A Seat at the Salon

Despite spending an estimated 7.5 billion dollars annually on beauty products, and even paying remarkably more than our counterparts on cosmetic and skin care items, African American women are constantly being left out of the conversation and illustration when it comes to beauty and hair products. Part of the reason we even have to spend more is because the average beauty aisle item is not made with us in mind and even if they say they are, we often shell out money only to realize it doesn’t work for our skin, our hair, or our beings in general.

So when we find something we love, we stick to it. We put our dollars, hearts, and voices behind it and make sure they win. This was the case with Shea Moisture Essentials. I remember a few years ago when it was barely a thing. A few stores carried it, but I willingly sought it out and spent $10 per item because I knew it worked for my “Nappier Than Thou” 4C hair. Even if you look in my linen closet today it’s filled with Shea Moisture products, from hair products to face and body things. I even fell for the swindle and bought their coconut oil like Trader Joe’s isn’t cheaper and just as dope. I was excited for Shea Moisture, which had an origin story stemming from their Sierra Leonian grandmother making products from shea butter, and loved seeing their growth and popping up at major retailers.

We understood their need to grow in the retail environment, and I peeped their expansion of products into skin care, baby skin care, makeup and more. I just never thought that they, a company built with black roots would completely write us out of the story that we once championed.

Then this ad happened.

Just in case if you don’t understand why we as the ever-ignored black women are mad, let me explain. This commercial was missing something big. It was missing the reflection of the very women that helped to build this brand with their dollars. We as a general body have been ignored in mainstream media, except the few lucky ones that have been deemed favorites like Lupita or Beyoncé. And sadly, we’ve come to expect that from companies that are controlled by people who don’t look like us. I don’t ever expect to see a L’Oreal commercial with a girl with dreads or a kinky TWA. In fact, if they did I probably still wouldn’t believe that it worked in my hair and chalk it to a marketing gimmick. But for this to be a company that I loved, a company that I thought got me and was built on a platform that empowered me as a black woman? That is a low blow. And I really don’t think there’s anything that can be done to come back from this. For me, this is not a PR nightmare. Maya Angelou or Tyler Perry told me “when someone tries to show who they are, believe them” and I take that to heart. 

There were better ways to include other voices in their message without silencing ours.

And if anyone needs some product recommendations, I have plenty from my former days of being a product junkie. Taliah Waajid and Curlz (Texas based!) are a good start.

OH, and their apology letter sucks too.



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