By now the whole world has seen how fragile the human ego is. In April, we saw things shift and shatter in front of us. One-the marriage between Jesse Williams and his wife, Ayrn. Second-is the too far reaching new PR campaign of the Black Woman birthed and friendly, Shea Moisture.
I started using Shea Moisture on a whim because it was on sale. I wanted a body scrub that would moisturize, and after seeing a YouTube beauty guru and real life MUA, Jackie Aina*, I was sold. I got body scrub and soap and lotion and I even hipped the hubs to for a skin issue he was having.
I loved the Super Bowl commercial the company has done a couple years ago that “broke the divide” in the beauty world. To be a woman of color and shop for hair and beauty items is a unique challenge. What I see most often is the aisle topics of HEALTH & BEAUTY or ETHNIC BEAUTY.
In a nation that hates people of color, people tan and call it beautiful. America.
Anyway, if you don’t find what you need at mainstream store like Target or Walmart, you can always find it at a beauty supply on any corner–in St. Louis at least. I was excited about what the brand was doing, and happy that black women were recreating a standard that was never made for us but meant to reprogram us to hate our lips, skin, hair and curves.
Which made the commercial and PR that more degrading. Why do I think everyone is up in arms? Erasure. Assimilation. Cowering to the “standard of beauty.” I get what Shea Moisture was trying to do: be inclusive, so some women that didn’t look like the women that used this product. What do marketing execs call it? Crossover appeal. In that appeal, in that progress to cross cultural appeal, we see what has happened to us and our foremothers through history. We get “something for us” and then folk “wanna come take it.” And that hurts.
Even though the company apologized, and as of this posting, there are no more commercials appealing to a ‘wider audience’, I get what they tried to do. I’m not upset about it, I’m not even shocked. I understand. For so long, we as black women have been ignore and our very bodies duplicated and sold for public consumption. I could hear the seething taking place as the chorus of black women stood up and holler out, “Dammit, we can’t have (bleep)!” There is however this sound that we made in utter contempt that, too, reminded the world that we are still here, and we will not longer be rinds of strange fruit. We are too dynamic for that. And yes, I still wear my Shea Moisture Argan oil, body Dragonfruit body scrub and Coconut & Hibiscus lotion. Why? I am supporter of the brand, and acknowledge that they acknowledged they missed this one this time. Folk can use it, that’s wonderful. But, there is an onus that is there where black women can look at those jars and bottles and say, “Yeah, this is ours”. It’s like my grandma’s sweet potato pie recipe. I can show you how to make it, and while you may have this ability to make it, you don’t have the roux (the basics): the fundamental right to take what she made and gave to me. I was nice enough to share it with you…it’s still mine. You just happen to be privy to it.
*-Jackie Aina is African-American professional MUA, with a YouTube channel with over a million subscribers. She is pretty and unapologetically black. You can find her channel by searching her name. She does great tutorials, skin care and product reviews. Check her out.