I worked at L’Oreal from 2016-2017 as the community manager for the Dark and Lovely brand in their multi-culture beauty department (MCB). While there, I remember coming in on the heels of Tracee Ellis Ross’ ending contract with one of the company’s haircare brands for Black women, Amla.
With Black-ish airing September 2014, it was only right that she’d follow up with a partnership deal with Amla, following in 2015. However, after that deal ended, I noticed that Tracee had gone pretty quiet on the hair spokes-modeling path.
My gut instinct was that she had a slick move under her sleeve. After interviewing her for EBONY.com in 2012, I couldn’t help but be empowered by how much she knew her worth. Tracee was apart of a major shift in how Black women were and are treated and seen in Hollywood and really, in the world.
Even though the beauty and fashion world took notice of the fashion icon she was becoming on red carpets, I still thought that Tracee’s fabulous style, hair, and natural-born aura was its own empire. I never thought she’d get the proper coin from repping someone else’s brand. Sometimes, those partnerships make absolute sense, and other times, a different route is needed.
But the reason this is such a pivotal move in the beauty industry, to me, is because this could potentially spur or silence a movement of more ownership and proper lucrative deals for the women that influence the entire beauty world: Black women. I’m always keeping a keen eye on how the people behind the scenes in beauty react to launches like this. The reactionary response to Fenty proved, for some brands, that not only were they stale and out of touch, but also afraid of the growing power of social media and its impacts. They didn’t get that you don’t react to social media, you become apart of it for your audience.
But PATTERN’s launch is a bit different because Tracee isn’t the “first”. And that’s fine. But we know our legends; Carol’s Daughter, Madame CJ Walker, Shea Moisture (despite any past social issues, they’ve been a consistent brand that created hair care for Black women), Eden’s Bodyworks, Miss Jessie’s and more.
However, what this and the Fenty launch signified to me, was that Black women are becoming clearer about our worth in this beauty industry, as consumers and as owners. While we still have so much further to go on giving due credit to Black influencers, especially those with a smaller platform, seeing examples of even how celebrities are stepping up and claiming their worth makes the market shift a bit. But, will that shift forever go in our favor?
I spoke with Harlem’s known millennial beauty Publicist Sakita Holley for her sharp insight on Tracee’s impactful money move.
A lot of beauty gurus and influencers do not have the audience that Tracee has, but they have the talent. What is your word of advice to them, now that we’ve seen how Fenty and currently, PATTERN is entering the market? Licensing? Franchising?
SH: This is a great question. I think we will see many more beauty content creators launch their own products. We’re starting to see it now with some of their collaborations and collections (think: Jackie Aina and Anastasia Beverly Hills) or Huda Kattan’s beauty brand or Whitney White’s Melanin Haircare.
If there are content creators looking to get into the game, they need to start by figuring out what they actually want to do vs. following a trend and make sure that it is truly authentic to them, their passions and what they’re already doing. Next look for opportunities to learn the business, whether that is through existing partnerships and collaborations or just by building relationships with people/brands in their desired industry.
You, Myliek, Joe Budden and so many others have talked about this: the power of the creators, even if they are micro. While Tracee isn’t micro by any means, there was a moment when mass media hadn’t really figured out that Tracee’s hair + style meant coins. What has been your business perspective on how Tracee waited out the industry a bit to create her own hair care line, instead of rushing to be the face of another?
Sakita Holley: Tracee Ellis Ross launching PATTERN Beauty is brilliant. Her hair is one of the things that has always defined her personal brand; at least visually. And she has always talked openly about her struggles as it relates to embracing her natural hair, which is a sentiment that many women can relate to.
My prediction is that PATTERN Beauty will do well because you can see the love, care and thought that was put into every part of the process from creation to the rollout. [The fact] that we witnessed that is really like a breath of fresh air; especially if you work in the beauty/hair space as I do.
This, to me, is kind of a replay of how Rihanna utilized her fandom and fashion iconic status to secure a bigger bag in the world of beauty + style. A world that hasn’t respected our contribution. Do you see more unique beauty business deals happening like this in the future, or do you think the industry may begin to push back?
SH: There will always be another celebrity-backed business venture. However, they won’t all be as authentic or relatable as what Tracee or someone like Rihanna has done. And success will be determined by these factors because consumers can spot a fraud or someone just looking to capitalize off of a trend from a mile away.