Black beauty endorsed by cosmetic companies: Is it becoming a trend?

theGRIO REPORT - Essence magazine Beauty Editor argues that the rise of black woman representing beauty brands is nothing new and instead, is a continuum of a trend that has long been launched...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Black beauty is a powerful thing.

It encompasses the broad range of beauty reflected in women of color from Zoe Saldana to Kelly Rowland.

And while millions have always admired the allure of black women, the billion-dollar beauty industry has lately been taking note.

In the last week alone, Saldana and Rowland have both been tapped to be the new spokeswomen of iconic cosmetic and skincare brands: Saldana is the new face for L’Oreal while Rowland is the latest “fabulista” to join the skincare line Caress.

These women add to a growing roster of black, female celebrities who, over the years, have increasingly been asked by numerous beauty companies to be the leading advocate for their top-of-the-line products.

Yet, while Saldana and Rowland contribute to this ongoing progress, Essence magazine Beauty and Style Director Pamela Edwards Christiani argues that the rise of black woman representing beauty brands is nothing new.

Instead, she says it is a continuum of a trend that has long since been launched.

An ongoing yet steadily growing trend

Halle Berry was perhaps one of the most notable black females to first sign with a major deal with a beauty company. The actress teamed up with Revlon after winning the Academy Award in 2001 and signed a lucrative contract that plastered her striking face throughout a series of print and TV ads alike.

Not too long after, Beyoncé signed with L’Oreal in 2004 – and the singer’s beauty is still being endorsed by the brand 10 years later.

“I think there’s been a constant trajectory – it has definitely increased since Halle Berry got her contract almost 15 years ago,” Edwards said. “But I almost feel like I’m seeing more black women on television and in movies – I feel like that is at an all-time high.”

The continued attraction of black beauty by such big-name companies mirrors some of the value the industry has for black women.

It was once an untapped market – but it echoed a great message when minority supermodels gradually came to grace the leading visuals of brands like Lancôme and Estée-Lauder. Liya Kebede and Joan Smalls are just a few of the models who have made such headway.

“When Liya Kibede signed on with Estee Lauder [in 2003], I was very excited about that and that was before Joan Smalls got her contract,” Edwards said. “Those were big ‘wow’ moments.”

Once these doors were opened, a steady and growing number of black women have followed along the same path in recent years, including actresses Kerry Washington and Gabrielle Union who are endorsed by Neutrogena and Queen Latifah, Janelle Monáe and Rihanna by Cover Girl.

The benefits of enlisting and endorsing such representations of black beauty go beyond monetary profit.

Reports show that black women spend close to $8 billion on beauty products annually but cosmetic companies are starting to understand that America is increasingly becoming a minority-dominated nation. Highlighting a wide range of products and all-inclusive allure is a method we should all expect to be employed, Edwards says.

“It allows the public to see a broader definition of beauty, which is important to see,” she adds. “They are letting the public know that they understand that all women of color use their products so that should make them appreciate what they’re offering. It’s just a win-win, I just don’t understand why people never got that before.”

Is Lupita Nyong’o next?

One clear — and recent — example of America’s acceptance of various forms of beauty is the latest craze over Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o.

There is no doubt that the Kenyan-born actress exudes an essence of beauty rarely reflected in mainstream America — yet, with her graceful poise and striking features, Nyong’o has set a new precedent that breaks down the barriers of traditional beauty.

“What I’m curious to see with Lupita is that, if even 6 months from now, will more models look like her?” Edwards says. “To me, Lupita’s beauty is the sort of beauty that has always been beautiful.”

Edwards sentiments reflect the thoughts of many Americans who considered Nyong’o a classic beauty long before America’s saturated and growing admiration with her.

“It’s slightly annoying that she has to be affirmed by others for us to say she’s beautiful,” Edwards says. “Because a woman that looks like {Nyong’o] has always been beautiful. And there’s nothing new about it.”

Could black-owned beauty businesses be in peril?

However, while Nyong’o could very well be the next black female celebrity to enhance the image of such international cosmetic companies, Edwards doesn’t believe it poses a threat for black-owned beauty businesses.

“Unfortunately, even though we’re seeing these faces that are continuing to appear with these beauty companies, there’s still too many gaps,” she says.

These gaps are filled by companies like Iman cosmestics and others alike who have built a prosperous empire in supplying for the specific demand of black consumers.

“Iman was the first person to develop bb cream for black women,” Edwards says. “Women of color will always appreciate these companies, because they always deliver.”

Follow Lilly Workneh on Twitter @Lilly_Works