Beauty, Lookbook

Dear YouTube, please embrace your minority beauty bloggers

YouTubers of color aren't a diversity requirement. They're your biggest moneymakers.

If you could make one blanket assumption about the so-called “millennial” generation, it would be that we place a great amount of importance on YouTube and other places for online video content in the context of today’s entertainment and fashion industries. Those of us who grew up on YouTube have forged connections to the diverse spectrum of creative individuals that Hollywood has always marginalized, and YouTube fandoms are slowly starting to replace those rooted in traditional films and TV shows.

Looking at the ethnic composition of some of the most influential YouTubers, it’s easy to see that users flock to types of people who are sorely underrepresented in mainstream media, especially those of Asian, Southeast Asian, and Arab descent. These channels have millions of fans and viewers, even though they are virtually unheard-of in traditional mainstream television and print media.

For example, comedian Ryan Higa is a millionaire after operating the first YouTube channel to obtain 3 million subscribers, and Lilly Singh recently made a film with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

However, YouTube has come under fire for failing to promote the people of color who have sustained the company’s success over the years. Last year, Akilah Hughes expressed her frustration about the scarcity of black YouTubers featured on the website’s homepage, where a select number of channels are prominently displayed every week.

When she monitored YouTube’s Twitter feed during Black History Month, she found that black creators known exclusively through their YouTube work were mentioned in only 5 tweets (as opposed to 167 white YouTubers).

One aspect of this discrimination that is overlooked is how it affects YouTube’s beauty blog viewership and the overall progression and movement of beauty trends. Beauty channel views comprise a huge portion of YouTube’s daily hits. These bloggers focus almost exclusively on makeup, fashion, and lifestyle content. In many cases, this side of YouTube has been the antithesis to the fashion industry’s historic erasure of minorities.

Prominent beauty bloggers on the channel include Shirley B. EniangMichelle Phan, and Dina Torkia, all women of color who have used their YouTube success to become entrepreneurs beyond the Internet.

However, most of the beauty bloggers that get heavy promotion from YouTube tend to reflect the fashion industry’s eurocentric norms. While they all produce great creative content for their respective channels, their makeup tips are generally meant for one type of “look.”

When YouTube fails to make concerted efforts to showcase its non-white bloggers, users are missing out on all the ways certain beauty trends can be customized to fit different demographics.

The lack of awareness has a visible effect on other websites.

BuzzFeed’s beauty videos are wildly popular online, although the user comments consistently denounce the media company’s inability to adequately apply its beauty tutorials to black women. One of their more recent videos seems to respond to this criticism by calling out department stores and makeup brands for their limited number of shades for dark skin tones.

This new consciousness – looking at descriptions of makeup, beauty, and fashion through a culturally and racially sensitive lens – mainly comes from the Internet. And it has instigated positive progressions within the beauty industry. Another example is ColourPop’s offensive naming of its dark skin color shades.

Social media users dragged the company on Twitter and forced it to change the labels.

In this way, black women online have been particularly effective in generating awareness around these longstanding issues. While the beauty industry has made some progress in recent years, models and makeup artists of color are still largely the “tokens” of the beauty and fashion world.

Furthermore, people are getting fed up with being told that makeup is a tool for us to reach an ideal that many people of color, and other non-conforming individuals, can’t meet. Cosmetic ads tell us to line our eyes to make them bigger, and to contour our noses to make them smaller.

Established fashion and beauty gurus turn specific facial features and hair textures into makeup trends to try on and “perfect” as if they aren’t already real for some people. I mean, where were all these eyebrow thickening and lip plumping tutorials when I was getting bullied in elementary school?

Of course, none of these issues are new when it comes to traditional fashion and beauty world. But in the digital age, beauty bloggers have become important for interpreting style trends, shifting them to be accessible to people of all colors, shapes, and lifestyles.

Given the amount of influence Youtube has had in reshaping what the average entertainer should look like, it should employ its power to give exposure to diverse faces of beauty as well.