoint and throughout key moments of their brand experiences.
New York based brand Fluide is a perfect example of a brand that was created with community support in mind. On their site, co- founder Laura Kraber speaks of how she created the company to amplify young, queer voices, paying tribute to the importance of safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community. As a start-up, Fluide donate products to purposeful projects and events in support of those within the community.
Jecca Blac’s founder, Jessica Blacker, also emphasised this as a key pillar of their brand identity. “At Jecca Blac, we believe diversifying from within is a big part of refining a brand’s message so that it is inclusive of trans audiences. We recently hired Maxine, our new Marketing Assistant, who is open about her experience as a trans woman and brings with her great insight to make sure our message is consistently respectful, inclusive, and keeps our trans customers in mind across all marketing and social outlets. We feel it’s essential for our customers to feel represented in our campaigns, too, so we’ve always booked trans talent – as well as people who aren’t trans – to make sure we’re uplifting our models from a place of sincerity instead of tokenism.”
Online communities are a key place for support, expression and thoughtful conversation across the LGBTQ+ community. With the likes of Gigi Gorgeous, Nikita Dragun and mega-influencer Nikkie de Jager – who recently came out as transgender in January 2020– holding followings in the millions and nuturingnurturing safe spaces on social media, the platform they have is invaluable. Whilst sharing their experiences, thought leaders within the transgender community educate the wider industry on their relevance to progression in the understanding of the real emotion-led impact behind beauty .
AND SO ARE INCLUSIVE OFFLINE EXPERIENCES
Offline communities are just as important, as US beauty giant Sephora are fully aware. Through the introduction of their 2018 Classes for Confidence: Bold Beauty for the Transgender Community, Sephora offer in-store makeup classes which are available to those from across the trans community that are looking to learn; from tips for covering up unwanted facial hair to gaining confidence in makeup application.
In regards to the way brands speak to their communities, Illamasqua ensure that they use gender inclusive language across their social media campaigns and marketing touchpoints, whilst Jecca Blac work on the basis that the best way to hold thoughtful community conversation is to nurture those that you’re aiming to ensure feel represented.
“We have a Focus Group of customers who have worked with Jecca Blac since we first launched. The majority of the members in our Focus Group are trans, and are great at providing us with all the honesty and feedback we need to ensure our product is going to work for them the way we plan for it to.” said founder, Jessica.
“We keep in constant contact with this Focus Group with each product, from conception to packaging prototypes, to samples of formula, right up to when the product is ready to launch, and even after it’s gone live. This open dialogue is exactly what we need to ensure our ideas are fresh and are inspired by the needs of our customers. “
HOW CAN BRANDS MAKE CHANGES FOR THE RIGHT REASONS?
The beauty industry knows that there is so much to be done to offer the diversity that is needed, but how can brands ensure that the steps they’re taking towards inclusivity are respectful of the transgender community and mindful in their approach?
Jessica told us how, at Jecca Blac, the customer is always at the core of genuine, thoughtful and honest collaboration. “Our advice for brands who are looking to be more inclusive is to find out why it’s important to you – is it ‘woke culture’ that’s influencing your brand, or do you feel a responsibility to include your customers so they don’t feel alienated by your brand?
Work and collaborate with LGBT+ charities and companies year round, not just during Pride season – allyship is about being there for the community in any way that you can be.”
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Written by - Kate Haines