Juxtaposing cultural concepts to delve into intersectionality and defy stereotypes.
One of the most common questions I hear since launching my beauty line Kawaii Girl Cosmetics is, “why ‘Kawaii’”. It can seem so strange to some people that an African American woman (born, raised and still based in the US full time) would gravitate towards a Japanese name to create a beauty line. The short answer: I got tired of buying “ok” lashes from other brands and decided I could do better on my own. I launched a line that is starting with lashes but will continue with color cosmetics and beauty tools in 2018 and beyond. But the long answer…well that’s far more in depth, complicated and intersectional.
In Japan, kawaii means cute or pretty (depending on who you ask, but I like to focus on the cute definition), and the kawaii aesthetic as it relates to beauty is usually a far more fresh faced, wide eyed style than is trending here in the West. When I created Kawaii Girl Cosmetics, I set out to achieve two things. First, I wanted to redefine beauty standards in the West. Just search the hashtags #motd (makeup of the day) or #beauty and you’ll see an endless trail of attractive men and women who’ve applied a strong brow, contoured “to tha gawds”, razor sharp cut creases and more to create a very mature almost vixenish effect. And although I definitely love the artistry that goes into that and the time that it takes to create it, sometimes it’s just too much.
Of course, to each their own — but these images of editorial or theatrical style makeup dominate our social feeds. And it gives the impression to many people that this is the only way to do your makeup and be seen as beautiful. And that couldn’t be farther from the truth. So, for the most part (unless I see something that’s so damn artistic I just have to celebrate it), if you go on KGC’s instagram feed, I tend to focus on celebrating MUAs or makeup lovers who favor a more realistic aesthetic. So, that’s part one.
Part two, is far more personal and something that millions of women around the world but especially in the US experience every day. I purposely picked the word kawaii because it is a polar opposite to how many women — especially women of color and particularly African Americans/members of the African diaspora — are stereotyped in the US. To grow up as a woman of color in the US is to be consistently stereotyped by tropes that 99% of the time don’t apply to you. And as an African American woman, I can testify that the tropes assigned to my cohort aren’t the least bit flattering.
Angry Black Woman. Jezebel. Mannish asexual mammies. That is how we are often depicted — and not just by mainstream society…but sadly by our own as well. We’re viewed as this monolith that basically has no redeeming qualities, but the cherry on top requires adding in a heavy dash of colorism. All of this results in a community of women who are trained from birth to either literally hate the skin they’re in or to live in a constant state of tension from having one of these negative tropes thrown in their face. As a result we are often further marginalized than our male counterparts (often at the hands of our male counterparts) and that kind of constant negativity is a burden that no one should be expected to endure.
Not to mention, those last two paragraphs are at complete odds with my life. Growing up, I never identified with any of the stereotypes lobbed at African Americans in general or African American women in particular. So, when hashtags like #blackgirlmagic and #carefreeblackgirl began to make their way into the lexicon, I was ecstatic. I saw a way to shatter a stereotype while also creating a brand that is genuinely built on inclusiveness. All women, but definitely African American women, deserve to live a life free of reproach based on tropes that are as tired as the individuals hurling them. We have the right to express an entire range of emotions from happiness to sadness, whimsy to cold hard professionalism, anger to elation…and to do all of this without someone policing our attitudes, bodies or facial expressions.
I fell in love with Japan when I was a little grade schoolgirl and saw my first Japanese Tea Ceremony demonstration in Allisonville Elementary. At the time I was eight or nine, and since then, I’ve been a fan. Fast forward to today and I do travel fairly regularly to Japan for business, have worked in the market for the past 7 years and even held my own wedding in Tokyo. Kawaii Girl Cosmetics is for everyone and anyone who loves a great pair of flutter lashes and wants to embrace whimsy — however that translates for them. But it will always be for those who want to shatter stereotypes and remind the powers that be — whether that’s mainstream society or the bullies in your own enclave — that there is no one way to be. For the man who loves makeup. For the woman who just wants some great lashes and a pop of color on her lips. For the pretty chocolate girl who was told she’s too dark to be pretty. For the “quirky” black girl who was told she was too different and didn’t “act black”. Kawaii Girl Cosmetics sees you, loves you and represents you to the fullest.
**This story was originally posted on my personal Facebook page as a note and is being republished here.**