SheaMoisture

SheaMoisture had a serious mea culpa this week after it released an ad campaign featuring women talking about learning to love their natural hair—except none of those women were black.

Black women are the core audience of SheaMoisture and the brands that exist under its parent company, Sundial Brands. And not just the silky-hair-textured, “They teased me, saying my hair was a weave, or I’m mixed” crowd of black women.

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SheaMoisture was heralded as one of the top beauty brands by highly textured, kinky-haired black women, who, on so many fronts, rarely see their images reflected back to them as beautiful in mainstream media. So there was deep offense not only from seeing a brand like SheaMoisture leave them out, but also from seeing it then follow up the ad by tweeting support to Tariq Nasheed—pimp-turned-misogynistic purveyor of black history—as he admonished black women as hypocrites for being upset with the brand.

Oh no, baby; what you doing, SheaMoisture?

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For all the think and hit pieces that have come out in the 48 hours since the fallout, and the internal battles about letting go of your favorite SheaMoisture deep conditioner, there’s also been a lot of discussion about supporting black-owned brands.

When it comes to the beauty industry, in which black women spend an average of $7.5 billion annually, there are multiple layers to what it means to support a black-owned business, and there’s not much transparency about who actually owns what. There was muted outrage when SheaMoisture and Carol’s Daughter both sold stakes to name-brand investors, but to suggest that you’re going to boycott them and just use your favorite As I Am products … sis, uhhh .. .no. The number of retweets I saw suggesting favorite Cantu and As I Am products, neither of which is black-owned, were amusing.

What both of those companies do well, along with others that are not black-owned, is show black women in their marketing campaigns and brand messages and hire them in their executive and senior-management suites. They uphold the appearance of incorporating black people, and specifically black women, into the power structure of that brand.

Although SheaMoisture is black-owned, its executive suite, aside from the two black men who are the co-founders, is largely white. It’s a bit duplicitous because what is missing is transparency in the beauty industry overall. Who owns what? Who is hiring black women to sell to black women? Who is hiring black women in decision-making roles?

That tide is changing somewhat. There is an influx of beauty brands independently owned by black women that are entering the market and making their way up to the big-box stores of Target, Wal-Mart and Sally’s Beauty. Those brands include the following:

These black-women-owned brands are reaching the big-box stores by holistically reflecting the consumer who supports them, by being true to their black female audience. Longtime staples Design Essentials and Sunny Isles are other black-owned brands with a full suite of black executives. Other black-woman-owned brands on the rise, such as MyHoneyChild, Koils by Nature and Qhemet Biologics, are working to reach those shelves as well.

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Two brands available at Whole Foods—Alaffia, though owned by a black man; and Shea Radiance, owned by a black woman—have both taken on a mission to offer transparency about how they obtain their materials from West Africa and how they impact the black women in those communities.

We want our dollars to matter, to be infused back into our communities. It is important. It’s more than just being black-owned. There are many ways that these companies affect us beyond the “Buy one, get one” sale.