How Halloween 2017 Made Me Aware of Color Inclusivity Privilege Yet Again and the Fact That I Don’t Have It
Undeniably, the best part of a Halloween party is that they foster conversations among strangers in a way that doesn’t happen at any other type of party. You could walk up to someone at a wedding and say, “Hey, what are you supposed to be?” But things would get real weird, real quick. At a Halloween party, however, you’re in the clear to strike up a random stranger and ask what they are. While basking in the compliments glory of my DIY Sashimi costume this year, I found myself distracted by a woman across the room. I’m a witty lady but I couldn’t figure out what a white woman dressed in a wig cap and head-to-toe spandex that matched her lycheetini skin was supposed to be. Luckily, I was at a Halloween party so I already had the societal ok, and I just walked up to her and asked what she was supposed to be. Clearly amused with herself, she pointed the lines drawn around her waist and where her appendages met her body and coolly said, “A mannequin.”
First I applauded her creativity, but then I became salty by the snarky undertones of her response. It felt condescending because it was like she was implying that I was supposed to know that she was in costume and not just a woman wearing clothes she already owned who got hot and snatched off her wig. As a woman that falls somewhere between the rich-to-deep skin tone spectrum, this costume isn’t really a possibility for me, and yet here I was expected to simultaneously see and register what she was trying to be. Sure I could be an mannequin if I wanted to but I wouldn’t be able to pull it off with such a precision. What a luxury – or better yet, a privilege- it must be to own a wig cap, shirt, shapewear shorts and tights that not only seamlessly match with each other but also your skin. I wasn’t able to find a “nude” bra that matched my dark skin and warm undertones until I was 24-years-old. Considering that I’m now only 25, I don’t anticipate finding shorts, shirts, and tights that match one each other, let alone my skin anytime soon.
This experience was another example on how few seats there are at the table of color-inclusion in the beauty and fashion worlds. I can only speak for myself based on my experiences as a black woman, but I very rarely feel acknowledged by the people at that table. Blanket representations of pigmented skin tones are always a hit or miss. For example, YSL sells 22 foundation shades, nine of them are classified as fair, nine are medium and four are deep. So what you mean to tell me is that darker skin tones only exist in one-third of the range of fair skinned women? W. T. F. So in that instance, I guess I’ll save my $58 and skip the YSL foundation, but the point is, it’s so hard for darker skinned women to have their Goldilocks moment of finding perfectly matched nude products that are “just right.”
It would be remiss not to acknowledge the strides made in color inclusivity in the beauty industry in 2017. The week Rihanna launched Fenty Beauty, you had a better chance of finding a breathing unicorn than finding the Pro Filt’r foundation in a color darker than 360 Tan Neutral Olive – no matter how many Sephoras you went to. It was clear there was a demand for quality products that considered range of possibilities when the intersectionality of complexion and undertones were considered. As quickly as consumers rushed to finally get foundation that was a closer match, brands started to notice that the market was there.
While inclusion is present in the beauty space (not perfect, but starting to be better), it’s virtually absent in the fashion industry. One of the only experiences that I have had of complexion inclusivity has been the result of Nudemeter by Nudest.co. I first came across the technology while shopping on a website that featured a “shop by shade” filter. While the website had 13 shades that sounded like delicious flavor options at a hip coffee shop, I wasn’t sure how to translate these words into the color of my skin. The site clearly accounted for it, and led me to the nudemeter – where I was able to take a photo of my skin, answer a few questions to determine tanning preferences as well as undertone distinctions, and then I was led to nudemeter shade and all of the website’s offerings in that color. There’s no denying that Nudest.co is bridging the gap in complexion inclusion with over 50 distinctive shades, but there’s still quite a ways to go as more fashion companies need to provide a wider range of clothing options in all of the nude shades.
I’m so thankful that I’ve been made aware of the resources that try to close the complexion-inclusivity gap by making more products or bridge the gap between me (as the consumer) to the brands that sell the products. These resources are just the first step in eliminating color inclusivity privilege, which is real y’all and very much alive in 2017. The second step is stop looking at the piece of sashimi like she’s an idiot because she doesn’t understand your costume.