Uoma Beauty founder launches #PullUpOrShutUp to raise awareness about the lack of black beauty execs

Jenna Rosenstein
Photo credit: Sharon Chuter

From Harper's BAZAAR

There has been a flood of support for the Black Lives Matter movement from beauty brands over the last few days. But activists want to see more than just donations and black squares posted on social media; they want to see real cultural change within the corporations themselves. That’s why Sharon Chuter, founder and chief executive officer of Uoma Beauty, launched #PullUpOrShutUp earlier this week. The social media campaign calls for beauty brands who have donated to Black Lives Matter causes to publicly release the number of black executives they have working at the corporate level.

The campaign asks that the public get involved by protesting with their wallets and halting all beauty purchases until the companies release these numbers. “This is not an exercise in naming and shaming, but simply a call for all brands to review their own practices. It’s easy to say racism is other people’s problem, but it’s important at this critical point in time that we all look at how we may have contributed to this issue and have the humility to accept it and make an effort to change it,” Chuter tells Bazaar.com.

Chuter started the campaign after the flood of posts and donations from beauty companies left their own employees feeling disappointed by the performative activism. “I had people from these organisations reaching out in tears. You know how much this breaks my heart? I have people calling me saying, ‘My company donated a million dollars to Black Lives Matter.’ They’re doing all of this and all of that. Meanwhile, there are only two of us who work there,” Chuter recalls. “We’re talking about corporations not hiring black people. Let’s talk about how they treat black people when they’re in there. People are crying. When these companies started talking, the current employees were excited. They felt like this was a moment where they would pass the mic to us, so we can tell them how we feel and we can make it better. They have been so disappointed and let down.”



#PullUpOrShutUp aims to take the private conversations happening at beauty companies across the world public. “These people cannot speak, they’re afraid they’re going to lose their jobs,” Chuter adds.

Though the campaign asked for the number of black executives to be released within days, Chuter knows that most beauty companies won’t pull the numbers together in time. “We asked for 72 hours to give us something tangible. I hope they respond, but I know they probably won’t. Because guess what, it took America nine days for three white people to be arrested. Nine days of America on fire,” she says. “The longer they keep it, it’s just going to get bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and bigger. It is in their best interest to act quickly.”

Of course, the campaign doesn’t end after just three days. And for Chuter, asking for public acknowledgement of the lack of diversity is only the beginning. “Step one is acceptance. That is a huge part of any change to start—you have to accept publicly with all humility, ‘I have got this wrong, and I have a problem.’ And then step two is let’s start a dialogue on how we’re going to fix it,” she adds. “To me, the answer is we need an independent diversity board set up for every industry.”

Starting today, #PullUpOrShutUp is asking for the creation of an independent diversity board for beauty companies—funded by both the government and the industry—with representatives from every marginalised group. “We all have to be there and sit down to discuss the issue and solutions, because it is a complex problem,” she says.

Social media campaigns and boycotts have always proven effective in the beauty industry. For years, fans have taken to flooding the Instagram comments section of brands that have failed on matters of diversity. But it’s precisely that reason why some brands might be hesitant to release the (likely) low percentage of black leadership at their organisations. But without public accountability, change will never happen.

“They have failed us. They need to start with the first step—acceptance—and let’s move past it. Stay away from your ego, your ego is nothing. We are dying. We cannot breathe. The people in your company are crying. The black people you employ are crying, but they can’t tell you the truth, because you’re going to fire them. And because they know they’re the exception to the rule and they don’t want to lose that seat at the table,” adds Chuter. “This is your opportunity to listen, your opportunity to be humble.”

Join the #PullUpOrShutUp movement by emailing your favourite beauty brands, tagging them in the campaign’s comments section, and using the hashtag whenever you can.

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