Buying makeup should be easy. Perhaps even an experience that you know will leave you walking out of the store with newfound confidence.
For Fadzai Manyeza, on the other hand, her trip to an Estée Lauder makeup counter went hand-in-hand with humiliation when she was allegedly told she was “too black for foundation” by a makeup artist.
On September 9, Fadzai claims to have visited the Red Square Clearwater Mall in Roodepoort, South Africa in search of a foundation. As a black woman, she had always struggled to find the perfect match for her skin, but when she sat down in the makeup artist’s chair, this particular cosmetics shop was to become her most problematic yet.
The situation became heated as the makeup artist - who Fadzai says was also black - tried several different shades of foundation on the 19-year-old, none of which matched her dark skin tone.
“I went there obviously in the hope of finding something and I sit down and she tries on the first one, she’s like ‘No it’s too light’,” Fadzai said. “The second one is too light, the third one is too light, the fourth one made me look grey. The fifth one is too light, the sixth one makes me look red, the seventh one made me look orange, the eighth one made me look red. I was getting frustrated, she was getting frustrated because she couldn’t find anything.”
Things were looking helpless after the eighth attempt, but Fadzai could have never expected what came next. She explained: “She’s now wiping it off of me and looking for another one, she goes ‘You know what, if you were not this dark, then you would have found something, if you were not this black. Why are you this black?'
“I was like ‘what? What did you just say to me? She’s like ‘Yeah, if you were lighter in your complexion, then you would have found your foundation. We would have both been happy, you would have left my store, I can’t wait for you to leave this store’. I was like ‘what? What did you just say to me?’ I was so shocked, because never in my entire life did I ever think that somebody would ever say such a thing to me.”
She continued: “Why does it make it seem as if my skin complexion is a problem to other people? Why does it always feel like I have to go the extra mile? Can I not be normal to just walk into a store and try on a foundation and they’re just like ‘Yes, this is your match and you can buy it and you can leave’. If you can have a shade for the palest Caucasian girl, you can have a shade for the darkest girl. I am not going to live a life of always having to fight, always having to complain, always having to ask ‘why?’
“I will not allow a make-up brand to make me feel that everything I’m doing is nothing. Dark skin is beautiful - if you don’t believe it, I don’t care. I believe it and I always will believe it.”
Although it’s the first incident to involve a big beauty brand like Estée Lauder, it’s certainly not the first time Fadzai - who describes herself as a youth leader advocating for change - has been targeted due to her dark skin colour.
She describes her worst experience as earlier this year when an old boyfriend sent her a picture of skin lightening cream and told her to bleach her skin so he didn’t "catch feelings for other light-skinned yellow bone girls".
In addition, she claims to have been bullied throughout her time in school, being called names including “shadow”, “blacky” and “black thing” by some of her classmates in South Africa, where racism remains a major issue, 24 years after white-minority rule ended in 1994.
After the incident, the 19-year-old, who was selected to represent her country at the Asia Youth International Model United Nations in Bangkok Thailand, contacted Esteé Lauder South Africa to complain. According to her, they got back to her a week after her encounter with the makeup artist and “only asked what happened but didn’t say anything else”.
After being reminded, they then replied about two months later, apologising “greatly” for the delay, as well as the incident. They stated they would train all of their workers to ensure what happened Fadzai will not happen to anyone else, and sent foundations for her to test out, as well as a complimentary fragrance “as an apology”.
When VT reached out for a comment, an Estée Lauder spokeswoman replied stating the company took two months to respond “due to a miscommunication between our global and regional teams”, adding: “Our Global Consumer Care Team had not received Fadzai Manyeza’s contact information in order to reach out to her.”
Commenting further on the incident, on Tuesday, November 20, the spokeswoman added: “At Estée Lauder, we treasure our relationship with our consumers and strive to offer them the best in products and services. As a global brand, these values permeate
It is claimed by many that dark skin is an afterthought in beauty, with dozens of influencers, models and others speaking out about their dissatisfaction in the selection of makeup available to them.
In addition, a South African Journal of Science study alleged in 2016 that, out of 600 women, 33 per cent of African and Indian ancestry in South Africa had used cosmetics to lighten their skin.
“The motivation driving the practice is often the desire to lighten one’s skin because of a perceived notion of increased privileges‚ higher social standing‚ better employment and increased marital prospects associated with lighter skin‚” the research stated.
According to a report released in June 2017 by Global Industry Analysts, global spending on skin lightening is projected to triple to $31.2 billion by 2024.