Colour Inclusivity in the beauty industry

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Make-up has been around for 7,000 years, stretching back to ancient Egypt when Cleopatra allegedly used crushed carmine beetles and ants to create the perfect rouge lipstick. For decades the beauty industry has been constantly evolving through producing new products for every inch of your face, discovering new formulas and the creation of new brands. It’s an ever-growing industry that is continuously growing more and more popular than it already was. Within the past 5 years the make-up industry has noticeably boomed and it’s became an even more popular trend that even your boyfriend can’t ignore. With thanks to the digital age I personally believe this increased popularity has been supported by the rapid growth of influencers and make-up artists posting videos on Instagram and YouTube. Influencers are consistently driving sales for brands through sharing reviews on their platforms to loyal followers, who then scramble to purchase all these products and further drive the consumer market in the beauty industry.

The beauty industry is rapidly growing with new brands, resulting in increased competition for the established ones such as, MAC, Nars, Benefit etc. therefore, the need for constantly releasing new innovative products has become more prevalent. It’s not uncommon to see the same make-up brand release a new eyeshadow palette every 5/6 months *cough* Morphe, Huda Beauty, Anastasia BH *cough* however, you can’t blame them as competition is so tough and consumers are always wanting more, especially better quality and a bigger range. In 2019 make-up couldn’t get any bigger, it’s a saturated industry with an endless list of brands to choose from. Majority of them have been around long enough to understand what works and what doesn’t, they’ve tried and tested every formula, they know what packaging works and they have a loyal group of influencers to turn to for positive reviews. Taking all this in mind, I’ve realised there’s one thing brands still aren’t getting right and that’s a colour inclusive foundation range.

To start I know you’re wondering how this even affects me for this to be a topic of discussion. We are sitting in Ireland where the opportunity for a sun tan comes around once every year (If we’re lucky) and my usual foundation purchases don’t extend beyond ‘Porcelain’ or ‘Ivory’, unless I’ve slathered myself in a bottle of dark tan lotion. However, in a time when representation for people of colour and other social issues are still a popular topic of debate, it’s always good to raise awareness and speak out when massive corporate businesses aren’t providing for an entire population; even when it’s something as a minor as make-up. After all, the power of a few voices on social media can make a difference – which I’ll cover later on.


The downfall of Tarte Shape Tape

If you’re a make-up lover I’m sure you’ve heard of Tarte’s popular Shape Tape Contour concealer, if you haven’t, well then… HOW?! Throughout 2018 this product was constantly on the lips of every social influencer or beauty guru. It was a much-coveted product with endless positive reviews and Tarte really seemed to have struck lucky with this one. However, this is the starting point for what got people talking about the non-inclusive culture in the beauty industry. Of course, this has been an issue when buying foundation for people of colour for years however, the Tarte controversy blew up for the fact it was 2018 and for a global and experienced brand to miss the mark that badly, showed it was time to talk.

In February 2018, following their Shape Tape concealer success, Tarte released their Shape Tape foundation *cue the eyebrow raises*. To the shock of the beauty community, Tarte announced they were releasing 2 formulas, one for people with dry skin and another for people with oily skin however, the big shock came with the fact there was only a 15 colour shade range and low and behold, only 3 shades for darker skin complexions.

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Tarte’s reveal for their hydrating and matte Shape Tape foundation ranges. Quite white if you ask me?


The uproar began and rightfully so, how could a multi-million dollar company founded in 2000 release a foundation in 2018 with a 15 colour shade range. Only 3 shades catered to people of colour (PoC). There was no way this could be excusable, especially when long-standing high-end brands like MAC, Nars and Bobbi Brown have provided extensive shade ranges for years – showing it’s not impossible to produce. blog post 1

Tarte were able to produce two formulas for their foundation but, they couldn’t produce more shades – how does this make sense? As you can see by the swatches, the representation for people of colour was abysmal. It clearly shows lack of care, awareness and attention to their consumer market. Why have they assumed these 3 shades are suitable for all PoC? It truly screams that Tarte had an evident bias towards one target market.



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Influencer Lustrelux expressing disappointment in Tarte for this missed opportunity for what could’ve been the biggest beauty launch in 2018.


Following the backlash on social media from consumers and influencers, Tarte were forced to release a statement. There’s no denying Tarte most likely did feel awful for their failed campaign and release, but we’ll always question whether they genuinely felt sorry for the right reasons. I say this because of their apology –


‘We all just got caught up in #shapetapenation and seeing your tweets asking for it… We wanted to get the product out as fast as possible, and we made the decision to move forward before all the shades were ready to go.’


My first thoughts that came to mind when I read their apology was, how could a brand evidently state that they favoured the release of their lighter and pale shades to cater to their Caucasian consumers before their PoC consumers? Why must Caucasian consumers receive priority treatment for the sake of satisfying a hype? Was a rushed release for quick profit worth alienating half your consumers? As I said before, we’ll never know whether they were sorry only because of the scrutiny they faced for their mistake. In my eyes this is a mistake that was hard to miss and surely one member of their boardroom alerted their team to this blatant snub.

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Following on from their statement, Tarte pulled their foundation from the market and planned for a re-launch with the complete 50 colour shade range. Unfortunately, the anticipation was never going to reach the initial reaction and people won’t forget. Too little, too late, I guess?


Fenty Beauty the example we all need

 The beauty industry was shook when Rihanna announced she was launching her own cosmetics brand in 2017. Little did we know she was about to create the most inclusive and iconic brand in the beauty world. Rihanna was quick to set the standard for what should be expected and provided by beauty creators in this day and age. Her first product was her Fenty Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear foundation boasting a 40 colour shade range. Her brand ignited the much needed and long overdue conversation about how important colour inclusivity is and how empowering a brand can be for people of colour.

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My question to raise amongst this amazing feat is, why must it take a proud black woman to begin a conversation on colour inclusivity in the industry and why is she the first to make such a massive impact and set the standard? Yes, brands like MAC have created a wide range before however, in the past few years, new brands are constantly emerging and new products have been made. Consumers want to be able to shop around; not secluded to one brand. Therefore, make-up brands shouldn’t have to wait until a competitor has released an inclusive product to decide to follow suit.

Rihanna continues to do what Tarte initially tried to, as she recently released her Fenty Pro Filt’r Hydrating Foundation in 50 shades. Now offering her product to two different skin types to a multitude of skin tones.fenty beauty hydrating foundation


“I wanted to take Pro Filt’r beyond skin tone to serve all skin types. Nothing is more important to me than making sure that everyone feels included.” – Rihanna




It’s great to see the topic of colour inclusivity becoming such a popular topic of discussion in the beauty industry. It’s reassuring to see brands marketing their products with models of all skin tones and pushing for a balanced representation. On top of colour inclusivity, it’s clear that brands are pushing towards a more united front for body positivity and gender inclusivity as well.

A few examples of brands that are joining this movement are…


  1. KKW Fragrance

CEO Kim Kardashian has began marketing her products with photographs of women of all different sizes and colours to promote body positivity and the message that no body is the ‘perfect’ shape or size.

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  1. Revlon x Ashley Graham

Plus-size model Ashley Graham landed a make-up collaboration with Revlon where she actively promotes body positivity. We’re so used to seeing more petite models appear in beauty campaigns that we became conditioned to thinking this was the ‘norm’. Revlon have broken this ideal through an empowering and positive role model.



  1. CoverGirl

CoverGirl made social media influencer James Charles their brand ambassador, promoting gender inclusivity in the beauty industry. This came at a time where men were breaking into the industry and showing, cosmetics has no boundaries.



I look forward to the upcoming year to see how the beauty industry reacts to these ever-changing movements and the continuous breaking of ‘social norms’. The colour and gender inclusivity movement along with body positivity seems to be in full flow in 2019 however, there’s always room for improvement. The make-up world has a lot of work to do but, as long as strong and powerful women like Rihanna is around, I think we’re in safe hands.


Marie-Claire Leung is a final year Bsc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn – Marie-Claire Leung

Pending: A Career in Public Relations


My earliest memory of my career aspirations stretches back to when I was 7. I entered a drawing competition at my local Credit Union and the topic was ‘What I want to be when I grow up’. At the age of 7 career ideas aren’t overly varied, usually ranging from a nurse, to a singer or maybe a hairdresser, but I was pretty confident that I wanted to be a superstar. With my goal in mind I drew a picture of myself on the red carpet. Despite being a shy and quiet child with no confidence whatsoever, I was pretty set on this path for myself and it was clear I had a creative mind, which ultimately led me to win the competition with £50 In my pocket.

Following my Credit Union success, I went on to win the drawing competition for the school magazine cover. I relished in my creativity and was constantly complimented by my peers and teachers for my flair. I was always able to develop and materialise my visions through drawings and would later on apply this attribute to writing. You would expect I would’ve taken an artistic route through school and university however; I was no Picasso. Through primary school I was never top of the class, but eventually found my brains in secondary school and excelled across the board. From my teen years I realised I was an academic person, I always wanted to succeed and enjoyed putting in hard work to subsequently reap the benefits and celebrate my achievements. Without realising, this mindset would stand me well in my future career aspirations.


I discovered Business Studies when I started my GCSEs and fell in love with the subject. It was a new world for me, and every aspect seemed so interesting, even the more maths-based topics such as Economics and Accounting. I always performed better in more literature and creative based subjects therefore, I immediately took interest in learning about marketing and public relations; this was the beginning of my journey to studying Communication Management and Public Relations (CMPR).

It wasn’t until I started studying CMPR and diving into jobs that I realised over the years I’d cultivated skills needed to succeed within the industry, however it also helped me to develop into a person I never thought I could be. As mentioned before, when I was younger, I lacked confidence and was very shy. These are typically qualities at the opposite spectrum of what makes a person suitable for a career in public relations. 5Through forcing myself to take up jobs which required exuding confidence and social skills, I grew into a person capable of taking on the world of PR. I found the potential within myself and learned to love meeting new people and making connections through the industry, something I did a lot of during my placement year.

Developing these new experiences and growing as a person has made me keen to see what else I am capable of which I’m yet to discover; this is something I feel embodies a career in public relations. Working in PR is always an uncertain journey. You don’t know what is coming your way next, whether it be media related, your next client, new skills and new experiences, this is why I want a career in public relations. I can constantly level up my skills and blossom into a newer and improved version of myself, which will hopefully always be as rewarding as the previous revelation. Every day is never the same within the PR industry, day-to-day jobs are different. Your next client has a different focus and brief from the previous and through working in this environment, I will be able to realign my work ethic and apply a different skill and new knowledge to achieve a happy client and hopefully a success story.

I mentioned that during secondary school I realised I was an academic person, I loved to succeed in every project or exam I laid my hands on. Through using my goal driven mindset, I feel I can contribute to great things in the public relations industry and dedicate a lot of time to creating the right campaign and message; a quality which is vital within PR. Flexibility and long hours are key to driving success in public relations. By utilising my passion for doing things well and overachieving, I believe one day I can launch a campaign which impacts the public and an organisation’s reputation positively. Knowing that these are the expectations I have set for myself; I want to become a part of an industry that recognises achievements and good work. I want to be able to turn on the news or read a newspaper and see a project I have worked on, then watch the feedback unravel and take pride in my contribution. Public Relations opens doors for people to combine personality qualities with intellectual to create a unique piece of work. This has always intrigued me, and I know this is the path I want to continue to pursue.

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Along with developing key skills required for a career in public relations, I enjoy how dynamic and fast paced the job can be. I’ve met many people over the past 4 years with a career in public relations, but within different industries. The common advice they have all shared with me is how it’s a job with limited rest. You must always be prepared for something new to crop up, which is why it’s vital to keep up with trends. Luckily for me this is something I enjoy doing, I’m an avid social media user with profiles on multiple platforms.  I use them to keep up to date with the latest news; whether it be political, social, entertainment, fashion, technology, maybe even football, especially if I see a lot of trends and my curiosity drags me there.

I feel like it’s hard for me to miss any trend, especially without my acknowledgement in some shape or form, whether it’s a simple like or retweet on Twitter. I always like to delve in deeper to huge trends or news stories on Twitter or Facebook, as it allows me to gather a greater understanding of what people from around the world are thinking and how their thought processes work. Being open to global public opinions, beliefs and views enables me to expand my knowledge and my social awareness. I am able create my own views and back them up with reasons offered by my own experience or those influenced by others whom have unknowingly educated me through the web. Building an awareness of what’s happening in the world is so important within public relations. You must always be ready to create a reactive or counter message to a breaking news story or recent internet trend, particularly to maintain a positive influence and potentially deal with any crises your client or organisation may face.

The reactive nature of public relations excites me. The ability to work with the media to discuss current news and public affairs is an opportunity which I look forward to in the 2future and hope to do a lot of. Not only will I be able to continue to strengthen my social skills and communication skills, I can create a better understanding of the world of media, which I see as a massive tool in what makes the world go around. Being stuck in the centre of this fast-paced world would be immense pressure. However, the thought of going into work and being able to talk to a variety of people from different organisations and media outlets, plus tackling something new every day is a driving factor in what motivates me towards entering a whirlwind career in public relations.

Despite my CV being full of work experience from customer service jobs, I still value them as they have allowed me to evolve skills which are frequently used in PR. I’ve worked with a variety of internal and external customers from different demographics, I understand how customer needs vary, I’ve assisted in delivering company promotions and I’ve developed a love for helping people and making a difference to their day through good customer service. Yes, all these examples are in the context of retail however, all these transferable skills and experiences have prepared me for a future career in public relations. I hope to one day be working in a public relations and influencer marketing team at a global cosmetics brand, but for now as I approach the end of my degree, I eagerly look forward to my future and what it holds for this potential PR practitioner.


Marie-Claire Leung is a final year Bsc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn –  Marie-Claire Leung

Thank u… but, try again.

On Sunday 22nd September, Ariana Grande brought her much anticipated ‘Sweetener World Tour’ to Dublin’s 3Arena for 3 sold out shows. Her tickets sold out within 3 minutes on release clearly showing the hype and popularity she has gathered in the past year after the release of her ‘Sweetener’ album and return to the music scene following the devastating Manchester Arena bombing in May 2017 at her concert. As a massive fangirl or “stan”, if you will, I was counting down the days until I got to sing my heart out to her endless bops and just stare in awe at the biggest pop star in the world today (in my opinion however, if you disagree I can’t guarantee I’ll listen to your argument).

Upon her arrival and stay in Dublin, the media were in a frenzy reporting on the anticipation for last minute tickets and any glimpse people got of her roaming the streets of Dublin. It was fair to say, there was much excitement in the air and after scrolling through my Twitter feed that weekend, I stumbled across a tweet from Cadbury Ireland and it’s clear they were really TRYING to get in on the hype with a little shameless PR stunt.

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Cadbury Ireland’s tweet on Ariana’s opening night

After reading this tweet and staring at it for a few minutes, I had mixed reactions, none of which were positive may I add but, I feel the most appropriate way to explain how I felt is best depicted with memes.


  1. Initial reaction

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If I’m honest, when I first read the tweet, I thought it made no sense. What is the relevance between a box of roses to Ariana Grande’s ‘Thank u, next’? In what world do we gift our exes a box of chocolates for the pain and life lessons they’ve given us? What is this weird point they’re trying to promote? I had too many questions for what was clearly meant to be a quick promo for a box of Roses and once, I figured out the message they were aiming for, it seemed a bit lackluster. In my opinion if a company wants to quickly promote a product or message through social media, it should be smart and easy to understand and a lot of the time, memorable for good reasons. This tweet on the other hand left me scratching my head like a lot of other Twitter users in the thread.


  1. Follow up reaction

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This meme really depicts my follow up reaction for a few reasons. As mentioned before, I am a Ariana Grande fan but, I’m pretty sure over the past 2 years, without even being a fan of Ariana’s, a lot of people are very aware of what has happened in her life and what led to the creation of ‘Thank u, next’.

After reading Cadbury Ireland’s tweet, it’s imaginable that the person who came up with the idea has a 12 year old niece who was going to one of the shows and despite not really knowing much about her, it was all they were hearing about from young people so, they might as well post a ‘relatable’ tweet to stay relevant with the current hype.

My main observation though was that 0 research was done and there wasn’t much knowledge on Ariana. The reason behind my assumption being that there was no regard for the insensitivity towards suggesting Ariana should have gave her exes a box of chocolates when,

  1. Her ex Mac Miller, whom is mentioned in the song tragically died from a drug overdose and
  2. Her ex-fiancé Pete Davidson struggles with his mental health and openly discussed suicide following calling off their engagement.

Both of these incidents inspired Ariana to write ‘Thank u, next’. She commemorates them for the life lessons, love and pain that they’ve taught her and ultimately allowed her to take time to love and focus on herself.

Taking all of this on board, I feel Cadbury Ireland’s social media team could have taken a better approach to engaging with Ariana being in Dublin. I understand it was likely an attempted light-hearted joke however, when promoting your products and making links to celebrities, songs, events etc. I believe it’s always necessary to have an understanding of background details like the above and to use these links with the appropriate context.

When carrying out PR work you are always trying to influence opinions and behaviours positively however, without research and knowledge on the message you are promoting, it appears less credible, sloppy and in this case a bit distasteful. Looking through the thread, twitter users were providing nothing, but negative feedback aimed at Cadbury Ireland’s marketing team, which is evidently not what their goal was.

Initially I was wondering was I overreacting and perhaps looking too deep into it however, the tweet didn’t perform overly well, with the general reaction in the thread reflecting my own thoughts.

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I began to look at Cadbury Ireland’s other tweets to gauge whether this is how their social media team usually portray themselves however, I was quick to notice that their other tweets were consistent in their social media voice and tone. This is what you expect from a company when they are interacting with their audience online. This made it all clearer that this Ariana plug was a spare of the moment thought and confirmed my assumptions that they were trying to stay on trend by feeding into the hype around current events.


So, on that note the only question I have left for Cadbury Ireland’s marketing team is…

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Marie-Claire Leung is a final year Bsc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Twitter – @MarieClaireL_PR and LinkedIn – Marie-Claire Leung