UPDATE 6/15/2020: A representative with Younique told ABC4 News that all of their sales presenters who participated in the social media posts mentioned in this article have taken them down.

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LEHI (ABC4 News) – A new online makeup trend is drawing criticism and backlash after several makeup distributors with Younique, a Lehi-based beauty company, participated on social media. However, leaders in Utah’s black community say this could be a great learning opportunity for those interested in being an ally.

The trend can be identified with the display, caption, or hashtag, “Beauty has no skin tone” and involves the participant wearing different shades of foundation, ranging from light to dark on their face.

While the intent may come from a good place, ABC4 News spoke to several leaders in Utah’s Black community about the posts who said it’s offensive and hurtful.

“We don’t believe that our beauty is not there or our beauty should look the same. I think that’s where they’re missing the mark with this message. The aim is to be treated equally, not be the same. You can celebrate every skin tone while adopting anyone else’s skin tone to see that beauty,” said Melanie Davis, a licensed clinical mental health therapist.

“They have no idea what it’s like to walk around in this skin. At the end, they’re going to wipe that makeup off and they’re going to go back to being a white person with that white privilege,” said Shelby Gist, an alumni of Utah Valley University’s Black Student Union.

“You don’t get to go in and out of being white. You’re white, you’re permanently white. You don’t get to dance around of being brown and black and come back to say how beautiful that is because you don’t wear it everyday. For us that wear it everyday, it’s not fun.” said Dr. Dianne McAdams-Jones, professor of nursing and social justice at Utah Valley University.

They explained that the posts are perpetuations of Blackface, a painful part of history during the 1830s in the United States that involved white performers wearing Black makeup while dancing, singing, and playing music in a degrading and dehumanizing way.

“I’m saddened to see that someone didn’t do their research prior to spreading an initiative like this,” said Davis.

Several makeup distributors with Younique received backlash for their posts. Some took their posts down, others didn’t. Dr. McAdams-Jones said there are better ways to show inclusivity and acceptance.

“If you want to say that it has no skin color, then why didn’t you put a brown person up there and put the makeup on them and let’s see how good your makeup looks on them? That might be a better statement to make,” said Dr. McAdams-Jones. “I can tell you right now that people who do have brown skin are not going to appreciate looking at that.”

Gist expressed concern that this could be a form of performative activism, which is defined as showing support for a cause on social media through pictures or text, without any action.

“We’ve been seeing this on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, etc. of people going out to protest or other things, holding signs. They are there for the pictures, videos, interviews, and then they go home. They’re not registered to vote, they’re not trying to join groups, they’re not donating to different funds. There’s no action other than the fact that they’re trying to seem like they’re putting something forward,” said Gist. “This is not the support we’re looking for and this is not the right way to do it.”

In a statement to ABC4 News, a representative for Younique wrote,

“Younique was founded upon a mission to uplift, empower and validate women all around the world. With such a mission, we are compelled to speak out in support of the call for justice and equality for our sisters and brothers of the Black community.

We were recently notified that some of our sales representatives, particularly in Europe, were wearing darker shades of foundation on their faces to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. This was not at the direction of Younique and we have immediately addressed it with the handful of sales representatives who posted this imagery. 

As a company in more than 13 countries, we have sales representatives all over the world with different backgrounds, and societal norms. These differences in culture and perspectives can sometimes lead to misunderstandings or a lack of contextual sensitivity, as was the case in this instance.  We view this as opportunity for us to further educate ourselves and our worldwide sales team on issues affecting the Black community.”

Gist responded with, “It can be done with the best of intentions. Some of these people are living outside of the United States and they think this is a great way to show support of the Black community when in all actuality, it takes us back to the 1830s when minstrel shows and Blackface first began. People outside the country probably don’t know this history. But this is a chance to unlearn things, have those uncomfortable conversations, and ask questions.”

Davis advises anyone attempting to be an ally to be open-minded if a person of color points out an action they find offensive and understand why.

“If you have a representative from a group saying or suggesting that the way you’re attempting to be an ally is hurtful, listen. Listen. Listen to what they’re saying. Be open to the dialogue on how to be helpful,” she said. “Own that you missed the mark and hope to retract any hurt it may have caused the Black community. Ask and inquire about how you can be an ally. It’s a wonderful opportunity for growth.”

She added, “We know allies aren’t perfect. We all make mistakes. We just want people to try and work towards equality. This can make on a macro or micro level such acknowledging systemic barriers. We need the energy of as many people behind us as possible. But check in to make sure the ways you’re approaching it are positive, uplifting, and respectful.”

Rosie_Nguyen
Rosie Nguyen is an award-winning journalist who joined the ABC4 News team as a reporter in January 2018. In September 2020, she embarked on a new journey as the anchor for the CW30 News at 7 p.m. Although she’s not out in the field anymore, she is continuing her passion for social justice and community issues through the nightly “In Focus” discussions.