Iman is a trailblazer for many reasons. She’s one of the most cherished and revered supermodels ever, she’s married to legendary rockstar David Bowie and she runs a beauty/fashion empire that continues to attract new customers on a daily basis. Another reason Iman is a trailblazer is her recent alarming exposure of how prejudiced and backwards the beauty industry can be when it comes to servicing women of color. During the WWD Beauty Summit, Iman dished on the many obstacles she faces when it comes to getting her beauty products positioned properly in stores:
“…I didn’t understand that it was if they have 1,000 doors, 200 are for women of color,” she said, adding that she takes exception with mass retailers allocating “for you the doors that they think your customer is. I mean, I think, personally, if a black woman or a black family or a Latina family is shopping in your pharmacy, in a Walgreens or a Target, she probably would buy the cosmetics line if it was there.
“It was a no-go. They wanted me to be placed at the back, which they considered, like it is, for the ethnic section, which I was totally against it for no other reason but ’cause also I never considered myself an ethnic brand.”
“Last year, I decided to create a liquid foundation, which I have been told numerous times by the retailers, ‘Oh, black women don’t buy liquid foundation,’ right?” she said. Rather than do a typical beauty-editor breakfast, she invited 40 beauty bloggers to an event and introduced the line to them that way. Within three months, the foundation was the number-one product in her brand, she said.
Remarkable isn’t it? Why is it that the beauty industry is still lagging so far behind when it comes to understanding women of color and how to properly sell to our diverse demographic. What’s worse is that many of the top beauty brands have no faces of color in their product development, marketing or sales teams which leads to products and advertising that entirely exclude women of color’s wants, desires and needs. No worries, there are those of us rising through the ranks now that are looking to change the beauty industry landscape. Thanks to pioneers like Iman, we will have a chance to really make a difference!