When Rihanna launched her beauty line in September 2017, it sent shockwaves through the beauty industry. There was no longer a finite number of women or men who could use make-up, stunted by the shade of their skin. No, Fenty Beauty created a foundation line that could match the palest to the darkest skin types and everyone in between. With most beauty brands ranging from 9 (Benefit Cosmetics) to 18 shades (Bobbi Brown), there was a community of people who had to compromise when picking a foundation. Having the exact shade of foundation may not seem like a substantial issue but having a foundation in your shade gives women and men a sense of empowerment. Having to change the shade of your skin because a brand or label does not see it as a normal or as a profitable shade of skin shouldn’t be a reality of women’s beauty routine but sadly it is. Whether you had to darken or lighten your skin, it still meant changing the colour of your face to be able to wear make-up. Companies are there to make money and so possibly only producing a couple of shades, companies hedging their bets with people picking one of the shades despite it lighter/darker than their skin. But these shades of women always existed, and these women were left ignored.
But not anymore, with Fenty Beauty’s forty shades, there is much less compromise and more complexion. However, although Rihanna propelled the beauty revolution of all shades, it is important to remember the other brands that have led the way of inclusion. Fenty Beauty wasn’t the first brand to spearhead the creation of a large line of foundations. MAC Cosmetics has 45 shades of Studio Fix foundation with yellow undertones (NC) and red undertones (NW) to choose from. It was also MAC whose ethos is that of inclusion of all peoples with past collaborators including Ru Paul and, charity lipsticks in which proceeds go to HIV/AIDS organisations. Sometimes, a celebrity with Rihanna’s stature needs to reiterate the message of togetherness and Fenty Beauty has become the trendsetter for beauty inclusion in 2018. Since her forty-shade foundations went on release, the darkest shades, selling out first, it proved to brands that these women were left unheard for so long. Companies like L’Oréal have since created a multitude of shades, and likewise, more beauty brands are creating extra shades to include more skin tones. The ripple effect on the beauty industry can only be a good thing and with Fenty Beauty’s tagline “Beauty For All”, we can expect more magnificent makeup moments of inclusion for the brand.
SAVAGEXFENTY, another of Rihanna’s brainchild projects was released midnight worldwide on May 11. The collection ranges from a size XS to 3X and from 32A to 44DD. Models for the campaign varied from skin tones to sizes, and far from the norm we are used to seeing on lingerie ads. SAVAGE models included: Slick Woods, Jazzelle Zanaughtti, Audrey Ritchie, Lulu Bonfils, Stella Duval and Salem Mitchell. With this ensemble of models, Rihanna wanted to prove that sexiness is not limited to a particular type of woman but all women. These models were far from the norm of lingerie billboards, but who they represent are the women so often unrepresented in lingerie ads, deemed not “sexy enough.” What SAVAGE teaches women is to love their bodies. The usual knock to self-confidence when seeing campaigns for Victoria’s Secret doesn’t exist with the SAVAGE images. What I see is a group of diverse women, all of whom are confident in the body they are in. It teaches the most vulnerable of teenage girls that being a certain height or size doesn’t matter, what matters is the attitude you rock the pieces in and that is something I can definitely get behind. Another highlight of the collection was the collection of nude bras on sale. Nude meaning not just “nude” to a white-skinned woman but coming in shades: Bare, Honey, Tobacco, Brown Sugar, Spiced, Cocoa and Caviar. With SAVAGE lingerie, Rihanna is changing the culture of how we define a nude bra and once again includes all women of all skin tones.
Rihanna has been pushing the boundaries of what women have been told through years of advertisements of what the ideal woman is. The ideal woman is no longer unattainable but is just us, the way we are in our skin. Women are no longer changing the way that they look because they feel unrepresented in the media. Women of all shades and sizes are being represented in a huge way with Fenty Corp advertisements. What Rihanna is doing through her projects in Fenty Corp is telling women and girls to love themselves and to be our own authentic person, no matter your size, shape or shade.
Written by Niamh Cavanagh