Four months ago, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, our feeds went dark as friends, colleagues, and the brands we followed posted Black squares to their Instagrams. #BlackOutTuesday was supposed to be a sign of support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and for brands, a signal that they’re willing to take a stand for their Black employees and shoppers. Instead the initiative effectively became copy-paste “activism.” Many called it out for being inauthentic and performative, while others demanded brands share what the racial breakdowns of their organizations looked like internally.
It was a long overdue boiling point, leaving Black shoppers and employees alike to wonder—once again—whether diversity, equity, and inclusion in the fashion and beauty industries would really change or whether this was just more lip service.
Now, as the antiracism graphics have waned and our feeds have largely gone back to “normal,” the question still stands. Black women want to know that our favorite beauty brands support us by having adequate and intentional diverse representation across their organizations and within their products. For many of us, it’s no longer enough to see 40 shades of foundation on a shelf. That should be a given. We want to see substantial and quantitative change across the board, especially in the boardroom. We want to know our money is going toward the paychecks of deserving Black women in the labs, on photo shoots, and behind the scenes at every level.
And so does 25BWB.
The organization, which stands for 25 Black Women in Beauty, was founded on June 19, 2019 (Juneteenth) by beauty industry veterans Ella T. Gorgla and Cara Saban, who together have a combined 45 years of experience working for billion-dollar brands. Their résumés include names like MAC, Estée Lauder, Shea Moisture, Nars, and L’Oréal Paris. The other women in the collective as just as impressive—Sharon Chuter (CEO of Uoma Beauty), Stephanie Davis Michelman (V.P. and general manager at Bobbi Brown), and Angela Simpson (executive director of marketing at Nars) all count themselves as members.
Their mission is to celebrate, elevate, and inspire Black women in beauty through mentorship and networking—but not in the old-school sense where you go to a party and leave with a handful of business cards that lead nowhere. Instead, the organization is partnering with notable brands like Chanel and Sephora to help place Black women in leadership roles within the beauty industry.
Originally known for its (pre-COVID) private intimate dinners featuring influential Black women entrepreneurs, executives, editors, and influencers in the beauty space, the collective has now scaled to developing a strong platform centered on the conversation around diversity and inclusion. The organization offers to companies its comprehensive “Résumé Book,” which features top applicants, and it partners with companies to perform executive search and board placement. In addition to helping more Black women secure corporate leadership roles, 25BWB also aims to increase funding for Black women entrepreneurs, as well as place more Black-owned beauty brands at top retailers.