Because We’re Worth It: The Changing Face of Global Beauty
Keen on maintaining their hold on the global beauty marketplace, an increasing number of cosmetics manufacturers have extended their advertising imagery to include cosmopolitan multiculturalism. The unexpected new face of Lancôme is 22-year-old Hanaa Ben Abdesslem, a Tunisian Muslim, who joins the ranks of Isabella Rossellini, Julia Roberts, Kate Winslet and Emma Watson to represent the sophisticated French brand internationally. Youcef Nabi, President of Lancôme International states, “Her universal beauty simply channels the je-ne-sais-quoi that makes the uniqueness, strength and charm of every Lancôme woman.”
In Hollywood, Paris and Milan, dark skinned, ebony-eyed Indians are steadily growing in demand: model Ujjwala Raut, a significant success on international runways and designer ads, rising movie star Frieda Pinto, and Chanel’s latest discovery, Jyothsna Chakravarthy, are considered exotic beauties. They are a far cry from mainstream Asian concepts of beauty, in a continent where skin whitening is a fast growing, multimillion-dollar industry, and where coloured contact lenses are a routine accessory for actresses, models and socialites. Among Bollywood A-listers, Katrina Kaif is coveted for her Eurasian looks, while Kareena Kapoor’s hazel-toned eyes comprise a significant part of her appeal.
MAC, Nars, Stila and MakeUp Forever have been longtime favourites among Asians, Hispanics and African Americans for their richly pigmented cosmetics. Estee Lauder brands like Prescriptives (shut down in 2010), Bobbi Brown, Clinique and Origins have notably included shades of foundation for darker complexioned women. In 1994, Somali-born former supermodel and Mrs. David Bowie’s Iman Cosmetics was created to specifically cater to “women of all skin colour.” Cover Girl’s All-American brand of “easy, breezy, beautiful” cosmetics have long since featured diverse models posing alongside Caucasians, while L’Oreal International made Aishwariya Rai a household name by including her in their worldwide ad campaigns.
North American Entrepreneurs:
It’s not just major companies that are targeting women with complexions from palest mocha to dark chocolate and sandy beige to tawny bronze. Startup boutique beauty and cosmetic brands have sprung up in recent years by women entrepreneurs of South Asian descent:
· Global Goddess is an American brand launched in 2006 by Shalini Vadhera (who resigned in 2010) using exotic and natural ingredients inspired by her world travels. Products include an Ultimate Bollywood Makeup kit and the Global Goddess Beauty Coconut Amla Lash & Brow Conditioner that also contains grape seed, apple extract, nettle and horse chestnut. Available at Globalgoddess.com
· Thevi Cosmetics was created for the “’New Ethnic Market’–every light-to-dark skinned woman of Asian, South Asian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean descent” for whom “beauty is a way of empowerment in a world where they must balance their dual traditional and American identities,” according to Thevaki Thambirajah, the company’s founder. A New Yorker of Sri Lankan descent, Ms. Thambirajah worked in banking after graduating from Cornell and gained work experience at Revlon and Coty prior to launching Thevi (the company liquidated in 2011).
· Vasanti Cosmetics, founded by Canadians Pinki, Priti and Monal in 1999, carries 140 products and retails in over 300 stores across Canada. “What makes our selection great for South Asian skin, including Pakistani complexions, is that our shades contain yellow and olive undertones that work brilliantly to give a natural look, while blending flawlessly into the skin without giving that white, chalky appearance,” describes company representative Chereiva Pointer. Interesting products to try include Vasanti Lip & Cheek Putty and Wonders of the World Concealer. at Vasanticosmetics.com
· Orissa Cosmetics launched in the UK in 2008 after founders Bhimal Hira and Mona Parekh “noticed women with darker skin tones, including Indian and Pakistani women, were under-represented in the mainstream cosmeticsindustry. According to Ms. Hira, “The Honey and Tender shades are two of our best selling foundation for Indian and Pakistani women. Gold, Bronze and Amethyst are the best selling eye shadows.” Available at Orissacosmetics.co.uk
· Chamak Cosmetics was founded in 2010 by Texan makeup artist Sarah Ali after working at Chanel, YSL, MAC and Calvin Klein. “I noted what colours most women, in addition to medium to dark women, wanted and could never find: rich golds, bronzes, coppers, vivid shades and, in general, colours that would show up on their skin without having to apply 6 layers. I saw weak areas in the makeup market, which I could build my niche: a colour line for medium to dark toned skin. Women were also looking for natural looking, warm based foundations which still weren’t formulated perfectly since the traditional cosmetic bases were for pink and peach based skin tones,” she said in an interview. Chamak products include Ada and Meethi Lipsticks, Jaanbaz and Shikari Eyeshadows, and the apricot-hued Hema Blush.
Meanwhile, in Pakistan:
One may regard wearing makeup as part of this country’s ancient heritage; our Indus Valley predecessors were among history’s earliest users of lipstick, after all. Not counting kajal eyeliners, Pakistan’s cosmetics industry has only just begun to evolve. In the eighties and nineties, consumers were restricted to low-end brands like Medora and Swiss Miss and the occasional smuggled international cosmetics displayed at shops devoid of testers. Since then, cosmetics racks from L’Oreal, Rimmel, Maybelline, Color Studio Professional and other pharmacy and department store brands finally provide consumers with some variety in their purchase. A new breed of women entrepreneurs, led by TV personality Ms. Odho and her Atiqa Odho Cosmetics line, and Luscious Cosmetics’ Mehrbano Sethi, address the needs of a medium income demographic with their homegrown brands created and developed in Pakistan, specifically for Pakistani women. The products themselves, however, are sourced overseas and imported into the country, so aren’t quite ‘Made in Pakistan’ just yet.
Celebrity Cosmetics for Multicultural Women:
The MAC Mickey Contractor Collection
This limited edition collection by ace Bollywood makeup artist (and Aishwariya favourite) Mickey Contractor last Spring included Mehr, Yash and Gulabi Lipsticks, Flesh Lipglass, Rani and Jaan Eyeshadows, and Siahi Fluidline eyeliner. Mr. Contractor is MAC’s Director of Makeup Artistry for India and famous for his ‘no-makeup’ minimalist look on Bollywood celebrities. “With this collection you could do a perfect nude makeup, a heavy smokey eye or a bright bold pink lip,” he said at the time.About the nude look, he added, “This look is not as easy as it is perceived to be. It calls for perfect blending, contouring and most importantly, matching the right shade of foundation to your skin…Quit trying to look fairer and embrace your natural skin tone!”
HD Dual Foundation and Salmon Concealer by Eve Pearl
Nuance by Salma Hayek and CVS
In 2011, actress Ms. Hayek used her celebrity status to introduce her Nuance brand to a mainstream multiethnic audience at thousands of CVS pharmacies across USA. Guided by Ms. Hayek’s grandmother’s traditional Mexican remedies and Vichy Lab background, Nuance’s Native American and Mayan inspired beauty products are made from ingredients like Brazilian tepezcouhite, blue agave and lime enzyme “to help every woman enhance the nuances that define her individual beauty."