‘Despair and rejection’: African-Australian women fight for makeup equality – The Sydney Morning Herald

Esther Joseph loves make-up but she finds shopping for cosmetics a frustrating and unpleasant experience.

The 28-year-old mental health nurse is studying law but her passion project is beauty “vlogging” (video blogging) on her own YouTube channel, as MsTopacJay.

More Victoria News Videos

Women of colour call for inclusion

Aussie vlogger MsTopacJay is calling on the Australian Beauty Industry to cater for women of colour in pharmacy beauty products.

But Ms Joseph, who migrated from Nigeria in 2008, said cosmetics companies are not adequately servicing women of colour like herself.

Although some international brands cater for darker skins, Ms Joseph said women like her struggle to find affordable foundations and concealers at chain stores.

“I started feeling like I wasn’t accepted,” she said. “I spend a lot of money on things and I would just like to go into stores and pick up a foundation, concealer or powder that was made for me.”

Ms Joseph has emailed retailers and cosmetics companies, including Priceline, L’Oréal, Terry White Chemists and Target, urging them to stock darker shades.

“How are we, as Africans, Indians, Aboriginal women, all persons of colour supposed to create when we are limited? We are forced to look elsewhere for that one foundation shade, that one shade of powder and that one concealer shade that suits our beautiful skin tone,” she wrote in her email. 

Ms Joseph frequently has to order makeup from overseas as very few brands in Australia stock shades dark enough for her skin.

“We walk out of the store with the feeling of despair and the sense of rejection … The Australian beauty industry in its entirety does not … help us feel like we are accepted and that we belong,” she wrote.

A L’Oréal Australia spokeswoman said even before Esther’s email, several brands in the group had plans to expand their colour ranges.

“Our brands NYX Professional Makeup, Maybelline and L’Oréal Paris are all committed to broadening their foundation shade ranges to cater for every woman’s need,” said Christine Burke, director of communications.

Ms Burke said Lancome was also bringing all 40 shades of one of its most popular foundations to Australia for the first time in September.

We walk out of the store with the feeling of despair and the sense of rejection

Ms Joseph said she was pleased L’Oréal was taking steps to meet the needs of Australia’s African community but that some of the proposed shades are still too light.

Ms Burke said L’Oréal was keen to work with Ms Joseph to help find a solution.

Priceline’s general manager of merchandise, Liz Webster, said the company stocked 612 shades across 21 brands and was always open to expanding its range.

“There is very low consumer demand for very dark shades and therefore the major brands have not yet felt it viable to bring the very broadest shades to our market,” Ms Webster said.

“However, given the changing demographics… we are currently exploring the option of encouraging a few of our major cosmetic suppliers to extend their shade offers.

“Additionally, we would welcome [Ms Joseph] to work with us directly to explore the development of darker foundations for our [in-house] Models Prefer range.”