Beauty brands bring diverse ads to the mainstream

By: Elise Barsch

Beauty brands Fenty and Glossier have made headlines this month with their ad campaigns featuring women of color and diverse body types, and Insecure’s Issa Rae was named the latest face of Covergirl.

Fenty Beauty, Rihanna’s new makeup line, offers 40 different shades of foundation, and its ads include a different model wearing each shade.

“I wanted things that I love. Then I also wanted things that girls of all skin tones could fall in love with,” Rihanna told Refinery29. “There’s red undertones, green undertones, blue undertones, pink undertones, yellow undertones — you never know, so you want people to appreciate the product and not feel like: ‘Oh that’s cute, but it only looks good on her.”

Also this month, makeup staple Glossier unveiled a series of ads for its new body care line Body Hero, featuring five models with various skin colors and body types.


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The brand’s ads and social media posts don’t expand on the diversity of their models, compared to other campaigns explicitly recognizing their inclusion of body diversity, such as Vogue’s Ashley Graham cover earlier this year and Aerie’s ongoing Real campaign.

However, Fenty’s forthright foray into shade inclusivity is actively infiltrating social media conversation. An albino woman’s Instagram post describing her experience using Fenty foundation has gone viral, even attracting the attention of Rihanna herself.

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Responses like these are testament to the ads’ success in accurately representing women’s bodies. “With the Body Positive Movement, [brands] have jumped on it so much because they see that it’s a moneymaker and it’s a hot buzzword and it can get them attention and a pat on the back. But people can tell when it’s not genuine,” body positive model and activist Tess Holliday told AdWeek this week. “Even if brands mess up, it’s important to say, ‘We messed up and we want to do better’ and ask their actual consumers what they want to see.”


“Of course you’re going to get some people that just say garbage,” she says. “But I feel like the majority of people want to see people who look like them, whether that’s people who aren’t able bodied, fat people, trans people, people of color.”

As PR professionals, we have the opportunity to highlight the voices of consumers and give visibility to their best interests. Let’s look to brands like Fenty and Glossier on how to do so in a genuine and empowering way.


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