How LGBTQIA+ Beauty Brand Founders Are Feeling This Pride Month
This Pride Month, the movement for LGBTQIA+ rights has much to celebrate. In the United States, support for gay marriage stands at 71%, an all-time high according to analytics firm Gallup. Abroad, countries such as Slovenia, Taiwan, South Korea and Kenya have recently passed legislation broadening protections for gay citizens or had courts make decisions to do so.
But there are also tremendous challenges. A wave of bills in the U.S. has targeted transgender people, and 19 states have enacted laws restricting gender-affirming health care. A new law in Uganda calls for life imprisonment for people convicted of homosexual acts and the death penalty under certain circumstances.
Against the backdrop of the complicated picture of LGBTQIA+ rights progress at the moment, for the latest edition of our ongoing series posing questions relevant to indie beauty, we asked 18 LGBTQIA+ beauty brand founders the following questions: How are you feeling this Pride Month? How do you think the beauty industry should be showing up for members of the LGBTQIA+ community now?
Marriage Support Holds at 71% Highanalytics
Marriage Support Holds at 71% High
- Kim Chi Founder, KimChi Chic Beauty
I am staying positive this Pride Month, but the last few months have brought more challenges for our community.
Numerous brands have chosen to distance themselves or withdraw sponsorships from LGBTQIA+ content creators in response to the negative backlash from extremist right-wing groups. However, here at KimChi Chic Beauty, we firmly stand by our community, which has embraced and supported us wholeheartedly since our launch. We will never abandon those who have shown us love and support throughout our journey.
Times like this are the most crucial to show up and show out! It’s important to remember the brands who continue supporting you in times like this because they’re the real ones and not just performative for money! Rainbow capitalism must be abolished!
- Sheena Lister Co-Founder and CEO, Barb
It's impossible not to ignore and be disgusted by the hate and intolerance that continues to be directed toward our community, but I must say I am feeling proud and hopeful.
I am proud because our community feels more connected and supportive of one another than ever before. I am hopeful because we are living our truths and continue to lead with love and authenticity and, at the end of the day, love will win.
The beauty industry should be showing up for members of the LGBTQIA+ community now by doing the same as it’s done before and always—support us, listen to us (we know a thing or two), show us the love.
- Josh Kilmer-Purcell Co-Founder, Beekman 1802
I’m feeling different from years past. Over the last few decades, we’ve made such strides for equal rights and protections. So, Pride mostly became purely a celebration.
Then, in the course of one year, our queer community has somehow become “enemy No. 1” again in many peoples’ minds. So, while we're angry that our community is under attack again, we’re energized as well.
Love and kindness have won before and will win again. We cannot back down in the face of hateful and dangerous new (but old) ideologies.
Beauty brands helped lead the way in the fight for equality for everyone…women, people of color, LGBTQ+. And just because a small group of vocal consumers now want to undo this progress with boycotts and demonstrations, we must not give an inch.
If consumers are complaining about a Pride display, don’t take it down. Double its footage. If it means losing some customers, that is a price well worth all of us paying.
- Sabrina Rowe Holdsworth Founder and Celebrity Hairstylist, NTRL By Sabs
As we usher in another Pride Month, I feel a profound sense of both joy and reflection. It's a time that's marked by celebration, but also an opportunity to acknowledge the journeys and struggles that have led us to this point both individually and as a community.
Feeling joy during Pride Month comes easily. It's a time to honor our identities, express our love openly, and celebrate the diversity and resilience within the LGBTQIA+ community. Seeing rainbow flags fluttering in the breeze, experiencing the unity within our community, and knowing we're standing up for authenticity and love, these moments of joy and pride are indescribable.
However, reflection also takes a central role for me. I find myself thinking about the pioneers who fought for the rights and freedoms we enjoy today, and the ongoing struggles within our community in the U.S. and around the world. I'm reminded of the work that still needs to be done to achieve equality and acceptance for all regardless of who they love or how they identify.
Additionally, as a business owner, I find Pride Month imbues me with a renewed sense of responsibility. It serves as a powerful reminder of my commitment to ensure that NTRL by Sabs continues to be a brand that supports, celebrates and stands in solidarity with the LGBTQIA+ community.
In summary, this Pride Month, like all those before, stirs within me a rich blend of joy, gratitude and determination. It's a moment of celebration, a testament to our resilience, and a reminder of the continued need for activism and allyship.
From my perspective, the beauty industry needs to embody a more inclusive, authentic and active approach in showing up for the LGBTQIA+ community. Here are a few ways this can be realized:
- Firstly, representation matters. The industry must strive to include LGBTQIA+ individuals in all facets of their businesses, not just as models in advertisements, but also in creative, executive and decision-making roles. Diversity in these key positions ensures that multiple perspectives are considered when creating products and marketing campaigns.
- Secondly, inclusivity in product development is crucial. It's not just about creating a “special” line for the LGBTQIA+ community, but genuinely understanding and catering to the diverse range of skincare and haircare needs within this community. This includes debunking stereotypes about gender and beauty, and acknowledging that all people, irrespective of their identity, want and deserve high-quality products that make them feel good.
- Next, allyship needs to be more than just rainbow-themed marketing campaigns during Pride Month. Brands should demonstrate year-round commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community. This could be done through ongoing partnerships with LGBTQIA+ organizations, corporate policies that support LGBTQIA+ employees or allocating resources for causes that directly impact the LGBTQIA+ community.
Finally, education is key. Brands have the power to educate their consumers about the LGBTQIA+ community, helping to break down misconceptions and prejudices. This could involve sharing stories of LGBTQIA+ individuals, providing resources or creating safe spaces for conversations around identity and self-expression.
In essence, the beauty industry should approach its relationship with the LGBTQIA+ community with the same depth, nuance and commitment it applies to developing its products. It's time to move beyond performative actions and towards substantial, enduring change that truly uplifts and supports LGBTQIA+ individuals.
- Andrew Fitzsimons Founder and Celebrity Hairstylist, Andrew Fitzsimons Haircare
I have mixed feelings about this Pride Month because it feels very strange to celebrate in such a scary and uncertain time. What we also have to acknowledge as the LGBTQIA+ community is that, while things feel like they may be going backwards right now, we have made a lot of progress in recent years.
LGBTQIA+ people have been able to reach new heights that some of us never even thought was even possible. I do think it’s important to celebrate the incremental progress that has been made while acknowledging there’s still work to be done.
The beauty industry should act beautifully, especially considering the industry has been a safe haven for LGBTQIA+ people for years. We are stronger together, and it's more important than ever for us to use our voices. Whoever can raise their voice and help spread real education and knowledge should absolutely step up.
- Emma Heathcote-James Founder and CEO, Little Soap Company
Growing up, there were few visible gay women that I could relate to. As a teen, it was k.d. lang and that was about it. Role models are important and inspirational. Role models make things OK. I truly believe you can't be what you can't see.
As usual I posted a photo of my wife and I across all social platforms for Pride Month, which always gets a huge amount of support (and thankfully less Bible quotes, hate and “unfollows” as the years go by). We shouldn’t need to have to post something so painfully normal in 2023, but it’s important to be visible, and I do this in the hope it may help one person realize they aren’t alone, and they can achieve whatever they want.
Every sector, beauty included, should be aware of the diversity within its ranks of whether people feel able to be open or not. Be mindful of the culture and stereotypical images used. For years I’ve been told “I don’t look gay,” but this is what gay looks like.
Of our estimated 15,000 lesbian business leaders in the UK, for whatever reason, very few make their presence known. What is it that discourages those from the LGBTQIA+ community to be more vocal and proud about who they are? Where are they?
- Andrew Silberstein Co-Founder, Solawave
At Solawave, pride is in our DNA. We celebrate pride and our diverse community throughout the year, and we always love seeing the global support for our LGBTQIA+ community in the month of June.
This year has been particularly disheartening given the controversy against brands that have loudly supported Pride Month. We’re thrilled to continue our annual tradition of donating proceeds in June to LGBTQIA+ community initiatives. This year’s partner is GLSEN, which feels like an especially appropriate partner given the times.
We hope this year the beauty industry shows up strong for the LGBTQIA+ community, especially given the overlap of community members and the current climate. We hope companies aren’t afraid to express their support for pride for fear of losing revenue or customers.
Being proud doesn’t mean necessarily endorsing certain lifestyles at the expense of others, it’s about supporting human rights and equality. There are many ways the industry can show up, from donating to important causes to publishing supportive messaging to their community and on their digital platforms.
And we hope the support persists beyond this month. Pride shouldn’t be something that hibernates on July 1st until next year. We hope to see industry leaders continue to support equality all year long.
- Rex Chou Founder, Ghost Democracy
I'm feeling prouder than ever to be part of the LGBTQIA+ community, given the visibility and acceptance the community has with celebrities, athletes, actors, singers coming out and being embraced by the general public, even within stereotypically "straight" industries. So, there has been a natural evolution of inclusion.
At the same time, I do feel a sense of uncertainty because there has been much backlash and violent responses when brands decide to take a stand for LGBTQIA+ recognition, and there is still such intolerance from specific cohorts of consumers. I'm prouder, yet equally more cautious than ever.
The beauty industry has historically been a safe space for the LGBTQIA+ community, and there is so much great work being done to inspire other industries. The beauty industry celebrates self-expression, representation and inclusivity (authentically, not performatively), and I think the next step would be how to partner with other brands outside of the beauty industry to create a positive halo effect to show what the beauty industry does so well and partner with non-beauty brands that share the same values.
The more brands we can convince from adjacent or unexpected industries to adopt the same inclusive mindset for the community, the more we can see that allyship grow across all markets.
- Rachel Winard Founder, Soapwalla
This Pride, I'm feeling the gamut of emotions. I always have such fierce joy during Pride. I love celebrating my gorgeous, diverse queer community in spaces that often aren't ours to hold. I participate in queer pride events like the NYC Dyke March and Queer March that work outside a corporate structure and that actively uplift the voices we don't often get to hear.
However, the last few years have been utterly terrifying for the queer community, particularly our trans siblings. We're not even midway through 2023, and this year has seen nearly 500 anti-LGBTQI bills making their way through state legislations, more than double what we saw last year.
Nineteen states have laws restricting or banning gender-affirming care, some of which carry a felony penalty. The attack on our lives is real and persistent. Now, more than ever, we must do what we need to protect our communities. And we need allies to use their power and voices to do the same.
I want to see more than rainbow capitalism or token pride ad campaigns that run for two weeks of the year. I want companies, particularly the big hitters with big budgets and political capital - to use their influence and power to truly support our communities.
One of the most fundamental ways the industry can do this is to pressure those big hitters to stop actively funding anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation. Second, media and brands can highlight LGBTQIA+ voices all year long, not just during June.
Hire a diverse staff, and then give those staff members an active voice. Make sure that there are a variety of folks from our community in all departments, particularly ad and PR campaign teams. They can point out inadvertently problematic/stereotyped/exclusionary issues early in the process.
Third, donate $$$ to grassroots nonprofit organizations that are working 24/7 keeping our communities safe, housed, fed and alive. Ali Forney Center, The Okra Project, The Ruth Ellis Center, GLITS and local organizations working within your communities are doing the on-the-ground work and can always use an economic boost.
- Joey Healy Founder and Eyebrow Expert, Joey Healy
I'm feeling very proud. Proud to be an LGBT business owner with LGBT staff members, and helping people look and feel their best all month long!
In general, the beauty industry is moving into a more inclusive space, which I love to see. Since the beginning of time, beauty products have been used by everyone as a means of self-expression, regardless of gender or age.
In the world of eyebrows, we’ve always been and continue to be inclusive. I think the beauty industry should be showing up for everybody. We don’t use gender terms like, “This is a service or product for women specifically.” This is a space for everyone. The best way for the beauty community to show up is to be inclusive of all!
During this time of year, there are people who “rainbow wash” their brands, specifically targeting the LGBTQIA+ community for sales, but, throughout the rest of the year, they don’t represent that inclusion. My team and myself continue to stand with the community offering services and products for all. The best way we can show up is by being there 12 months a year with an inclusive offering.
- Allison McNamara Founder, Mara
I love seeing the inclusivity and support from beauty brands big and small. Showing alliance and support during Pride Month and beyond to the LGBTQIA+ community is so important for today’s youth.
The meaning of Pride extends so much farther than sexual and gender orientation. It supports self-acceptance and compassion and fosters inclusion, openness and connection. Being able to live one’s truth openly is a right everyone deserves, and Pride Month is our yearly reminder to love those even if they live and love differently than we do.
As with all inclusivity, be it race, gender or orientation, the best way brands can show up for LBGTQIA+ is to show continued support, not just during Pride Month, but year-round via inclusion in product launch campaigns, influencer partnerships and support of LGBTQIA+ foundations.
As individuals, we realize this by practicing what we preach, we do this by showing acceptance and alliance to our colleagues, family members and friends. This goes beyond slapping a rainbow on something and calling yourself or your brand an LGBTQIA+ ally. How we treat and accept people privately ultimately yields the greatest amount of acceptance and unity on the larger scale.
- Adam Reed Founder and Celebrity Hairstylist, Arkive Headcare
This month, as an industry, Pride is being celebrated. It opens the conversation to a bigger audience, which is why, for me, Pride has always been so important. Growing up as a young boy and a teenager, Pride wasn't really a thing.
The beauty industry has always been important for Pride and the LGBTQIA+ community, and I think it's a great way of expressing oneself, which is what we strive to do for Arkive Headcare, just encouraging everyone to be comfortable in their own skin.
I think this allows individuals to share their own story, and I'm really proud that the beauty industry supports this position, and it's something I don't ever want to change. I think the beauty industry leads this for bigger corporations to use the Pride flag this month, which I also think is important as long as they also are continuing their support all year and stand up for that purpose of what Pride really is about.
- Amy Errett Founder and CEO, Madison Reed
I believe that the industry can support the LGBTQIA+ community by leading with love and standing up to hate. At Madison Reed, we encourage people to be themselves and love each other for our differences. Love always wins.
- Carlos Barreto Founder, Cleverman
Pride Month is an ideal time for companies to authentically embrace diversity and foster inclusive environments. Beyond superficial celebrations, it's about living diversity values year-round. This mindset brings organizational value, driving innovation and fostering a sense of belonging. Some actions we could take are:
1. Embrace Inclusion Internally: Prioritize diversity through inclusive hiring and equal opportunities.
2. Forge Meaningful Partnerships: Collaborate with LGBTQ+ organizations and influencers.
3. Amplify LGBTQ+ Voices: Provide a platform for sharing stories and experiences.
4. Product Inclusion: Ensure products are inclusive and considerate of diverse identities.
Authentic support during Pride goes beyond token gestures. Brands can create a lasting impact, drive innovation, and foster a more inclusive world. Let us celebrate diversity every day.
- Natalie Gee Co-Founder, Gee Beauty
I feel incredibly proud and a great sense of responsibility this Pride Month. As an openly gay beauty founder, wife and mother, I recognize the responsibility to my family, my friends and community to educate and create awareness. Celebrating Pride means honoring those who have sacrificed, surrounding my family with our fellow community and sharing the conversation around our rights being protected.
There is a huge demand right now to support the entire LGBTQ+ community, and I believe that inclusion should not only be highlighted during Pride, but throughout the year as well. I feel fortunate to have support surrounding me via the Gee Beauty community and the brands we represent at Gee Beauty.
- Richard Anderson Founder, Hi Beautiful You
Pride Month is important now more than ever with the challenges the LGBTQIA+ community is facing today. Support from the beauty industry is essential, and the good news is that I feel support across the industry from colleagues, especially as I see the industry extend its relationship with the LGBTQIA+ community to be more inclusive.
As someone who is a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, we have always been a driver of trends within beauty. We’re early adopters of products and services. The beauty industry has welcomed us, and I invite the industry to further deeper relationships with LGTBQIA+ advocacy organizations to hear firsthand from our experiences and use those insights to further commit to being an ally.
I feel that this is one of the most volatile Pride Months we've had in years due to the political climate at the moment and the rise of conservative influencers. We're a target at the moment, and it doesn't feel good.
I think the community is doing what we've always done, which is support, donate and spread the message of love, but, unfortunately, I feel as though it's been a bit overshadowed by the negativity in the news.
As long as we are reaching members of the LGBTQIA+ community and letting them know that they are loved, accepted and seen, then I think we are doing the right thing.
- Fred Scarf Founder, BioFormula Select
I feel great, and when I feel good, I look good! I appreciate the awareness surrounding Pride Month, and how so many amazing brands are giving back and supporting all individuals.
Deep down, everyone wants to be beautiful, including the LGBTQIA+ community. Beauty messaging can be very sensitive because you can accidentally remind people who are already critical of themselves that they are falling short of their ideal.
At BioFormula Select, we really try to show up by getting results for our customers who buy our Stop Guessing Skincare dark spot removal products as well as great ingredients that work for all types of sexualities!
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