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5 Professionals of Color Who Changed the Beauty Industry

5 Professionals of Color Who Changed the Beauty Industry

Innovative. Unique. Visionary. Our list has them all. Take a look at some of the best professionals of color who have impacted the industry.

It's February, and that means we're celebrating Black History Month. There are many people of color that have helped shape the beauty and fashion industry, adding their contributions and achievements to an already impressive catalog. This month, we're highlighting the top 5 professionals of color that have single-handedly changed the industry. 


Rihanna and Fenty Beauty

Time magazine listed Fenty Beauty as one of the 25 best inventions of 2017. And for good reason. Rihanna created a beauty brand that is accessible to a broad range of consumers, both from a product and price viewpoint.

Launched in September 2017, Rihanna’s Fenty cosmetics brand celebrates all genders and strives to be inclusive of all skin tones, personal preferences, and global cultures. Widely praised for its range of foundations available in 50 shades, Fenty has quickly become the standard to which other new beauty products and lines must measure up to. With Fenty's consistent release of new products and collections since its inception, Rihanna shows no signs of slowing down her purpose for global change.

As Rihanna, herself has stated, “Makeup is there for you to have fun with. […] It should never feel like pressure. It should never feel like a uniform. Feel free to take chances, and take risks, and dare to do something new or different.”

Kanye West and his Yeezy Line

Innovative collaboration and design, musical or otherwise, remains the cornerstone of Kanye West's success. Although you probably know him better as an entertainer, we can also call Kanye the "sneaker whisperer." His shoe designs and prototypes are praised by both the public and the industry because they blend fashion, comfort, and innovation all in one package.

Kanye's foray into wearable design began late 2006 when he partnered with the likes of A Bathing Ape, and he caught the sneaker bug soon after. In 2009, he officially launched his Yeezy shoe line with Nike, but as the years went on, Nike proved to be a less-than-ideal business partner (hushed whispers claimed a lack of royalties for the Yeezy products).

So in 2013, Kanye took his brand to Adidas, keeping his 100% ownership intact and picking up a lucrative royalties deal on the way. Yeezy apparel made an appearance shortly thereafter, and after 2015 the brand skyrocketed, in part due to his wife’s social media reach, in part due to the limited run of his products.

In an interview with Forbes, Kanye notes, “I am a product guy at my core. […] To make products that make people feel an immense amount of joy and solve issues and problems in their life, that’s the problem-solving that I love to do.”


Naomi Campbell, fashion model

Naomi Campbell is an outspoken advocate against racial bias in the beauty and fashion industry. She once noted, “You see all races in music, and in dance and theatre, so why can’t we see it in fashion?”

As a black woman in the beauty and fashion world of the 80s and 90s, Naomi had a lot of "firsts" throughout her professional modeling career. She was the first black model to be featured on the cover of Vogue for 3 consecutive years - the British, French AND American versions! - and on the cover of Time in 1991. She was the first black supermodel, which is a term she and 5 other models directly inspired. And just in 2019, she received her first beauty contract with NARS Cosmetics.

As the era of the supermodel seemed to diminish at the end of the 90s, Naomi tried her hand at other types of entertainment such as music and acting. Yet her most lasting contribution is in the beauty and fashion industry. With an assist from her supermodel peers and designer friends, Naomi pushed through racial discrimination and fought for her right to both be seen and paid equally as her white counterparts. And as she brought that fight into the public eye, she shined a much-needed spotlight on the prejudice present in the industry - to change it.

On a global scale, Naomi has also used her influence to bring awareness and funds to many international charities and impoverished areas of the world, all the while never stopping her quest to ensure equality and respect for all people.


Winnie Harlow, fashion model

Canadian model Winnie Harlow has a unique look to her skin, thanks to her vitiligo. A long-term skin condition that affects people of all skin colors, vitiligo is often more noticeable on darker skin shades due to its characteristic loss of pigmentation. There is no known cure for or exact cause of it. As you can imagine, the skin condition can also result in psychological distress in the affected individuals.

As a fashion model and spokesperson on the skin condition, Winnie has single-handedly made huge strides in lessening the stigma that is often associated with vitiligo. She began opening up about her life in a 2011 video posted on YouTube. Then in 2014, following her newfound fame as a contestant on America’s Next Top Model, Winnie’s fashion modeling career took off.

She’s since used her fame and influence to bring about awareness and acceptance of the autoimmune disorder, and unexpectedly ushered in a new era of beauty standards in the industry. She’s appeared in magazine covers like Vogue, Elle, and Sports Illustrated and has worked with various brands like Beyoncé, Marc Jacobs, and Dior Beauty.

Winnie sagely noted, “Vitiligo is just another difference, like freckles, big hair, tiny ears. Everyone has differences.”


Pat McGrath, makeup artist

Influential. Innovative. Unique. Our list would not be complete without renowned makeup artist Pat McGrath - or as some call her, the “mother of makeup.”

Time magazine named her among their list of the 100 most influential people in 2019, yet Pat started from humble beginnings in the 90s, with no formal training in the industry or medium that would eventually serve to make her a household name.

What helped propel her to fame? Her art background, her adventurous approach to makeup, and her love for individual expression. Her fearlessness and creativity launched countless editorial campaigns and iconic images, and global brands like Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, and Gucci sought her expertise for their own cosmetic products long before Pat launched her own brand, Pat McGrath Labs, in 2016.

Drawing inspiration from the creative fashion industry and people around her, models like Naomi Campbell, Pat endeavors to bring out the beauty in each of us - and we love her for it. In an interview with Nylon Magazine, she noted that “real and true beauty comes from within. It's like an energy. […] Often in my work, the approach to beauty is to seek perfection, yet sometimes beauty is imperfect or quite raw."


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