Piece of the Black Pie
Is Fenty Beauty Really For Us, By Us?
Rihanna dropped Fenty Beauty and the world seemed to stand still. The excitement of an all inclusive makeup line seemed to be celebrated by those in the fashion industry, while others were in disbelief that the pop singer started a makeup empire from the ground floor. After investigating, assumptions of Rihanna’s ownership were contradicted and brought to the attention by Twitter user Shaun Juan, who posted the patents to Fenty Beauty. This patent proved Rihanna did not, in fact, own the company, but just the brand. The singer is listed as the Founder and Creator of the new makeup line, but the brand is actually owned by Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy’s beauty division, Kendo Brands.
Kendo is known for common marketing ploys to boost sales for new projects such as teaming up with popular mainstream artists and collaborating on branding tactics. In the past, they’ve teamed up with Kat Von D, Marc Jacobs, and Bite; Rihanna was no different. The brand incubator partnered with Rihanna and signed a $10 million dollar deal to create Fenty Beauty. According to WWD, “Kendo has given Rihanna the opportunity to play a key role in the development of her brand and the longevity of a long-term relationship.” In sum, Rihanna was offered more than just being a face, but an opportunity to be given full creative control over the development of an all inclusive brand.
It seems Kendo threw her a couple of bones by letting her have her name. This is important being that the pop singer is her name. She was allowed to keep the title of Creator and Founder yet wasn’t granted the most valuable role, the CEO. One is left to assume Rihanna’s team decided that nothing else was important than having full creative control. Why wasn’t this ownership known by the masses? Why did promotions make it seem like Rihanna owned the company in its entirety?
Kendo Brands might have strategized the partnership to tap into a frankly ignored market, women of color. Companies that have all inclusive lines, such as Makeup Forever, another brand owned by LVMH, have struggled to reach women of color consumers based on marketing seclusion. Rihanna’s image directed everyone’s attention toward the ideology that she owned the brand in its entirety which drove sales through the roof. A successful marketing tactic that allowed Kendo Brands’ product to skyrocket in sales in just the first week of its release. LVMH creating a partnership with Rihanna under Kendo Brands leaves one to wonder whether their dive into the Black market was genuine. Was it just a ploy to heighten sales? Do we really matter?
Although people of color have a history of not being able to fit in the White spectrum, this isn’t a new strategy for White companies. For years, Black consumers have been led to believe that companies catering to them were owned by Black innovators. For instance, Essence, Black Hair, Softsheen-Carson (also known as the widely used Dark and Lovely), and Marc Ecko are all currently owned by White business owners, but cater almost solely to the black market.
There are many companies posing as Black conglomerates, however, there are also Black-owned businesses maintaining the dollar in circulation of the Black market and evolving Black culture. Entrepreneurial mogul and Shark Tank judge, Daymond John, is the CEO and Founder of the hip-hop lifestyle brand, F.U.B.U. – translating to For Us, By Us. The usage of this acronym has been coined by the Black community and also recognizes Black business owners. With fashion being the forefront of the Black aesthetic (along with other cultural points being music, entertainment and sports), Black influence is heavily utilized with no sense of recognition or cater to the market. With this in mind, Black fashion and beauty owners are deeply sought out in our community, especially those catering to the needs of this demographic. Kai Avent-deLeon, owner of Sincerely, Tommy, created a conceptual shop which brings high fashion to the Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn neighborhood and offers a unique perspective of Black fashion. Michelle Dalzon, founder of BOM, created a platform showcasing an array of black business owners through pop up shops for the market. There are also other beauty brands such as FORM Beauty, an all-inclusive hair care brand and Gold Label Cosmetics, a lipstick line focusing on all undertones that are also Black-owned.
Pride for Black-owned businesses comes with the impression that culture will evolve as well as an expectation to recur an economic circulation. Blackness and Black money threatens the superiority of the ‘White dollar’. Hence, the reason why Bain Capital acquiring stocks in Shea Moisture’s parent company, Sundial Brands, LLC was disheartening and made Black consumers weary. Rihanna aiding LVMH’s alleged exploitation of Black culture (for her own personal recognition) seems like a slap in the face. Personally, this information is a major setback for Black economic development. The Black community has had more than a struggle to keep an independent image. Even though there isn’t proof that LVMH is exploiting people of color, it is a cloud of theory that lingers; it sits in the proof. After all the rejoice and praise from the Black community, we still discovered that Fenty Beauty wasn’t and still isn’t for us or by us.