Diversity & The Beauty Industry (Or Why It’s Hard to Change Your Make-Up)

Conflicts in your VALUES make life hard, but a total change is even harder!


Is today more of a Universalism day for you, trying to champion equality and fairness, or an Achievement day – seeking competition and recognition for milestones?

We spend a lot of time at One Minute to Midnight thinking about our Values. And some days we get on to the more intense issue of what happens when the Values you’re shaped by are challenged. What can be harder, for instance, than defining yourself by Self-Direction and a love of independence, but living a life without the opportunity to express it?

The next level is even tougher – making a conscious effort to live by different Values. Who hasn’t paused once in a while and thought perhaps they need to work on their Benevolence this year, or embrace a little more Adventure in their life? We all remember watching in bafflement as a friend came back from summer holidays with a ‘new’ identity – as usual the Daily Mash nails a Human Truth with its annual ‘Freshers working hard on ridiculous personas’ swipe.

But we powerfully believe Values are not a cage; they can change and evolve. On a Human level, however, a change in Values can be a struggle – staying true enough to yourself while embracing change is by definition a conflict, and there are always going to be some growing pains involved.


The VALUES Of The Beauty Industry Are Under Pressure


Of course we don’t confine our thinking about Values to Humans – they’re a part of brands and categories too. None has been so prominent in recent weeks as the beauty industry.

It’s been said that the beauty industry has a legacy of Conformity and even ethnocentricity, while Tansy Hoskins writing in the Guardian even goes as far as suggesting that the cosmetics industry forgets their own corporate values by the production of some products. Campaigns like Dove’s Real Women (I’m sure there’s a marketing blog cliché swear jar for mentioning it), while commendable are, for now, notable as exceptions.

The story of Munroe Bergdorf this month – better summarised by the BBC than me – has thrown up all manner of questions about who the beauty industry is today, and implicitly, about what its Values are. Has it truly embraced diversity, fairness, and openness? Or is it struggling with demons of narrow-mindedness, elitism, and the pressure to conform? Either way, it seems clear that this is an unfortunate situation for us all, and it’s not going to be satisfactorily settled without some hard work – although ultimately there might be a positive outcome if the nature of the discussion is positive.

The debate is long, complex, and profound – all things which make me fairly unqualified to contribute to it. But I’m a little better placed on thinking about being Human, and I think it’s impossible not to feel empathy for some parts of the industry as they challenge themselves and their peers to change for the better.


A Change We Can Get Behind? 


As Humans, we can recognise that the self-awareness needed to recognise a flaw and the willpower to overcome it are things that have to come from ourselves, but the patience and support while we make changes are things we rely on the people around us to provide. For a brand or industry it’s no different, and maybe that’s what we need to think about as this story unfolds.

We tend to understand that any move to change Values can’t be superficial and won’t happen in one go – when a friend changes their identity overnight we do, after all, remember who they were yesterday!

But in trying to change in a more than superficial way, we should expect some setbacks for the brands and industry along the way. This story has undoubtedly been one of those! A beauty industry embracing Universalism is not a change we will see happen smoothly and overnight, but it is one we should all be both rooting for, and wherever we can, a part of.

The challenge for the brands themselves is to have the persistence to carry through and the consistency with their identities to do it authentically. We’re hoping that the brands who need to find these things do. A positive, progressive beauty industry can be a force for good.

The story isn’t over, but this blog is. So for now, let’s pause with a thought on changing for the better.

Until next time, keep it Human #TeamHuman

“ We can spend our lives letting the world tell us who we are. Letting history tell us how good or bad we are. Letting our past decide our future. Or we can decide for ourselves. And maybe it’s our job to invent something better.”  – Chuck Palahniuk