A Beauty Director's Ode to Black Beauty

You are the cornerstone of American culture.

Ode to Black Beauty collage
(Image credit: Brittany Holloway-Brown)

I remember the first time I understood Black beauty. It was a scorching hot afternoon in June and my mother just finished braiding my hair. When I glanced at the bathroom mirror, I felt—for the first time—like a beautiful brown girl. I was only 5 years old, but the memory of my mom saying, “look at my beautiful brown baby” is forever etched into my brain. It was then I realized Black beauty is an emblem of power. 

I should've welcomed Black beauty into my life, but I didn't. In my pre-teen years I believed the rumors society placed on beauty. I was convinced it was only a friend to light-skinned girls with long, straight hair. I mistakenly thought true beauty only existed in the lives of my white friends with blue eyes and pale skin. 

Boy, was I wrong. 

When I became a young professional, I decided to become a beauty editor to make an impact on future generations. I wanted to help young girls see the beauty within themselves. I wanted to tell the world the importance of Black beauty.

Now as a beauty director, overseeing beauty content for Marie Claire and before that at Allure and Essence magazines, I’ve had a bird's eye view of Black beauty's impact and power. I’ve seen its resilience and strength in the industry—even when heritage beauty brands try to diminish it, only supporting it when there’s the possibility of financial gain.

For generations, Black beauty hasn't received proper accolades. For years, Black faces were absent on the covers of high fashion magazines. Makeup brands didn’t support us, only offering a small range of foundation shades. And it’s not lost on me that Black models are often forgotten backstage at fashion shows. It pains Black women when celebrity hairstylists can’t serve us because they weren’t taught how to care for us, how to embrace our curls, or how to honor our existence.

I hate that Hollywood diminishes the value of Black beauty, only celebrating Black features when not attached to a Black body. And it bothers me that Black consumers are likely to spend nine times more on beauty products than any other race, but Black-owned brands make up only 2.5 percent of revenue in the beauty industry. 

Please understand that you, Black beauty, matter.

Many argue that beauty is colorless. And that Black beauty doesn't exist because all beauty matters. But Black beauty is the cornerstone of American culture.  

Black beauty is… stylized baby hairs that deliver an extra level of creativity to any hairstyle.

Black beauty is… Diana Ross’ big, perfect hair from the '70s.

Black beauty is… shea butter-based skincare on a cold winter day.

Black beauty is… Grace Jones’ androgynous, yet sexy style. 

Black beauty is… curvy and voluptuous.

Black beauty is… slender, svelte, and sophisticated.

Black beauty is… the jheri curl of the '80s.

Black beauty is… a pretty mind, heart, and soul.

Black beauty is… the long nails of Florence Griffith Joyner (Flo-Jo).

Black beauty is… Janet Jackson’s intricate Poetic Justice braids.

Black beauty is… the reason why the lip-enhancing industry is wildly popular. 

Black beauty is… a perfectly round derrière. 

Black beauty is… dark hair, dark eyes, a big nose, and big lips.

Black beauty is… magical. 

I will spend the rest of my days honoring and supporting Black beauty, while encouraging others to do the same. And when others shrink its joy, I promise to keep the late Jamaican activist, Marcus Garvey’s words at the forefront of my mind, “Black skin is not a badge of shame but rather a glorious symbol of national greatness.”  

Deena Campbell is the Beauty Director of Marie Claire where she oversees all beauty and health content on all platforms.