Nicole Byer (Loosely Exactly Nicole, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, Girl Code) recently penned an essay on Lenny Letter, the feminist newsletter created by Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner.

She kicked off the essay with an attention-grabbing opener, listing the things she claimed to look like after being done by professional makeup artists (MUAs):

“A black woman in blackface.
A dead woman.
Dry and/or dusty or a crusty combo of the two.”

There are already many microaggressions that plus-size women have to face such as limited — or worse yet, zero — available options in the wardrobe department, which Byer addresses. This time, she specifically focused on the similar microaggressions in the beauty/makeup department. She mused on her first paying job in which she shot a commercial in Romania and described the result as, “The woman had somehow covered my face in a grayish-brown color and given me bright-blue eye shadow that looked as if it she were trying to bring the sky inside and put it on my face.”

She went on, providing more examples, such as witnessing an MUA furiously mix together foundation shades to try to get the right color and then succumbing to using Byer’s personal foundation and realizing her neck didn’t match her face, all of which further prove how prominent the struggle is.

The essay is funny, engaging and an important read. She stressed the fact that what may seem like a little thing such as readily having access to the right makeup is a privilege. One particular passage in which she takes the reader along on a hypothetical-yet-very-real day in the life of a Black woman in the industry: “Now if you’re a nice white actor friend and you’re reading this and you disagree, just imagine having to bring your own makeup to set for every job you book. Waking up at 4 a.m. so you can do your own makeup before you get to set for a 6 a.m. call time so you don’t insult the makeup artist by doing your makeup yourself in their allotted time. Spending countless hours on YouTube watching makeup tutorials. Not for fun (sometimes for fun) but to keep up with the ever-changing makeup trends, so you don’t make yourself look dated. Plus, you have to learn different looks for different kinds of scenes. Is it a “no makeup look” or is it a “party look”? Now, my nice white actor friend, imagine you go to work not having done any of the above, and there’s an all-black makeup and hair department. Not one of them knows how to do your makeup. They also have only one shade marked “pale,” and they don’t feel bad about it, because you’re an “other” and it doesn’t matter.

Despite struggles that many actors of color face, Byer noted that things are heading in the right direction. Brands such as MAC, Sephora, Dior, Fashion Fair and Black Radiance are showcasing a more diverse range of shades. We still have work to do on their mainstream store-availability, but the awareness is prominent.

Overall, Byer concluded that her “being different” stands out more often than not in the situations where she’s the only person of color in the room or faced with the task of not having the on-set perks of her white counterparts and yet, she still embraces her differences, which is equally as important. The fight, of course, is for everyone else to embrace them, too.

Kudos to Byer for this essay and we wish her continued success!



About The Author

Tonja Renée Stidhum is a screenwriter/director with cheeks you want to pinch... but don't (unless she wants you to). She is made of sugar and spice and everything rice... with the uncanny ability to make a Disney/Pixar reference in the same sentence as a double entendre.

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