Yes, we are still talking about this issue, why? Because it’s still an issue! There has been an effort by big brands to make foundations for darker skin tones. In 2014, Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o became the first black ambassador for Lancôme. In 2016 L’Oréal UK launched #YoursTruly campaign, where they expanded their foundation range covering 23 shades.
Iman face powder has been my staple for years, I love it! Before using it I didn’t wear face powder as I never found a shade I was completely happy with. Even when I had acne, I didn’t wear makeup partly because I didn’t have confidence I’d find my shade but also because I didn’t want to add anything else to my already troubled skin.
It’s good that big brands are expanding their ranges, but I don’t think we should just give our money to them on a plate. There are other brands which have included products for darker skin tones a part of their core ethos and we should be supporting them too!
L’Oréal was established in 1909, and in 2016 they expanded their range. Hmmm…ok, I guess as the saying goes “better late than never”, can be applied here?
In its 5th year at the Southbank Centre in London, Africa Utopia festival didn’t disappoint! It’s amazing to have a festival which celebrates the fusion of African culture from the diaspora and the continent. A relationship that has blossomed in recent years, as the sons and daughters of the African diaspora realise they should carry the rich legacy of culture and history with them wherever they go.
“Africa Utopia presents talks, workshops, music and performances that celebrate the arts and culture of one of the world’s most dynamic and fast-changing continents.” – Southbank Centre
This year was even more special because it was the debut of the first official magazine in association with the festival and I was so excited to be one of the contributors to the magazine, DUAL. I was part of a small talented team from the magazine’s inception to it’s publication, all done in a hectic 24hrs, at the festival finale.
In addition to my feature “No’Fro Zone”, it was amazing to be part of the festival, were I interviewed performers and was backstage soaking up all the energy from the preparation of the fashion show, from excited models, hair, make up artists and cameras!
There were too many highlights to mention, but the #AfricaSquad catwalk show, in which I was in the photographers pit with the rest of the paparazzi had my adrenalin pumping! With pumping Afrobeat infused disco vibes, the centrepiece of the festival went down a storm. With creative director Agnes Cazin’s, theme of collaboration, models hit the runway wearing a mixture of designers from the continent and diaspora.
There was so much musical talent on show, including the Chineke! Orchestra, which comprises all black and ethnic minority musicians, featuring BBC Young Musician of the Year 2016, cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason. Festival goers were also treated to the talents of the Chineke! Junior Orchestra.
Check out some of the highlights from the festival here and I would definitely recommend going next year if you’re in London.
For the full extract of my feature, exploring whether natural hair prejudice is shrinking in the workplace, click here!
Africa Fashion week London 2015 kicks off in a few days, providing the ideal opportunity to put the spotlight on African models. It’s not easy breaking into the fashion world, especially when you’re black, with short natural hair and ‘plus-size’, but Philomena Kwao has done just that. A Miss Ghana UK finalist in 2008, the London born Ghanaian model has a first class degree in Economics and a Masters’ degree in International Health Management adding to her list of achievements. Not subscribing to the usual stereotypes of the modelling industry and dubbed ‘Britain’s first black plus-size model’, Philomena is challenging what is means to be beautiful.
Find out more about Philomena in 60 seconds:
I’m not a fan of the term ‘plus-size’, but it’s human nature to categorize things. If you’re a model, then you are a model full stop. The average dress size in the UK is said to be size 16; women such as Holly Willoughby, Nigella Lawson, Beyonce, Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez are celebrated (whether you like them or not) for their physiques; which are not seen at high fashion catwalk shows but admired in popular culture. The fact is, women (and men) come in different sizes and it’s normal to see this in real life. It’s about time the fashion world starts to imitate the real world, rather than having sub-cultures of modeling. Whether your ‘slim’ or ‘plus-size’, as long as you’re healthy, that’s normal, and seeing different body sizes at mainstream fashion shows should be normal.
After winning a national modelling competition with Models1, Evans and Cosmopolitan UK Magazine in 2012, Philomena went on to win the Rising Star award at GUBA (Ghana UK Based Achievement awards) that same year. Philomena signed with Ford Models and flew across the pond to NYC to commence her (unplanned) modeling career.
In December 2014, Philomena was introduced as the latest brand ambassador for Torrid in the U.S. She recently created The Lily Project, connecting young girls with inspirational mentors. Having darker skin is unfortunately uncomfortable for many women, and an issue which has been debated within the black community many times over; in a recent interview Philomena recounts one of her most memorable experiences with The Lilly Project.
“I received a question on my Tumblr about how I’ve learned to love my dark skin. I remember it clearly because the girl in question listed all the bleaching products she had tried and was reaching her wits end with desperation. She wanted to try out an injection or something before she saw my picture and decided to message me. It touched me because I remember not always being so confident in my size or my skin colour. I wanted to be lighter like all the celebrities and beautiful women I knew….”
Obviously more comfortable in her skin, Philomena continues to walk that walk, demonstrating that there is beauty in intelligence and what you have on the inside too. Sometimes what we think is a hindrance can turn out to be an asset.
Just over a week ago, I went to my first fashion show! I heard mixed reviews about previous shows so wasn’t sure what to expect. Either way I was still excited about attending the final day. I arrived later than planned, hot and flustered and stepped though the main doors. Upon entry I was eagerly handed a bunch of Lyca Mobile leaflets and other flyers. Unfortunately there was no air conditioning in the venue at the Truman Brewery on Brick Lane, East London, so I was glad I had a bottle of water with me!