Beauty line and fashion retail leaders agree that while the industry has grown more diverse and racially inclusive in recent years, there is still a lot of work to be done.
A panel discussion titled “L’Oreal: Representation in Beauty” took place on Momentary Saturday as part of NWA Fashion Week.
Angel Beasley, director of specialty hair for Walmart, who also leads diversity and inclusion for all of Walmart Beauty, moderated the discussion.
Beasley first asked the panelists to discuss what it’s like to be a minority in the worlds of beauty and fashion and what drives them to lean in and pursue their craft.
Korto Momolu, a fashion designer who appeared on the fifth season of “Project Runway” and now resides in Little Rock, said she thinks it’s important to use her voice to represent herself, as well than other immigrants and the Arkansans.
As a Liberian, Momolu says she sometimes comes up against negative attitudes about her past as an immigrant, but she would like more people to understand that she considers Arkansas her home and a place to be. work hard.
Kendall Dorsey, a celebrity hairstylist who worked backstage at NWA Fashion Week, said he was definitely in spaces where he felt different and was the only person of color in the room.
“At first I felt like I had ‘made it’, but then I had to find my way through this lifestyle,” Dorsey said. Now that he has achieved some level of recognition, he hopes to champion others in a similar position, other black creatives from small towns or rural parts of the country, in hopes that they can find platforms and places to cultivate their talent.
“I worked so hard for every nook and cranny that came my way,” Dorsey said. “I wanted to be seen.”
Each panelist has faced their own challenges in establishing themselves in the beauty industry. For Dorsey, one of those moments was an unwelcome comment about her personal style. He was called intimidating and aloof, which affected him for years until he made peace with not having to “fit in” everywhere.
Tenaj Ferguson, director of marketing for Loreal, particularly in the area of multicultural beauty, said she spends a lot of time thinking about how to approach diverse consumers and welcome them to the brand. She felt defeated in her past work when she had an idea, presented it but was not heard.
Ferguson said there’s a difference between inviting diverse voices to the table and actually asking them what they think, as well as acknowledging and empowering them.
Momolu’s toughest moment came when she had the opportunity to present a collection to Neiman Marcus shoppers in New York. She had reinvested all of her funds into her brand to make it happen and found herself on a shoestring budget, but the meeting was dismissive, telling her to come back with a different collection next season. This inspired her to stick to her instincts and do things her way.
Let’s be “stronger with our voices”, said Momolu. “When we walk into these rooms, if there’s no table for us, let’s make our own out of scraps of fabric. I did it my way. Artists, stand up for what you believe in.”