On August 7th, CEO Emily Weiss announced on the company blog the sad decision that all of Glossier’s stores will remain closed for the rest of the year until Covid-19 gets under control.
UPDATE: Glossier just posted their apology on August 17th. In their response, they’ve agreed to meet suggestions by stating that they are sorry for not creating a “workplace in which our retail employees felt supported in the most critical ways” and that they have a “plan of action” to remedy this by enacting continuous dialogue with former teammates, company-wide training and structure retail management, work environment, human resources, growth and performance plans, pay, and town halls better.
The retail teams from New York, Los Angeles and London that have been furloughed since the start of June have been unfortunately laid off that week. The celebrated founder stated that Glossier will provide 12-weeks of severance, healthcare coverage through the end of October and additional wellness and mental health services to those working in New York and LA. But former staffers also known as “offline editors” are asking the brand do better in an open letter. Published on August 13, former employees are calling out Glossier on an Instagram handle called Outta The Gloss for its poor treatment of retail employees, specifically Black and Brown.
Harnessing a community of over 5,000 followers (at publish) on Instagram, Outta The Gloss wants to shed light on the “ongoing insidious culture of anti-Blackness, transphobia, ableism and retaliation that many retail employees experienced.” Glossier is known to value inclusivity, accessibility, and equity yet many former editors feel like this wasn’t applied to them at work behind the scenes.
Numerous incidents occurred behind the scenes that deeply affected some of the workers, but no proper resolution was taken by HR or people in positions of power. Some of the incidents described include a man massaging an editor without her consent at work, a repeat customer disparaging Latinx editors as “illegals”, white teenaged customers that would apply dark toned products to show off their blackface, managers who routinely confused BIPOC’s editors’ names among many others.
The open letter concludes that Glossier is an “optics-based propaganda machine that courts a somewhat diverse customer base at the expense of those who actually sell their products.” Furthermore, it claims that calling “Glossier democratic rings hollow, as every suggestion from editors that would open up the brand to be more inclusive is not only dismissed, but miscast as insubordination and not being a team player and this was disproportionately leveled against BIPOC editors.”
It demands that Glossier collaborates with them so that they can work together to make Glossier better internally for the future workforce and here are the proposed suggestions:
However, since this went public Emily Weiss responded with her version of the events stating on August 14th that these incidents had already been investigated and initiatives brainstormed to avoid future problems here.
This wasn’t deemed sufficient enough as Outta The Gloss responded that the message and emails sent in June were merely performative and it prompted inputs from other former employees on the page’s story on other internal problems.
Cruelty-free and vegan beauty has completely taken over the industry in the last few years.
Logos certifying a product’s authenticity as cruelty-free and/or vegan are popping up across the beauty shelves, but what do those terms, and those logos, really mean? Very Good Light investigated the murky waters of cruelty-free and vegan beauty to find out if those logos on your beauty products are actually legit.
What’s the difference between cruelty-free and vegan?
People often use cruelty-free and vegan beauty interchangeably, but they’re actually two very distinct terms. Vegan is generally defined as lacking animal-derived ingredients, whereas cruelty-free simply means that the product hasn’t been tested on animals. In theory, a product could be vegan but not cruelty-free, or cruelty-free but not vegan. Cruelty-free and vegan aren’t legally defined or regulated by a distinct body nationally or internationally—not even the Food and Drug Administration here in the US.
Common animal-derived ingredients include honey, beeswax, lanolin, squalene, carmine, gelatin, allantoin, ambergris and placenta. Both high-end and affordable brands, such as Pacifica, Derma E, Le Labo, Wet n Wild and e.l.f., have managed to find comparable vegan alternatives to common animal-derived ingredients without sacrificing quality.
How big beauty retailers are cashing in on cruelty-free and vegan beauty
What were once niche designations have become mainstream as brands like Sephora, Ulta, and Coty entered an arms race to catch up with successful vegan and cruelty-free indie and start-up brands. In a bid to scale their own clean beauty portfolio, Shiseido acquired Drunk Elephant for almost $900 million in 2019. Unilever also acquired REN Clean Skincare for an undisclosed amount in 2015. (Both Drunk Elephant and REN are examples of beauty brands that would be considered cruelty-free but not vegan.)
In mid-July, Ulta also announced the launch of its new Conscious Beauty program, which they described as a “holistic initiative to provide customers with greater choice and transparency.” Set to roll out in Fall 2020, it will certify brands under five categories: clean ingredients, cruelty-free, vegan, sustainable packaging, and positive impact. Ulta has also put in place a Conscious Beauty Advisory Council that includes the co-founder of Credo Beauty to drive the initiative and ensure its accountability.
Credo Beauty is considered a pioneer in this space. Credo’s Clean Beauty Standard was established five years ago and is used by established labels and start-ups alike as a benchmark for product formulations.
PETA’s pivotal role in cruelty-free and vegan beauty
Before cruelty-free and vegan beauty turned into marketing buzzwords that beauty conglomerates like Sephora, Ulta, and even Credo tapped into to sell to a specific consumer, PETA was leading the charge against animal cruelty and animal-derived ingredients in the beauty industry.
In 2012, PETA was the first group to expose the Chinese government’s animal testing requirements for foreign cosmetics sold in the country. “We discovered that many former cruelty-free companies that settled in China quietly changed their policies to start testing on animals again,” says Amanda. “So we’ve worked hard to change China’s position on this requirement and significant progress has been made to modernize cosmetics testing methods that avoid cruel and poisonous tests.”
Just last month, China unveiled new regulations that would end the requirement of animal testing for some—but not all—cosmetic products.
“Effective Jan. 1, 2021, imported ordinary cosmetics such as shampoo, blush, mascara and perfume will no longer have to be animal-tested for eye and skin irritation in Chinese laboratories,” said Human Society International.
China’s definition of ordinary cosmetics includes most skincare, personal care, and makeup products, but it does not apply to things like hair dye, sunscreen, or whitening products. It is a huge step in the right direction, but there are still many exceptions, and the law doesn’t apply to post-market animal testing, which China does if they believe a product poses a health or safety risk to its consumers.
The global state of animal testing
Overall, huge progress has been made in regards to animal testing for cosmetics. It is no longer required in the U.S. and is illegal in the EU, India, Israel, Norway, Turkey, New Zealand, Switzerland, Australia, and other regions. Other countries have laws up for consideration in regards to banning animal testing. So the battleground remains in China and also in Russia, where some testing is also still allowed.
PETA launched their Beauty Without Bunnies Program in order to help customers identify which companies are committed to a no-animal test policy. Companies applying to the program are extremely motivated to be transparent in the detailed paperwork that they provide. Everything from describing how the companies test their products, where they are sold, what kinds of products they offer, and what kinds of ingredients they use is put on full display.
“PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies Program lists companies and brands that have implemented a company-wide or brand-wide policy that they and their suppliers, do not and will not, conduct, commission, allow, or pay for tests on animals for their products, ingredients, and formulations for any reason, anywhere in the world,” Amanda tells Very Good Light. “These companies included in our list have submitted a legally-binding Statement of Assurance signed by their CEO verifying that they and their ingredient suppliers are not involved in animal testing whatsoever in all parts of the product development process.”
The Beauty Without Bunnies Programhas been the gold standard for supporters and consumers looking to shop cruelty-free since 1987, and they now offer a searchable online global database of more than 4,600 companies that don’t test on animals.
Beauty Without Bunnies vs. Leaping Bunny
Leaping Bunny is another well-known certification for cruelty-free and vegan beauty. If you’re wondering what the difference is between Leaping Bunny and Beauty Without Bunnies, here’s a quick explainer: PETA was previously part of the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics, but decided to create their own in-house program,Beauty Without Bunnies,to deal with these issues at a much faster and more agile pace.
Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics is now partnered with Cruelty-Free International on the Leaping Bunny program. The Leaping Bunny Logo still promotes an internationally recognized single comprehensive standard that ensures animal testing hasn’t occurred at the ingredient level. Still, some loopholes exist that allow some beauty brands to falsely identify as cruelty-free or vegan.
An All Earthlings’ investigation led by fashion consultant and filmmaker Sarah Jay found that 89% of cosmetic and dietary supplements samples that identified as cruelty-free or vegan tested positive for shark-derived squalene. She asserts that the cosmetics industry is essentially driving sharks to extinction through its use of shark liver oil, and accounts for 3 million shark deaths annually.
Squalene is currently found in everything from anti-aging creams and sunscreen to lipsticks and bath oil. Because many sharks are slow-growing and take a long time to mature, they are particularly vulnerable to overfishing – and killing sharks for shark liver oil has contributed to dramatic population declines of certain species. Due to these concerns, many cosmetics companies have committed to using only squalene that is derived from plant sources, such as olive oil, rice bran, and wheat germ.
Shark-derived squalene is just one example of cruelty-free and vegan certifications failing to properly vet a beauty company’s ingredient sourcing and process. For many beauty consumers, cruelty-free and vegan is not a trend set to disappear anytime soon. In the coming years, we can expect more brands to commit to going cruelty-free and vegan as the beauty industry continues to innovate and replace common animal-derived ingredients with similar plant-based alternatives. As consumers, it’s up to us to hold these brands accountable to their cruelty-free and vegan commitments—and call them out when they’re being shady or dishonest.
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If you’re acne-prone, you know far in advance that a zit—regardless of size—is going to leave behind an annoying dark spot on your face.
Those dark spots, also called hyperpigmentation, continue to be the bane of my existence, even if my teenage acne has largely cleared up. People with more melanin-rich skin tones are more prone to dark spots post-breakout due to the excess production of melanin that forms in response to inflamed skin.
Hyperpigmentation doesn’t have to linger on your face for weeks, or even months. We’ve rounded up the best tried-and-tested products that fade dark spots fast. Here are a few of our favorites for every budget—from homegrown to holy grail.
This facial oil smells divine, which is to be expected from Diptyque. It boosts radiance, revitalizes, and smoothes skin due to ingredients like white iris extract and rose petals, which brightens skin over time. It also fights wrinkles, and as an added bonus, it looks great on your vanity.
This tonic gives your skin that “no-makeup makeup” type of glow. It exfoliates, hydrates, and brightens thanks to a mix of AHA lactic acid, BHA salicylic acid from willow bark, and azelaic acid, that latter of which prevents melanin production. This tonic is perfect for dry, textured skin that needs an extra boost of hydration.
This cleansing balm smells incredible and also removes all traces of makeup, pollution, and skin impurities. It will also reduce scarring, signs of aging, and improve texture. Ingredients include cocoa butter, which is high in antioxidants that soften and heals troubled skin. Calendula is present as an antiseptic and astringent, stimulating the production of collagen. It’s also great for treating acne and dark spots. Mandarin essential oil works to maintain moisture and balance the skin, which reduces scarring and helps with cell renewal.
This nourishing whipped shea butter contains vanilla oil, neroli oil, and sweet orange oil, which gives it a delicious scent. Rosehip oil, aloe vera, grapeseed oil, and coconut oil help in treating any skin discoloration.
This balancing blend of natural oils includes jojoba oil to help regulate oily skin, rosehip oil, and a high dosage of vitamin C to help regenerate skin tissue and correct dark spots. Additional oils include evening primrose oil, neroli, ylang ylang, frankincense, cedarwood, and benzoin essential oils for rejuvenation.
Mad Hippie’s Cleansing Oil is a radiance-boosting blend that softens and smooths while gently removing impurities and imperfections with organic pumpkin seed oil, vitamin E, zinc, and omega fatty acids to soothe and replenish the skin. Organic safflower oil, rosehip oil, and ginger help naturally tone the skin and reduce the appearance of skin discoloration.
Dark spots, meet dark angel. This black sugar and charcoal cleanser exfoliates and helps absorb excess oils on dull, oily or acne-prone skin, leaving skin fresh, bright, and matte. The rhassoul mud base deeply cleanses to help prevent breakouts, while cold-pressed organic avocado oil nourishes the skin.
Aloe vera gel from the actual plant—not pre-packaged and sold in-store—is a true force of nature. There’s almost nothing it can’t do. It helps combat acne and the scars left behind by stimulating the skin’s production of collagen. It moisturizes dry skin, soothes sunburns, and even reduces puffiness and dark circles. It’s also a natural exfoliant due to the presence of salicylic acid in the plant and it increases skin elasticity over time, slowing down signs of aging.
Raw honey does wonders for your skin thanks to its antibacterial and antioxidant properties, which can help you regain your glow and slowly fade dark spots. Applying a thin layer of raw honey to damp skin in a circular motion and leaving it on for at least 30 minutes will yield the best results and radiant skin.
Tomato masks are great for healing existing acne and blackheads. With regular weekly use, tomatoes help fade discoloration, acne marks, and dark spots. Tomatoes have astringent properties that tighten enlarged pores and contain lycopene, which is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent protecting skin from free radicals and signs of aging.
Pattern Beauty launched just last year in 2019 by actress and all-around entertainment powerhouse Tracee Ellis Ross. In the early 2000s, she was one of the only Black women in Hollywood who proudly wore her hair natural. Since the natural hair movement became mainstream, more women have undergone a journey of self-acceptance and rebuilt a healthy relationship with their hair. She developed Pattern Beauty to celebrate every curl pattern and hair texture, and cultivate a community that believes natural is beautiful.
Tracee Ellis Ross has the most enviable curls, so I knew she would develop some fire products for Pattern Beauty. Also, the branding is fire, and their Instagram is basically an inspo board for all types of curly hair. I decided to trial the products in the mini size so that I wouldn’t lose too much money if the end results didn’t match the hype.
Upon receiving my travel kit, which includes a hydrating shampoo, a heavy conditioner, and a leave-in conditioner all placed in a cute reusable pouch, I immediately took a shower to test it all out on my hair.
While many of the ingredients are natural oils, there are also a lot of ingredients that I couldn’t pronounce, which usually leave me wary, as some of those confusing chemical ingredients can really dry out my hair. But Tracee did say she spent ten years perfecting and developing her products, so I gave my girl the benefit of the doubt. All three products have a distinct floral scent, which is a change from the fruity and coconut-y concoctions I typically use.
A small amount of the hydrating shampoo goes a long way. According to the packaging, it’s a “luxurious, oil-boosted shampoo that gently lathers to cleanse hair and scalp removing build-up without stripping away moisture.” Upon rinsing it off, my hair didn’t feel particularly dry like it can if I use certain chemical shampoos.
Pattern Beauty sells three types of conditioner: medium, heavy, and intensive. The travel kit automatically comes with the heavy conditioner. I was shocked at its thick consistency, which is unlike the conditioners I’m used to using. I kept it on for ten minutes to deep condition my hair. The slip was easy and I barely had to force my fingers through to detangle my knots.
Finally, I applied the leave-in conditioner. I usually never use leave-in conditioners—I always go straight into a curling gel—but it was nice to give my hair some extra love and moisture with this product.
After patting my hair dry, I tied my hair into two bantu knots—my go-to sleeping protective style. The next morning I woke up to bouncy, defined, shiny curls, and I decided to forgo my usual low bun style. All day, my hair withstood any windy or humid weather temperaments, and my curls remained nice and neat until bedtime.
The next morning my curls were as poppin’ as the day before and even more voluminous. If you’re a curly gal or guy like me, I would definitely encourage you to try it for yourself. Just recently, on Juneteenth, Pattern Beauty released a line of styling products designed to sculpt and shape your natural curls. You can purchase everything in the Pattern Beauty line on their website.
The On-the-Go Kit has everything you need to keep curls hydrated, moisturized and restored.
Ingredients include: Argan oil, jojoba oil, shea butter, olive oil, avocado oil, castor oil, and more.
After one wash, my curls stay defined a couple of days later—all I need is a bit of water to revive them in the morning!
All products have a nice floral scent with neroli and patchouli essential oils—a change from most curly hair brands.
Bye or Buy?
If you want curls that stay bouncy, defined and soft even after a couple of days post your wash-and-go, definitely check out Pattern Beauty.
Being stuck in quarantine has led me down a rabbit hole of beauty Youtube videos.
One particular trend that I’ve watched countless gurus try is dermaplaning, which is an exfoliating treatment that removes peach fuzz and dead skin with the tiny scrape of a scalpel. The result is smooth, flawless, brighter skin, which was enough to convince me to try it out myself.
First, I conducted research to see if it was worth splurging on a nice dermaplaning tool, as this procedure is often done at a professional dermatologist or aesthetician’s office. I settled on a $75 dermaplaning tool from Stacked Skincare by Kerry Benjamin after reading countless reviews.
With all this free time on my hands, I’ve noticed that my skin has quite a lot of peach fuzz. Since I have acne-prone oily skin, I feel like these fine hairs have been the main culprit in my recurring breakouts. Kerry Benjamin, aesthetician and founder of Stacked Skincare, explains that the manual exfoliation and removal of dead skin cells and vellus hair with a sterile blade can enhance the penetration of products and reduce acne scars and lift hyperpigmentation.
After watching and reading everything there is to know about dermaplaning, I’ve distilled all that knowledge into a foolproof, step-by-step process. If you’re new to dermaplaning, consider this your ultimate dermaplaning guide.
Here’s how to shave your face, AKA dermaplaning:
1. Thoroughly cleanse your skin before you start your treatment. It’s best to do it on dry skin and make sure that you don’t have active acne that can potentially be nicked by the blade.
2. Hold your skin tight with one hand and take the blade in another at a 45-degree angle, starting from the jawline.
3. Gently start stroking the blade in light, short strokes upward, and do not repeat strokes on areas you’ve already covered.
4. It’s easier to start with the full cheeks and jawline areas before moving on to the upper lip, chin, nose, and forehead.
5. You’ll be shocked by all the dead skin and hairs that your blade takes off, so you need to continuously wipe your blade clean with tissue or a cotton pad after every few strokes.
6. Once you’ve finished your whole face, cleanse your face again to wash off all the dead skin and hairs.
7. Apply a gentle, unscented moisturizer, as your skin will feel tight and raw.
Dermaplaning is most effective as a weekly treatment, and it’s best to do it at night so that your skin has time to recover and glows by the morning. Always remember to wear sunscreen after dermaplaning, as it’s more susceptible to harmful UV rays. Clean the blade after each session with rubbing alcohol, and replace it completely after one month.
Immediately after dermaplaning, my skin was red, but by the next morning, my skin was as smooth as a baby’s butt and it glowed! I’m currently on week 6, and I’m loving the continuous improvements of my skin—it went from acne-scarred and sun-damaged to glass skin!
The author’s skin before and after dermaplaning.
Artwork by Alicia O’ Brian
How I Made It: Coloured Raine’s Founder, Loraine R. Dowdy on being a Black pioneer in the beauty industry
We tried dermaplaning, where you shave your skin for instant exfoliation
Welcome to our series, How I Made It, where we talk to beauty brand founders about their come ups, their origin stories, and how they finally, well, made it. The recurring series talks to beauty founders from all walks of life to uncover what inspires them, what pushes them, and the secret to success.
Born in Brooklyn with Caribbean roots, Loraine R. Dowdy decided to leave her high-powered job in finance to pursue her dream in beauty.
Longing for a cosmetics line that broke beauty barriers, she created Coloured Raine to encourage ultimate self-expression, unity, and invite diversity from all walks of life. The brand name is inspired by her first name, Loraine, and her love of color. As a masstige brand, customers get exceptional value and quality at affordable price points. Coloured Raine is often compared to Pat McGrath’s line in its quality.
The Coloured Raine founder sat down with Very Good Light to discuss her journey to success, the harsh realities of being a Black-owned business owner, and the future of the brand.
Why did you decide to take the leap from finance to beauty? Was it a difficult transition?
Leaving a secure job to rely 100% on myself can be tough, but leaving my job was a no-brainer. The pay was great but it wasn’t my cup of tea since I love vibrancy. Since I was little, I loved beauty and colors, and years later it’s still something I enjoy. So I’ve enjoyed the process of creating this business.
However, I went a good seven years without paying myself in order to reinvest any profit back into the business. I also couldn’t get a loan, so I worked a 9-to-5 to provide for the business financially and ran my brand in the evenings. I learned a lot about running a business along the way.
For years, I operated with no strategic order until I sat down with a financial strategist who told me to stop operating as a family-owned business and to separate business and personal accounts. A year ago, I started looking for investors and an accounting firm. The first two pitches with investors didn’t go well, but the third time’s a charm. We got around to a second and third conversation.
Give us the scoop: how are Coloured Raine’s products so good at such an affordable price point?
I made the decision to work with a custom manufacturer that offered traceable ingredients to be 100% compliant in quality. But it was hard to find a manufacturer willing to work with smaller brands because most of them require a minimum of 3,000 SKU product demand.
What is your experience as a Black-owned female founder?
Black-owned businesses, in general, have the stigma of being seen as not professional enough, but really that’s because we don’t have that mentorship from the very beginning, so we learn along the way, which inevitably leads to mistakes. We also don’t have the same access to outside capital funding. And press coverage doesn’t do much for us either. Even if you have plenty, investors are still dubious that you can reach a lot of customers. So in a way, the events that led to the revival of the Black Lives Matter movement have somewhat of a silver lining for us.
What was the first product you launched that propelled Coloured Raine to success?
It was all about the lips, and then in 2016 we launched the Queen of Hearts eyeshadow palette, and there was a real frenzy around that. Brands were ordering it and trying to reverse engineer the formulation. Allure even stated that it sold out in under 4 minutes—and this is pre-Kylie Cosmetics and Fenty Beauty.
With everything that’s been going on lately, Black-owned beauty brands are finally getting more recognition. Is it harder though to differentiate yourself from other Black-owned brands like Fenty Beauty and others?
We have a great variety of products, but the only downside is that we have to work a lot harder to capture an audience to build notoriety and trust. With someone like Rihanna, it’s easier to get a large customer base. So it’s challenging for small indie owners. But you can also tell who’s passionate from those who are just slapping their name on products, and Rihanna is extremely passionate about her products.
Is it more difficult, financially, to manufacture products in the USA?
Obviously the manufacturing prices are a lot more attractive in Asia, but there’s just no trust factor. When I first looked for an Asian manufacturer, there were quite a few mishaps. I decided to look for a lab that was easily accessible for me so that I can control what’s going on better and make sure the ingredients are compliant and traceable. I actually relocated from the East Coast to the West Coast just to be able to hop into the lab whenever I want.
Ultimately though, I want to sell my company in five years’ time, because it’s tiring to be involved in every step of the process from marketing, product development, and supply chains. But I need to ensure that the brand’s integrity will be maintained by the buyer, and I would remove myself from all operations and just do product development.
What’s next for Coloured Raine?
I’m looking to launch foundations in Spring 2021, blushes, counter powders, and also skincare! I’m now finally using more skincare because I’m getting older, but when I was younger I had no skin problems. I juice a lot so I want to do a skincare line that is based around fruits and vegetables. Oh, I also want to launch hair care serums!
This custom serum totally balanced my oily skin.
How I Made It: Coloured Raine’s Founder, Loraine R. Dowdy on being a Black pioneer in the beauty industry
We tried dermaplaning, where you shave your skin for instant exfoliation
My French history teacher often said, “There are no races. There is only one race, and it’s the human race.”
While this seems like a noble sentiment at first, it’s actually insidious. Sure, it’s idealistic to think that there is only a human race and no other races but a quick browse through history clearly begs to differ. I’m French but biracial – my dad is from Cameroon. As an adult I’ve come to understand France and its often ugly imperialist past.
In France, it’s illegal to define people based on their race and conduct statistical studies on racial representation. Unlike the U.S. where there are Censuses given, it’s against the law to categorize anyone by their ethnic origin. This is due to the French society’s principle of assimilation. Whatever your origins and despite the cultural differences you may have, all of that needs to be put aside in order to conform to the dominant French culture. Of course, this is all too convenient given that France is overwhelmingly White.
This is why a lot of my Black friends who grew up in France don’t have the same impetus to explore their Black cultures or bond through the Black experiences like my American and British counterparts do. While we can easily recall the racist history of the British Empire, America’s Jim Crow segregation, or South Africa’s Apartheid, France’s insistence on mandating color-blindness as an official public policy casts a convenient veil over its own dark history. The country’s swept all the problematic issues that stemmed from French colonialism under the rug and instead of confronting it, pretends it’s never existed.
A lot of French White people I know love to say that racism doesn’t exist anymore because they don’t see color. Yet there’s almost zero representation of BIPOC in most top universities, top employers, media, government, etc. BIPOC’s are extremely scarce, and when there is one present, he or she is often made fun of with derogatory racist terms like “bamboula,” “monkey,” or “banana eater.” This happened to Christiane Toubira, the French Minister of Justice and one of the first Black women in politics, who was described as a “Clever monkey that found her banana,” on the cover of the weekly French newspaper Minute.
Because of this lack of representation, certain stereotypes perpetuate themselves, and if you have a last name that sounds non-French in pronunciation, it’s likely you may face discrimination in employment and housing applications.
As a Black French citizen, I’ve personally experienced the negative effects of French color-blindness. At fashion school in Paris, three other Black students and I were interested in creating a Black support group, similar to ones seen on American or British college campuses. But people banding together publicly based on ethnicity is so antithetical to Frenchness that when we reached out to other French BIPOC’s, our request was met with crickets.
I’m half French and half Cameroonian, and when I moved to the United States at the age of three, my mom made it a point to teach my brother and me everything about race, from American slavery, the KKK, Jim Crow segregation, to the civil rights movement. When I was about 5-years old, I saw Martin Luther King Jr. as my personal hero. Every time I saw images of lynchings, whippings, or the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., I welled up and felt traumatized as if it were all a part of my own personal history, even though I’m not an American citizen.
But my French Black or mixed-race friends back in France don’t necessarily have that same emotional pull about racism, because it’s simply not taught anywhere in the French curriculum. At school in French history classes, we barely brushed upon France’s problematic colonial past and subsequent consequences.
The French government gave automatic citizenship to many nationals from newly independent colonies in the 60s and 70s so they could immigrate to France and rebuild what was destroyed after World War II. Yet, despite those immigrants and subsequent second and third-generation French people’s contributions to the country, many White people still have the audacity to tell BIPOC French citizens to their face that “You should go back to your country!”
I experienced this type of blatant racism whenever I vacationed in Brittany, a western province of France, to visit my grandparents. Some passersby stared at me and exclaimed that because of my nose, hair, and complexion, I shouldn’t be there, that I’m not French. And sadly, many people with my complexion or with darker shades have experienced the same thing. It’s exhausting and I’m tired.
Since, I’ve been hopeful because the Black Lives Matter movement has proliferated in France and hundreds of thousands of people joined in the protests. It’s about time that France has a national discussion about what it so often swept under the rug and it’s a day of reckoning. Here’s to talking unabashedly, proudly, uncomfortably about race.
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One only need look at 2015’s film, “Stonewall,” which offensively erases PoC’s who lead the queer rights revolution. Of course, the movie isn’t the only example of rewriting history – it still happens today. It’s a reason why there was such controversy when the Pride organizations will being led by white leadership.
To prevent further whitewashing of the LGBTQ+ movement, it’s important to educate ourselves with its history so we can better amplify the voices that need to be heard while identifying where progress still needs to be made.
Since the nitty-gritty of the movement isn’t widely taught in school’s curriculums across America, Very Good Light has done the work. We’ve compiled a quick educational breakdown on the history LGBTQ+ movement below, with an emphasis on how intersectionality has impacted the cause. Here are key points of history you need to know.
Until the 1980s, most public establishments banned queer people, and the few bars that welcomed queers were owned and managed by the mafia. Stonewall Inn in New York City was known for catering to the most disenfranchised LGBTQ+ groups, like butch lesbians, effeminate young men, drag queens, male prostitutes, transgender people, and the homeless youth. Police raids were frequent in gay bars, but the mafia often bribed them with money, known as the gayola, to turn a blind eye and resume operations. But on one particular evening, things changed forever.
This PBS documentary is a must-watch to understand the exact series of events that took place and witness testimonials from those that rioted that evening on June 28th, 1969 at Stonewall. Police officers lost control of their raid when hundreds of Greenwich Village residents defied orders and began fighting back. This ensued for six nights, with thousands of rioters in total.
Micheal Fader, a patron of the bar and a rioter that evening explains: “We all had a collective feeling like we’d had enough of this kind of shit. It wasn’t anything tangible anybody said to anyone else, it was just kind of like everything over the years had come to a head on that one particular night in the one particular place, and it was not an organized demonstration… Everyone in the crowd felt that we were never going to go back. It was like the last straw. It was time to reclaim something that had always been taken from us…. All kinds of people, all different reasons, but mostly it was total outrage, anger, sorrow, everything combined, and everything just kind of ran its course. It was the police who were doing most of the destruction. We were really trying to get back in and break free. And we felt that we had freedom at last, or freedom to at least show that we demanded freedom.”
Garbage cans, bottles, rocks, and bricks were being thrown around, with the first projectile thrown by drag queens. Sylvia Riviera, a prominent Latinx transgender rights activist, said to the police: “You’ve been treating us like shit all these years? Uh-uh. Now it’s our turn!”
As the riots gained momentum and coverage in the press heightened, the neighborhood’s residents quickly organized into activist groups, and three newspapers, called Gay, Come Out! and Gay Power were established to promote gay and lesbian rights. On June 28, 1970, the first gay pride marches occurred in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco. Soon after, gay rights organizations sprung across the U.S. and the world. Memorably, the New York Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill publicly apologized on behalf of the NYPD in 2019 for the officers’ actions that night at Stonewall.
The start of organized gay activism
The Mattachine Society and Daughter Of Bilitis, two homophile organizations created in the 1950s, were mostly concerned about asserting that homosexuals were respectable, normal people that conformed to society’s image, so the trials of being arrested for wearing clothing of opposite gender that most concerned effeminate men, masculine women, drag queens and transgendered people were considered separate struggles. Professor Susan Stryker asserts that the Compton’s Cafeteria riots that occurred in 1966 in San Francisco, where drag queens, hustlers, and trans women risked being arrested, was an “act of anti-transgender discrimination, rather than an act of discrimination against sexual orientation, where issues of gender, race, and class were being downplayed by homophile organizations.”
On July 4th, 1969, when the Mattachine Society performed its annual picketing in front of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, organizer Craig Rodwell felt restricted by the conduct rules set and convinced 10 couples to hold hands. These hand-holding couples garnered more press attention than previous marches, and it was clear then that the established quiet, meek ways of trying to get attention for the cause were gone. Rodwell’s first priority afterward was to establish Christopher Street Liberation Day in New York.
The Mattachine Society’s mild methods no longer worked for people who felt empowered by the riots, so the Gay Liberation Front was formed, with Marsha P. Johnson as one of the founding members. It was the first organization to use the word “gay.” The GLF aligned itself with anti-war and Black movements to restructure American society, but four months later it disbanded when members couldn’t agree on operations.
Frustrated members formed the more orderly Gay Activists Alliance. The GAA developed a confrontational tactic called a “zap,” whereby they would catch politicians off-guard during a PR stunt and force them to acknowledge their rights. The 70s had many victories, one of the most significant “zaps” occurred at the American Psychiatric Association convention, where activists interrupted the film documenting electroshock therapy that was used to decrease same-sex attraction. The APA subsequently voted unanimously to remove homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.
Racism, classism and transgender inequality
But many groups were still marginalized within the LGBTQ+ community. Feminist activists Jean O’Leary protested the presence of drag queens and cross-dressers at rallies because she felt that it mocked women for entertainment value and profit. O’Leary also worked to exclude transgendered people from gay rights issues because she thought they would be too difficult to obtain.
Lesbian feminism in the 70s also conflicted with the gay liberation movement, as some lesbians refused to work with gay men. They felt that the gay men’s attitudes were often patriarchal and chauvinistic. Issues most important to gays, such as entrapment and public solicitation, were not shared by lesbians.
Sylvia Riviera worked hard within the Gay Activists Alliance group to promote citywide gay rights and anti-discrimination ordinance, but when it came down to making deals, the GAA dropped the portions in the civil rights bill that dealt with transgender rights and drag because it seemed too “extreme.” GAA was increasingly becoming more conservative since several founders were looking to run for public office and continued to exclude drag queens and transgendered people.
Riviera also dealt with issues of poverty and discrimination faced by people of color, which caused friction in the GAA since it was mainly made up of white middle-class gay people. Mainstream LGBT groups routinely dismissed Rivera’s Latina identity. Then, by 1973, Marsha and Silvia were banned from participating in the gay pride parade by the gay and lesbian committee, stating that they “weren’t going to allow drag queens at their marches since they were giving them a bad name.” But Marsha and Silvia defied this ban and went ahead anyways to the parade. The duo decided to found Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), a group that helped homeless young drag queens, gay youth, and trans women.
Thanks to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, people are protected to freely self-determine their gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination, or violence. Unfortunately, today there are still many cases where trans people particularly of color are disproportionately affected by harassment from the police, bias-driven assault, and fatal violence leading to murder. Recently, Trump even erased transgender civil rights protections in healthcare.
Just like Obama said during his second inaugural address in January 2013, “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law—for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”
If you want to learn more about LGBTQ+ history and the important figures who’ve made it possible for our queer brothers and sisters to exist freely, check out some of the films and documentaries listed below.
Humberto Cruz, the artist behind CHANEL’s quirky and fun celebrity playlists’ cover artwork, worked with some of the biggest names in fashion and music before he created art to celebrate pride and Black lives matter, which Very Good Light is proud to offer on merch!
Formally trained as a graphic designer at the Art Institute of California based in San Diego, Humberto is a freelance illustrator who has found most work due to his Instagram, where he posts his colorful designs daily. Many of his influences stem from pop culture and fashion, and his work has been featured in Nylon and V Magazine. More recently, he’s created music cover artwork for David Guetta and CHANEL. Below, he speaks to Very Good Light about his creative process, inspirations, and his signature style.
How did you manage to convey Black Lives Matter and Pride in such a quirky and fun way, despite the heavy emotions you felt these past couples of weeks?
I usually use different quotes and images to make my collages, but this time I didn’t want to use images that could be seen as too self-promotional. So on a Saturday night, I started illustrating and I had all these emotions mixed with anger and sadness triggered by the constant news cycle that I poured into my drawings. There was also a protest going on outside my home in San Diego, which I went to for 30 minutes, but didn’t stay longer because I’m still concerned about COVID-19.
What first attracted you to illustration?
I’ve been drawing since I was little and my style hasn’t changed a lot (laughs sheepishly) because it still has this childlike quality. I went to college to study graphic design, but after I graduated I had a hard time finding a full-time job in my field. I got a retail job instead, and every evening I used my Instagram account like a diary. It started getting traction and I met a couple of people through there that were interested in my work and I got some assignments through it.
Walk me through your collage-making process.
At first, I pretty much only used images of pop culture icons, but then I changed my style to focus on people that made a difference in the world, like with my recent collage of Marsha P. Johnson. For the background, I paint with acrylics and then I scan it and upload it onto Photoshop to do the rest of the designs.
How did you come up with the name I SCREAM COLOUR?
When I was trying to figure out my new Instagram handle, I figured that ‘I Scream Colour’ captures my art philosophy since I love color, and the ‘I scream’ sounds like ice cream, which makes it seem fun, sweet, and childish.
The celebrity quarantine playlist artwork you did for CHANEL was really something special. How did that opportunity come to life?
They found me via Instagram and DM’d me. It’s the biggest project I’ve ever done so far, so I’m really grateful and hopefully it will lead to more work!
You also did artwork for David Guetta’s single “Don’t Go Away.” Did they slide into your DMs as well?
Hahaha, yes they did! They gave me complete creative freedom with that project.
Do you think your formal training in graphic design helped you carve out your niche?
Not at all. I actually regret going to college because now I have all these student loans to pay off. I feel like I wasn’t taught useful things around how to run a freelance business, setting rates, etc.
Do you have a particular affinity for fashion, since you use a lot of fashion icons in your imagery?
I’ve always been interested in fashion and combine quirky drawings with people’s pictures. But I’m also tired of seeing the same models and faces, so I try to find people that are starting out in modeling and I ask for their permission to use their images, like with this new Mexican model, Sara Esparza.
How did you cultivate your signature style over the years?
Well, there’s an evolution. At first, my illustrations were quite girly and more classic and “tame,” but I didn’t enjoy drawing as much then. However, now I love illustrating because my current work shows more of my personality and I express myself more freely now. I also always wanted to move to a different city because San Diego is not very cultural or artsy, and I think one day I’ll move and I’ll feel even more inspired.
He grew up listening to 80’s music, from Madonna’s “Holiday,” to Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” But growing up, Daddy remembers getting called out for being a “White boy” because of his artistic interests. It was after attending NYU’s Tisch School of The Arts that he began embracing music that challenges people’s expectations of Black men.
Although New York is now his home, Daddy comes from a very diverse background. Born in Egypt to a Muslim-Senegalese dad and a Christian-Congolese mom, he was then raised in Ireland before he moved to Atlanta.
Very Good Light asked Daddy about his hopes for the future, his skincare secrets, and, more seriously, how he is able to cope with trauma and heal from it as tragedy strikes again in America.
What was your experience like growing up in Ireland vs. Atlanta, and what was the transition like to go from one country and culture that has such a different rapport with racial issues?
Growing up in Ireland was something. I definitely loved it and view Ireland as one of my many homes. My family was the first Black family in our neighborhood: literally there’s an article about us in the Irish Times. We dealt with some racism, but in Ireland, racism is like the minor leagues compared to America, which is the pros. I feel like a lot of kids had just never met a Black person before and didn’t know better. It all stopped after the first few months but that doesn’t excuse it.
When I moved to Atlanta I first lived in an all-Black neighborhood, which I was super excited about as I’d never lived around Black people before. There I learned about colorism and the divide between Africans and African Americans. The culture shock was real. But my family adapted. For the first time, I had Black teachers. One, in particular, made the effort of educating students about the richness of Black history in America and Africa. He really taught us to love our blackness. Then I moved to a more diverse neighborhood and learned about White America and White kids who loved confederate flags and whatnot. That was interesting during the 2012 elections.
Your song “Rich White Bitch” tackles White privilege. What are specific instances that led you to write that song?
Every time a Black person is murdered by the police, we as Black people have to live with that while White people carry on. We have to go to work or school or whatever and act as though the world isn’t moving along while injustice prevails. I was listening to a lot of White girl pop at the time and my brother, Ben Ramazani, who’s also a musician, and I were laughing about how so much of mainstream White music doesn’t really have to be about anything in particular. Like, White people don’t have to use their platforms to make the world a better place for White people. White people are able to just not give a shit. Black people don’t always have that privilege which is extremely obvious at this point of time. So when I made that beat I was just having fun and suddenly sang “Feel like a Rich White Bitch I don’t give a shit.” The rest of the song just hit me instantly.
In the last few months, there have been over 112,000 deaths in America alone due to COVID-19, and many Black people have lost their lives recently due to police brutality and are disproportionately victims of this health crisis. How did you cope with all this news?
It’s a very saddening time. Every time we get comfortable something crazy happens in the world to disrupt that. In general, I’m always someone who tries to find solutions when there’s a problem. I’ve been educating myself on police reform, watching the news daily, and questioning what we’re told. I want to know which organizations I can support, who I should vote for, and what brands I should stand behind etc. I recommend that everyone reads The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale. The ebook is free! I think it’s important for everyone to do their own research, as opposed to just learning from what pops up on our timelines and feeds. We have to do the work.
What steps should we take to heal from the events of the last few months (COVID-19, death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor…)?
Connect with friends. I have a weekly Zoom call with a group of friends where we allow each other to express what we feel and discuss how we can make a difference.
As much as we have to stay informed and share important links to help people stay informed and take action, I think it’s important to take time to disconnect. It’s a dark time. I think people should limit their social media activity because it can be quite triggering right now.
Get fresh air if possible. For the first month of quarantine, I literally didn’t go outside once and I was going crazy. I literally forgot I even had a balcony I could sit on. One day my brother and I sat on there for like two hours and watched life pass by like old men.
We have to remember to find joy in things. I try to watch silly comedies from my childhood or go get an ice cream or milkshake. I think people feel guilty at times if they show joy online because it may appear as though they’re not acknowledging the injustice or the virus. But I think it’s wrong to shame others for finding light in these dark times. There’s obviously a difference between those who are oblivious and ignorantly finding bliss in these dark times versus those who are finding a way to maintain hope. I think that’s something for people to remember. ESPECIALLY BLACK PEOPLE. We deserve to experience joy.
Exercising has been very helpful for me. I’m not a sporty person at all, but I’ve been getting into a lot of Bruce Lee lately. His way of thinking has really helped me. It’s shown me a way of treating working out like meditation in a way. Just focusing on me, my mind, and body. It’s a great stress reliever and helps me be present.
I feel like the conversation around male skincare isn’t as taboo anymore. I think many guys have a skincare routine or are open to finding one. People ask me to recommend them products all the time. But I might just be living in a New York bubble because every now and then I see women on Twitter complaining about how guys only use lotion on their faces and not the rest of their bodies. So we gotta fix that.
Lastly, many brands across all industries including beauty are showing their support towards the Black Lives Matter initiatives. What would you advise these brands that have been coming forward?
It’s honestly hard for me to applaud brands that are now stepping up. I don’t think it’s the job of Black people to applaud White people for doing what they should’ve been doing since the beginning of time. I see a lot of brands speaking out about the police or the government, without actually looking at themselves and considering how they may be a part of the problem by the environment they create on a daily basis. But I can say that it’s cool that Alexis Ohanian of Reddit has resigned and wants a Black candidate to replace him. One of the best things that brands can do now is put Black people in executive positions. There is no equality if Black people are not involved in decision making.
(Photos by Daddy. Art by Alicia O’Brien)
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