New Shades of Beauty

Lithe women stalk down city streets. Rap music blasts as they pucker their perfectly glossed lips, various shades of foundation drip luxuriously down the screen. This is the promo video for Rihanna’s new makeup line: Fenty Beauty. The pop star’s self-named line was unveiled last week, nearly breaking the internet, and is available online and in stores at Sephora. The line features over forty shades of foundation, highlighters, brushes, blotting powder, and more. The sleek minimalism of the white and rose gold packaging and the sheer coolness of her magnetic ‘matchsticks’ are enough to make even the makeup-averse drool.

The line has stirred up a lot of buzz in recent weeks as Fenty puts itself in direct competition with other celebrity makeup lines such as Kylie Cosmetics, which have not put nearly as much emphasis on inclusivity and diversity of shades as Fenty.

Fenty is special for this exact reason. It is being hailed by many in the beauty community as revolutionary, labeling itself “the new generation of beauty” for it’s dedication to creating shades and formulas that make beauty accessible to all women. This diversity of shades is especially important for women of color, especially black women, whose skin tones are often severely underrepresented by major beauty lines, such as Yves Saint Laurent whose August foundation line “50 Shades of Beige” featured only one darker shade. Prominent beauty blogger Nyma Tang, whose review of the line already has over four million views, comments on her delight at finally having a single matching shade in the line for her and other dark skinned black women. YouTube is filled with other women of color, practically all of whom have similar reactions. On the other end of the spectrum, Fenty has also been praised by white and albino women who often struggle to find pale enough foundation shades. What makes Fenty such a breakthrough in the fashion industry is how it strives to provide quality products for women who have typically been excluded from the narrative of mainstream beauty.

The line’s marketing makes sure to emphasize this inclusivity; the line boasts foundations for virtually every skin tone and a number of ‘universal’ products such as her lip gloss (the line’s only lip product) designed to work for every woman regardless of complexion or skin type. The Fenty website is a monument to racial diversity, plastered with models spanning virtually every ethnic background, all sporting a perfect highlight. Though this kind of comprehensive, more-than-just-a-token-ethnic-model diversity is unprecedented in the beauty industry and definitely appreciated by many, it is worth noting that all of the models are still very, very skinny. Perhaps as Rihanna continues to release new products and ads campaigns, her diversity initiatives will expand to include women with different body types.

At the same time, for a brand that touts inclusivity and accessibility to all women, Fenty comes at a high price. Other than her universal lip gloss, which costs eighteen dollars for a small tube, virtually no single product on the Fenty website is under twenty-five dollars. The Fenty Pro Filt’r foundation, whose diversity of shades and highly researched formula make it one of the cornerstones of the collection, retails for thirty-four dollars. The relatively steep prices of the pop star’s makeup means that, as much as she may claim her line is for all women, only a specific, more socioeconomically privileged subset will be able to afford it.

As for the makeup itself, the reviews are nothing less than raving. Famous beauty guru Laura Lee asserts that Rihanna has “killed it!” with Fenty, and she is not alone in this opinion; many of her fellow beauty personalities such as Nikkie De Jager, Jackie Aina, and Bretman Rock are just as quick to sing the line’s praises. A short google search results in literally hundreds of YouTube reviews with hardly anything bad to say about the brand. The formulas, allegedly extensively and personally researched by Rihanna herself, meet and exceed the standards of many bloggers. Some fan favorites? The Pro Filt’r foundation and the Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter in “Trophy Wife” which, when brushed on a cheekbone, gives the impression of a face touched by Midas.

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