Fenty's Slip Up and Tokenism in the Beauty Industry
If you follow Instagram accounts along the likes of Diet Prada and Estée Laundry, you have most likely seen that what seemed like a “do-no-wrong” brand has made a major mistake in product naming. Ever since its launch, Fenty Beauty has been praised for its shade ranges and its inclusivity in marketing promotions. Rihanna has certainly made diversity a priority in her brand. Unfortunately, her latest product was inconsistent with her established brand.
An addition to the Killawatt Highlighter line, a product with the shade name “Geisha Chic” hit Instagram, being teased by various influencers who had received PR packages to promote a future launch.
Pages such as Esteé Laundry were quick to call out this racial insensitivity and lack of cultural understanding or appreciation relating to the term geisha. Those of Asian background took to their Instagram question log, describing the ever-present exoticization and misunderstanding of what geisha and geisha culture represent.
Fenty fans questioned the intent of the brand as well as whether this product would be renamed or entirely pulled from its launch. Considering that influencers already had their hands on the product, manufacturing was likely nearly complete and the product ready for sale.
After this major backlash, Fenty announced that it has decided to “completely remove this shade from online and in stores until further notice.” It was definitely a faster response to beauty community scrutiny than other brands have shown in the past.
Unfortunately, this is just one of the more recognized cases of racial insensitivity toward Asians in the beauty industry. Brands like Tatcha have indulged in a similar exoticization and almost fetishization of geisha culture, while in reality, white-washing the brand to appeal to wealthy, non-POC populations. The marketing scheme behind Tatcha certainly requires more revision, as seen below, the brand has committed some heavily insensitive collaborations in the past.
It is only with hope that callout culture will adjust brand behavior in the future and create a more accountable and racially-appropriate environment in an industry that profits off of tokenization and ignorance.
Feature image via