Not So Sleek.

When does a make-up brand that specifically catered to Black and ethnic minority women start to steer away from their target base? When they get a little promotion and good reviews from the mainstream, that’s when.

Case in point: Sleek MakeUp. I love their products but over the past few years I’ve noticed little things about how they promote themselves. They started out as the first high street beauty brand in this country to cater for Black women, selling in Superdrug with foundation colours that ranged beyond caramel and cocoa. Red lipsticks that suited our skin tones. All for reasonable prices- marvellous.

I first noticed things were a bit iffy when their products were featured in mainstream publications and beauty blogs. All of a sudden, Black models were being used less in their promotional coverage and if they were, they were no darker than mixed-race.

Then they started selling their range at Boots and I noticed that their Face Form contouring kit now had four shades: fair (the new one), light, medium and dark. But only the first three shades were available in stores- the darkest shade could only be bought online. I thought this might have been a one-off, until I noticed this was happening too many times to be a coincidence. It was not at just one store, but at a range of different shops across London- one of the most diverse cities in the world. Now, before anyone says maybe they ran out of stock- nope. I went back several times and each store I went into had three spaces, which said to me: never mind if you are of darker skin tone- if you thought Sleek and these stores were on your side, you were wrong. They want you to pay a delivery charge as well.

Cut to a few months later and I saw they had brought out a highlighting palette. Not a Black model in sight to promote it, but a blonde White one instead. As well as this, the illustrations they had showing how to use the palette only used white faces. What the hell? So as soon as they got a little bit of the spotlight from the mainstream, they turned their back on the people that got them there in the first place: the Black women who go into the chemists and the black hair shops to buy their makeup. Sleek built their brand on Black women parting with their money and now their products cater for ‘everyone’. As nice an idea as that is, any chance we could have something to call our own? Black women already have enough trouble finding makeup that suits our skins without making us look ashy, or searching for nude lipstick that doesn’t make us look like cadavers.

We should not have to pay twice the price in MAC, Nars or Fashion Fair to get the desired results. From alabaster to sun-beige, there is a vast range out on the high street catering for White women, whereas we have to scout around. The one time we have (or had) a brand designed for us, it leaves us in the lurch and caters for everyone with one hand and slowly pushing us away with the other.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Gillian H’s story.