Makeup brands are doing a lot to become more inclusive — look no further than Fenty Beauty’s 40 shades of foundation or beauty vlogger Manny Gutierrez’s position as a Maybelline model for proof. That said, there is still a long way to go for the beauty industry to be where it needs to be in terms of inclusion — and one subset of the population that’s been entirely left out of the beauty conversation is black men. Now beauty vlogger Thomas Halbert has made important waves by pointing that out.
Halbert voiced his opinion on the lack of representation via Twitter, saying: “as much as i love makeup brands using men in campaigns….it’s still always a generic white twink. Where’s the Black men?” Even if RTs are not endorsements, his perspective got enough RTs to really start a conversation.
as much as i love makeup brands using men in campaigns….it’s still always a generic white twink. Where’s the Black men?
— Thomas Halbert (@ThomasBeautyy) September 28, 2017
Many shared his opinion and praised him for bringing the overlooked conversation to the foreground.
Honestly this is important. Everyone acts like we don’t exist ♂️
— HOODTWINK'D (@Sollydime) September 29, 2017
Yesssssss. We need a fine dark chocolate fella to show that diversity!
— Jasmine Carolina (@ThatJassGirl) September 28, 2017
Trust. There are. And thanks for being woke.
— Shannon (@shannon_bizque) September 29, 2017
While recent years have seen male beauty influencers like James Charles and the aforementioned Gutierrez landing major beauty gigs with massive beauty brands like CoverGirl and Maybelline, the space in the beauty industry for black men has been almost entirely overlooked.
It was the flagrancy of that void that led Halbert to think of his tweet, and seeing a makeup ad that featured a Caucasian male influencer is what inspired him to post it. “The only male influencer [in the ad] was a white gay,” Halbert tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “As amazing as it is that there’s male representation and gay representation — there are gay black influencers that could have also had a spot there.”
Halbert is passionate about seeing more black men in makeup ads because he believes that they are almost always the last group to be honored for their talents, no matter the industry. “Black gay men are one of the most belittled and hated and side-eyed groups,” he says. “Black gay men, black trans women — they are martyred the most. They are the least likely to be looked at, hired, or cared about, and it’s just not fair.”
Halbert, who is white, has had the opportunity to work with different brands — he’s worked with both MAC and Milk Makeup — and recognizes that his elevated platform allows him to spotlight the issues in the industry. The 20-year-old vlogger says, “I know that I have more advantage, and life is just a lot easier for me. Yes, I’m still gay, and I still deal with that kind of homophobia of being gay, but in the spectrum of the LGBT gay community, the white gays are honestly just more privileged, unfortunately.”
To be entirely fair, there have been a small amount of huge makeup campaigns that have highlighted black gay men and trans men. In January 2017, L’Oréal featured its first male ambassador who also is a man of color, performance artist Darnell Bernard. There was also Munroe Bergdorf, a transgender activist and model of color who was supposed to star in a L’Oréal campaign but was dropped from the brand because of comments made on social media regarding race.
As for men of color who would make great beauty ambassadors? Halbert has ideas. He mentions a slew of popular vloggers including Kenneth G. Senegal, a Texas native, with more than 338,000 YouTube subscribers, as well as another up-and-comer who goes by Dre Bae on social media and constantly posts popular full-on glam shots to his Instagram feed.
Halbert says that he does understand companies’ trepidations about casting male influencers in beauty campaigns but that they are, bottom line, wrong. “We have these huge audiences,” he says. “They come to us for advice, tips, and tricks and people support us, often buying what we recommend. I had a collaboration with Milk Makeup a few months ago and it sold out within 24 hours, and I’m considered a small influencer.”
Halbert might be onto something.
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