Women of color have a standout,we’ve created a lane in beauty that is all our own. However, it has not always been acknowledged in the mainstream media and for decades it was often swept under the rug. Thanks to a select group of melanin-poppin’ ladies who broke through the mirrored glass ceiling, the beauty industry has made giant strides in celebrating the diversity of beauty in all of its various hues, textures and forms.
It’s likely no surprise to modern cosmetologists that much of what we consider to be daily salon routines and how we treat hair has roots in Black salons and Black history—but we’re wondering if you’re aware of how much of modern cosmetology has been impacted and changed (for the better) by Black women.
To answer this question, provide insight, and honor Black achievement specifically in the cosmetology (hair, beauty, and skin industry,) we’re dropping a little knowledge this February with a list of a few powerful Black women in history who shook the cosmetology world to the core.
Madam CJ Walker
It is truly impossible to make this list without mentioning Madame C.J. Walker. The first self-made millionaire in history, she was a force to be reckoned with and an absolute powerhouse in the hair health and beauty industries.
With her products made specifically for Black women, Walker’s product line offered life-changing pomades, shampoos, conditioners, and beyond that didn’t force Black women to use the euro-centric beauty products that were not designed with them in mind. Her “Walker system” of hair care was sold by her highly-trained beauty culturists. With her knack for self-promotion and product perfection, she changed the cosmetology industry forever.
But more than that, she employed thousands of Black women, donated much of her money to the NAACP, the Tuskegee Institute, and the Black YMCA, and focused on teaching her employees about how to find financial independence.
Rose Meta Morgan
Rose Meta Morgan has humble beauty beginnings that quickly skyrocketed her to owning and operating the largest Black beauty parlor in the world by 1942. Always an entrepreneur, Morgan had a hair career going by the age of 14 years old. Morgan directly opposed the Eurocentric beauty standards being forced on Black women at the time—so she began making her own line of cosmetics, products, and staging fashion shows.
Her salon went on to amass more than $3 million in sales only a few years after it opened its doors and her success continued to grow beyond the world of cosmetology.
Just like it’s impossible to leave any of the former mentions on this list out, it’s also would be an enormous disservice to cosmetology—and MUAs, specifically—to not mention Pat McGrath. An absolute beauty mogul and icon, McGrath got her start shaping the fashion industry by conceptualizing makeup looks for celebrities spanning fandom.
McGrath is considered to be the most important person working in cosmetology and is lauded as the “most influential makeup artist in the world”—but the achievements don’t begin and end there.
McGrath’s invention creations launched worldwide trends, she’s the most requested makeup artist, and, of course, has had an enormous impact on luxury and mass beauty markets through both influence and product creation. Though she’s teamed up with some of the biggest cosmetology names in the business, the real revolution came when she launched PAT McGRATH Labs in the 2000s.
As it states in her own bio on her site—Pat McGrath knows no boundaries.
Julee Wilson is Beauty Editor at Large at Cosmopolitan. Previously, Julee was Beauty Director at Cosmo and Global Beauty Director at Essence and has held various editorial positions at Huffington Post and Real Simple. She counts herself lucky AF that she gets to play with beauty products for a living and tell dope stories. And if you’re as obsessed with beauty as she is, make sure to follow her on Instagram for plenty of product recs, natural hair inspo, skincare testing, and Black girl magic shenanigans.
And lastly, our very own, Yandy Smith who found a need in the skincare industry to carve out a lane especially for Melanin-rich skin. Yandy, like many women of color, never had a beauty routine. So she set out to create one. YELLE Beauty is the New Standard in Beauty for Melanin Rich Skin. A female owned company made up of 98% women, Yandy prides herself on being a practical beauty brand for the modern woman who needs hardworking products with multitasking benefits. She works with smart, innovative women to curate the heartbeat and distinct beauty needs of today’s multi-faceted woman of color. Licensed beauty professionals, beauty centric research & development led by beauty/business executive thought leaders.
To learn more about Yandy’s inaugural and groundbreaking first collection, the Awakening collection, click here.