How Rihanna’s legacy of inclusion in beauty continues to grow

Since the release of Fenty Beauty in 2017, the beauty industry has changed for the better and here’s why its just as important as ever right now.

It’s been three years since Rihanna entered the beauty space with Fenty Beauty. Lauded for its inclusivity-first approach, the brand prioritised using imagery of people not usually spotlighted in beauty campaigns. I’d go as far as to say that Fenty Beauty literally changed the way we define beauty and the way a lot of people of colour feel about make-up. Now with the release of the brand’s skincare counterpart, Fenty Skin, the conversation around what Rihanna and her Fenty beauty brands mean for the culture is still as relevant as ever.

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Beauty is so synonymous with visuals. Campaigns, adverts and a brand’s ethos help to convey what beauty means at the time, but they’re simultaneously used as a marketing tool. And more often than not, there isn’t much focus on using a group of diverse faces and tones, which in itself exposes a culture of exclusion.

This isn’t to say that people of colour haven’t been used in campaigns by brands before - they have. But, it took Fenty Beauty prioritising the need for a range of models of colour including Duckie Thot, Slick Woods and Halima Aden to normalise darker skin and Asian skin as also fitting the definition of beauty in mainstream media. Since Fenty Beauty’s launch, it seems people of colour have become more important for other brands. In 2017 model Neelam Gill, became the first British-Indian model to front a L’Oreal Paris campaign. After decades in the industry, Naomi Campbell landed her first beauty campaign in 2018 with NARS.

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And while celebrity beauty brands including supermodel Iman’s IMAN Cosmetics have been pushing for beauty for people of colour since the early 1990s, there are few factors at play that have made Fenty Beauty the most notable beauty brand championing inclusivity. 

We’re living in a digital age, and apps are continually rising in popularity, but one in particular has remained the focal point of pop culture. If a video goes viral or an announcement becomes headlines in minutes, it’s because it’s being sourced straight from Instagram. Rihanna’s personal page has over 86 million followers, while her Fenty Beauty page shows a follower list of over 10 million. And with a mass following comes the creation of a forum to discuss the latest releases. So, three years ago when Fenty Beauty first launched their complexion products, the internet hand-picked the foundation as a must-have item. But why?

Fenty Beauty was the first brand to release an incredible 40 shades in its first release and not just for the sake of it. Crucially, the brand paid attention to undertones and recognised every skin tone is different and equally as valid. People who’s only option to get their shade was to mix a few foundations together or couldn’t find a shade to match their skin and had to make do with a foundation that wasn’t for them finally had a place to buy their shade. And after years of struggling to find a shade that actually brought out my undertone, I was right alongside those giving praise. So why, three years since its launch are we still talking about Fenty Beauty with the same vigour? There really hasn’t been one make-up brand that meets or surpasses the amount of options available with their foundations since. 

And considering cosmetics have been talked about since the early 1900s, Fenty Beauty changed the course of who can see themselves in beauty. The brand dismantled the idea that beauty is only for the lighter-skinned among us in the span of a few years. Nowadays, Fenty Beauty is a people-fronted brand. Its Instagram uses a variety of different faces and shades that helps to create a community and connection to a brand.

But it’s the recent launch of Fenty Skin that reaffirms how inclusivity in Rihanna’s beauty brands come first. Rihanna is the face of Fenty Skin - but in the initial campaign imagery, so is rapper ASAP Rocky. While we’re used to seeing women in beauty ads, it was a welcome reminder that skincare is still gendered. The men’s skincare market is a strange place. There isn’t much education on the types of products, the routines and the nitty gritty of beauty that women’s skincare gets and in this way, the beauty industry doesn’t perform for men. Like people of colour, and especially men of colour, the platform in which they see themselves in beauty isn’t as loud as the female skincare space. But, Fenty Skin’s latest launch puts women and men at the forefront and their three-step product lineup focuses on the simplicity of skincare.

One thing is clear: when Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty slogan preaches ‘Beauty For All’, we believe it. Both brands have opened up a space in beauty that prioritises visibility above anything else. Imagery holds power, and nobody understands this more than the teams behind the Fenty Beauty and Fenty Skin. 

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Main image: Getty images.