What The Beauty Industry Should Do Better To Support The LGBTQ Community
In recognition of Pride Month, in this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions to beauty entrepreneurs, we ask 19 brand founders and executives: What do you think the beauty industry could do for the LGBTQ community that it’s not doing now?
- Trista Okel Founder and CEO, Empower BodyCare
Across all facets of the beauty industry, the LGBTQ community is underrepresented in ad campaigns and other promotions. The industry has made great strides in recent years to be more inclusive, but these efforts lack widespread consistency and tend to only feature Hollywood stars identifying as LGBTQ. Like all people who seek out beauty products, we want to see people in ads who look like us. It helps us imagine ourselves using the products. Brands pushing for LGBTQ equality drive both societal and bottom-line benefits.
- Sheg Aranmolate Founder, Leovard
The beauty industry could introduce more gender-neutral products that address biological or cosmetic needs/desires irrespective of their race, gender or orientation. Beauty brands need to expand their definitions of inclusivity. It goes way beyond color ranging.
The beauty industry spends millions of dollars on marketing and advertising each year. It has an opportunity to create campaigns that are more inclusive and inspirational to all genders, races and orientations, and empower everyone to forge their own beauty ideal, forgoing any effort to conform to societal definitions of beauty. At Leovard, we are not driven by trends in the industry. We are inspired to create high-quality products that deliver results for all races, genders and orientations.
- Guy Tang Founder, #myidentity
Be yourself, support each other, and empower one another. Don’t get stuck focusing on the politics and how you can solve an equation better than the next person. When you are truly yourself, there is a type of energy that comes out of everyone. We need to empower everyone to not be insecure and hide things about themselves they may think are “weird” or “odd.” Most of the time, those are your own opinions and criticisms. Don’t let hate allow you to overanalyze yourself. We are all unique in our own ways, and that is what makes us special.
- Ted Gibson Owner, STARRING by Ted Gibson
I think the media should highlight founders who are LGBTQ to show that there is a possibility that the next generation of beauty entrepreneurs could be founders of their own brands.
- Jordan Samuel Pacitti Founder and CEO, Jordan Samuel Skin
The beauty community still has a long way to go in recognizing, honoring and celebrating Black, lesbian and trans lives. Specifically, there is an underrepresentation/lack of these individuals in marketing materials and collaborations as well as an appalling lack of offerings in shade ranges. Excluding Black, lesbian and trans stories from conversations and messaging in our industry is damaging because representation matters. Beauty products and tools are created to make us feel good and express ourselves. It is imperative that we welcome Black, trans and lesbian individuals and voices, so that all identities can feel supported and empowered to let their true identities shine.
- Alpa R. Patel Co-Founder and CEO, Luvanya
In the past, the beauty industry was primarily geared for women or those with money. But, thankfully, things are changing. Skincare and beauty is no longer exclusive, but rather inclusive to all. Inclusive to all genders, all races, all skin tones and all ages.
One of the ways an entrepreneur of a beauty brand can continue to encourage and support the LGBTQ community is by listening to their needs, responding and creating based on what they learn from their conversation. In addition, the beauty industry should continue to market in a way that promotes acceptance of beauty in all forms because, at the end of the day we all have beauty in us, it's just waiting to come out and shine!
- Rob Harmon Founder, Magic Beauty
Right off the bat, I think of how powerful and influential the LGBTQ community is to all beauty brands. I think, most importantly, the community needs to be seen and recognized. The beauty industry holds limitless power in the normalization of the way we market ourselves and our brands. In turn, the LGBTQ controls the word-of-mouth narrative. Makeup and beauty products aren’t just used by cis women. They’re used by all kinds of people. I think it would be most important to include everyone in their marketing, ads, etc.
- Dustin Cash Founder, SOS Beauty
The biggest opportunity we see is in the mass environment. There is still an inexplicable amount of sexualization that exists, and we need to evolve. Our average body care aisle still supports this very archaic notion of typical gender roles: pink and flowers and delicacy is for women, black and toughness is for men, and brands continue to market in this manner.
Our industry was instrumental in the building up of these false gender norms, and we need to be the ones to lead the way in breaking them down. The more we help people to see that there is not a separation between masculinity and femininity, and that your sexual identity and sexual preference do not define you or your tastes, let alone your preference in razor blades or shave gel, the better off we will all be as a community of humans.
- David Rodrigues CEO and Founder, Elysian Cosmetics
I believe the industry still has a ways to go in terms of LGBTQIA+ representation, especially within brand campaigns. We’re definitely moving in a positive direction and I do see more effort being made, but more can be done, particularly within the luxury sector. At Elysian, we make a point to highlight a range of different models, including many trans friends of ours, who, after shooting campaigns with us, have gone on to book major global fashion and beauty campaigns for the likes of Chromat, Shiseido, Calvin Klein, and Dove.
We’ve worked with a ton of talented models like my long-time friend from middle school, Jari Jones (@iamjarijones), her wife Corey Daniella Kempster (@corey_meets_world), and our dear friend Dominique Castellano (@dominiquevc_). There’s many more up-and-coming models within our community we’re interested in working with, but beyond just the bare minimum of having trans faces represent a product and a company, I think it’s so crucial that the brand make sure they’re telling an authentic story with the model. There’s this perceived notion and expectation of what trans people look like, and the fact of the matter is that it is just as much a diverse microcosm as any community of people.
One of the things that has stuck with me the most over the years was after our first campaign with Jari and Corey was revealed, Jari told me that out of all the campaigns she had been featured in, she felt that this shoot had finally captured who they really were, instead of a stereotypical notion of what trans or LGBTQIA+ people are supposed to look like. There’s simply nothing more powerful than the moment you witness someone feel truly seen and it’s one of the driving motivators that made Michael and I begin our journey as founders. There’s so many ways that we as an industry can be helping to open up doors and provide equal opportunities for the community, it just takes the initiative to do so, and once you do, you will see how quickly it will better lives.
- Patrick Kelly Founder and Perfumer, Sigil
I think the minimum brands can do is listen, share whatever resources they have, elevate and create space for voices in marginalized communities. LGTBQ youth are disproportionately more likely to experience homelessness than non-queer youth.
Many of our community members are at higher risk during this pandemic, for a variety of reasons. If you’re queer, use your voice. If not, share or give your platform as a vehicle for amplifying those on your teams and across your communities. We’ve been donating to our local LGBT center’s food pantry and COVID relief efforts. To date, we’ve raised and donated over $4,000 through our limited edition, at-cost sanitizing hand mist program.
- Robyn McLean Co-Founder, Hello Cup
We feel it’s hugely important to acknowledge that periods are not a gendered thing. We talk about “people with periods” to acknowledge and ensure our trans and non-binary friends are included in the conversation. The beauty industry could definitely do more to be more inclusive. At the end of the day, we are all humans and the beauty industry needs to ensure they are not diving into a rabbit hole of exclusivity when it comes to who they target, especially when it comes to sexual orientation.
Step back and look at your campaigns, and ask if there is a way to make them more inclusive. Are you unintentionally reinforcing stereotypes? Do you feel comfortable that people can relate to your brand? If not, go back to the drawing board. I actually think indie brands are ahead of the game when it comes to inclusivity. Many of us have started our businesses to help change people’s lives for the better. Like us, most indie brands we know aren’t driven by money. So, they seem to have a more compassionate starting place. They’re already facing the challenge of competing with big brands and, just like any type of minority group, they know it’s bloody difficult to knock down walls to get your voice heard.
Kindness is the cornerstone of everything we do. We’re are currently working with non-binary activist Rain Dove on a campaign around what it’s like to have periods as a non-binary person. Rain’s experiences have been pretty raw, and we hope that by highlighting their story we can help change attitudes around periods being only something "women" experience. We aim to ensure all our customers feel like we have their back.
- Jordan Schindler CEO, Nufabrx
Especially in times of crisis, it’s more important than ever to continue to be inclusive. In the PPE space, specifically, I believe more can be done, whether just related to description contexts, colors and sizes to create a more inclusive environment and product offerings for LGBTQ individuals. It doesn’t need to be a white- or Black-, male- or female-specific mentality.
- Jason Backe Owner, STARRING by Ted Gibson
The beauty industry highlights one fraction of the LGBTQ community and that is typically white. Focusing on diversity would demonstrate inclusion and inspire young people who feel excluded.
- Richard Anderson Founder, Hi Beautiful You
First, I’d like to educate the gay community that they need to be proud of who they are. Personally, I have always said, “It’s a gift from God to be a gay man,” and I feel the same about my brothers and sisters who are part of the LGBTQ community.
With that being said, I sometimes feel part of our community is ashamed of being who they are due to how they were raised or even disowned by an uneducated or not evolved family and parents. I have friends, including an ex-partner, who was kicked out and financially cut off when he was in college, and he had to drop out of school and fend for himself because he came out to his family as a gay man.
Lack of self-confidence is a common denominator, and I’ve seen everything from drug use to temporarily heal the heart, wearing heavy makeup to hide or disguise who we really are, and so much more. What the beauty industry can do is help educate the LGBTQ community to accept who you are and that we are all born this way for a reason, embracing and accepting that we are all beautiful people and have a purpose in life.
For me, I finally realized my purpose in life is to help others feel better about themselves via self-expression with makeup or to feel confident in their own skin with minimal makeup. All my products are formulated with BE YOU Technology that allows you to build for desired coverage, be you, be beautiful and be comfortable in your own skin.
- Darren Tieste Co-Founder, Mizz Bloom Organics
Support LGBTQ creators more and authentically, and support causes that are close to us. Many times, brands partner up with LGBTQ creators much less often than they do with straight creators and, when they do, they don’t compensate them equally. Brands have also been known to only support LGTBQ causes during Pride season. If you’re going to support the community, then put money where your mouth is and help the communities of those who are buying your products.
- Stephanie Schull Inventor and Founder, Kegelbell The Vagina Gym
I am glad you posed the question as it got me thinking about what I can do better and differently. Indeed, I should be doing more myself before I suggest what other companies could be doing. As a member of the LGBTQ community, your question makes me feel compelled to think more deeply about how I can demonstrate leadership in this area. Thanks to Beauty Independent for always getting me thinking about how to be better at business. I will report back on what actions I end up taking.
- Reuben Driggers Founder, Bellasonic Beauty
One thing that comes to mind is mentorships. As a white gay male, I have had certain advantages when it comes to opportunities in my life, mentorships being one of them. I think, if the beauty industry could open up more opportunities for LGBTQ people of color, then so much more creativity and innovation would be released into the world.
Mentors not only teach and guide us, they inspire and believe in us. These professional cheerleaders and coaches can be game changers for someone that might have all the drive, talent and potential, but perhaps lacks the resources, connections and, most of all, confidence that comes with having someone in your corner rooting you on.
A good example of a positive mentorship is the episode of "Queer Eye" that mentored the owner of Stylish Pooch, a mobile dog grooming service. What those five guys did for Rahanna Gray and her business was incalculable because it showed her what was possible. She already had all the ingredients, she just needed help with perfecting the recipe, so to speak. She's a straight women of color, but the point being that if there were more gay mentors and, as such, more gay individuals being mentored, then I think that would go a long way in bringing new ideas to life and market, and that is something I believe everyone could benefit from, regardless of your orientation, gender or race.
- Dorian MorrisFounder and CEO, Undefined Beauty
I think we can offer the opportunity to change the narrative. Embrace duality and fluidity. Recognize there is no “other” and not buy into the divisiveness that perpetuates the beauty industry. What’s normal anyway?! There is not just one way to be beautiful—to love—to live—to vibrate—and it’s time to celebrate the beauty of choice.
We are at a unique point in history where we must break the rules, challenge conformity/status quo, and the LGBTQ+ community has been waiting for this moment. And this unapologetic, conscious, inclusive nature is core to Undefined’s DNA. It’s time we all #LiveUndefined.
- Priscilla Philips Founder and Publisher, The LGBT Africa
The beauty industry needs to be more inclusive of us in many diverse human ways. First, is including us in the beauty industry conversation in all the acknowledgment that LGBTQ community is a thriving niche that has aided in the growth of the industry as whole. Secondly, is inclusion of LGBTQ persons in campaigns, advertorials and brand ambassadorship - not just modeling. Thirdly, is having LGBTQ platforms on the list beauty brands pick for their direct advertising and promotional material on LGBTQ magazines, blogs, vlogs, influencers and down to retailing with the communities stores as well. For example, we are a LGBTQ fashion and lifestyle publication with a shop of its own that caters to our readers in the loop of what's new on the shelves of beauty to fashion and general lifestyle brands and products.
- SHAYAN SADROLASHRAFI Co-Founder, Wakse
Let me start by saying that beauty and any industry should be for everyone regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation or color. A little about us - Andrew and I come from two completely different backgrounds. I’m one those spirit filled Christians and Andrew is gay with no religious connection, but our belief in love and respect for all makes us an amazing team.
My mother, sister and I love watching Drag Race and I have noticed that in many aspects they don’t have makeup tools geared towards their specific needs. The drag and trans community simply adjusts to products already available - I think there is an opportunity there. I have called Andrew to ask his perspective about this question and he also mentioned that not many founders in the LGBT community are being recognized in the media. Just like female founders are celebrated, founders in the LGBTQ community need to be celebrated as well!
If you have a question you’d like Beauty Independent to ask beauty entrepreneurs, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feature image credit: Elysian Cosmetics with Jari Jones and Corey Daniella Kempster
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