Starting Your Dreams Later In Life and Embracing the Detour

Jenee Darden speaking at Creative Mornings I know it's been a while since I've posted anything but that's because of my job. I'm working as a reporter covering Oakland and I host an arts segment on the radio where I get to interview amazing artists from around the Bay Area. Plus I'm publicizing my book  and building my speaking career!  You know what's funny? I thought this would all happen by the time I was 27-30.  Nope. That wasn't God's plan for me. I'm finally beginning to do the things I've wanted to do and I'm almost 40 years old. Some people reading this who are 40 will say 40 is still young. But some younger people reading may think 40 is nearly ancient. But I'm writing this post for those who like me, thought their career and personal dreams would come true much early in life. I'm here to tell you not to give up.  You know, death inspires life. A number of my relatives and friends have passed away, ranging in

Carol's Daughter 'Diverse' (wink, wink) Campaign and Why Colorless Marketing Excludes Black Women

By now you’ve probably heard about the paper-bag “diversity” campaign Carol’s Daughter recently launched. Black women of all hues are voicing out on the web, “Where are the brown-skinned faces?” Hopefully cocoa-cutie and Disney Princess Tiana will keep her kids line even though she doesn't have a  polyethnic look the company is pushing. “What’s ‘polyethnic?” you’re thinking. Here’s a quote from marketing guru and company CEO Steve Stoute from the campaign's press release:
What we’re doing now is moving into a polyethnic space. We want to be the first beauty brand that truly captures the beauty of the tapestry of skin types in America. When I say polyethnic, I mean women who are made up of several ethnicities. If you ask them what they are, they’re going to use a lot of different words to describe themselves. That’s in line with the Census data coming out — people are checking much more than two boxes. We believe we’ve put together a shoot that celebrates many different ethnicities, to become a mirror of what America’s really becoming.[...]“They will serve as cultural ambassadors in bringing forth this acceptance that the definition of beauty is now colorless.

Singers Solange (Black and Creole), Cassie (Black, Filipino and Mexican) and Victoria’s Secret model Selita Ebanks (Black, Irish, Native American) are the new spokeswomen representing diversity. All three ladies identify with multiple cultures. All are without a doubt gorgeous. My disappointment with this campaign has nothing to do with their beauty. Nor do I have a problem with founder Lisa Price expanding her brand. Curly heads of various ethnicities use Carol’s Daughter. The company should take advantage of their growing diverse pool of customers. But brown-skinned women buy Carol’s Daughter products too. I mean come on. Chrisette Michelle, Anika Noni Rose, Kimberly Elise, Brandi, Maybeline model Tomiko Fraser—women like them don’t represent diverse beauty? According to the press release, Lisa Price “designed the new campaign ad to reflect the recent demographic shift reported by the U.S. Census.” Lisa designed this? That stings. If it weren’t for black women, of ALL hues, Carol’s Daughter would not be sitting in Macy’s shelves, on HSN, online, etc. Black women backed Lisa Price from the days she was selling oils and creams out of her kitchen. Mind you, her stuff is expensive. Launching a campaign solely with a calablansian,  racially-ambiguous mainstream image excludes many women, especially the customers who first supported her.

It’s no secret that darker-skinned women have always been deemed as “unmarketable” and not beautiful. But why is polyethnic marketing in general so focused on women? Even CEO Steve Stoute said, “When I say polyethnic, I mean women who are made up of several ethnicities.” Why this deterrence away from black women’s features, especially in black media? Of course this marketing doesn’t impact black men. Think about it. If there were a hair and skin line for black men do you think Mr. Stoute and Lisa Price would hire Tiger Woods, Boris Kodjoe, Jessie Williams ("Grey’s Anatomy") to be their ONLY spokesmen? I’ll answer for you. HELL NAW. Black men would have a fit. You know some celeb like Tyrese or Romeo would be up in the campaign mix too.   Nearly every time I see or read something about multicultural marketing, the models are usually mixed-race women. Or when people get upset over a celebrity’s skin being lightened in an ad or magazine cover it’s a woman. Males are rarely the subject of these controversies. Companies using images of biracial people in their marketing is a great thing. Biracial people want to see reflection of themselves just like anyone else. Unfortunately this is happening at the erasure of brown-skinned women. God knows, there are barely a handful of brown-skinned beauties in the media at the moment.

Radio One founder Cathy Hughes said in April’s issue of Ebony Magazine (which is really good by the way) that this type of multicultural marketing is becoming a trend in black media:

If you look on television, look at ads, in print, everything is interracial now. Everything is a Black woman and White man or a Black man and a White woman. There’s this emphasis on a ‘colorless society.’ Why should we give up our Black culture? Are the Asians?... Do you think the Latino/Hispanics are going to give up being Latino or Hispanic because they have married other people? So why are black folks the only culture being called upon to be colorless? That trickles down, [and] greatly impacts African-American media.

What’s next? Women who look like Solange, Selita and Cassie will be considered too dark or too black for cultural products? I’m not saying the three ladies should not be spokeswomen. If Carol’s Daughter is going to push diverse beauty then be diverse. Show a range of colors and hair textures. The only differences I see in the spokeswomen are their hair styles and fashion tastes. Good marketing doesn’t alienate the customers who helped propelled the company. Many women online have said they’re not buying Carol’s Daughter products anymore. It will be interesting to see what kind of impact this may have. CEO Steve Stoute is supposedly a marketing wiz so the company may do very well. Until then, I’ll take my rich, brown skin and dark green dollar bills elsewhere.


  1. This is wonderful commentary. You hit a number of topics. When I used to bring up for this 'cablinization'' of black women's beauty (it doesn't apply to men, dark black men are STILL whining about Prince, Al B Sure and the DeBarges from the 80s) I was shouted down and called "bitter, jealous, self-hating, lacking in confidence." I think we black women who don't fit into the 'polyethnic' new vision of beauty need to just pack up and go. Stop beating a dead horse and begging for facetime. We need a new name for ourselves since "black" has been co-opted. That's capitalism for you. When it's time to 'go mainstream' we see who gets left behind over and over. Steve Stout... disgusting.

  2. E, you make a good point!!! It's so true when black women complain about color-isms within our community we're accused of being bitter. But when brothas vent about Al B. Sure, and light-skinned brothas aren't in anymore, people usually just laugh it. I guess that's because in most cultures, the burden of beauty is placed on women. I think it's important that women in general establish their own media so their images can be reflected. Look what happened with the Soaps. Women still watch Soaps, so why were they canceled? Although Lisa Price supposedly designed this campaign, a lot of black women are mad. But there are so many mediums we can use to project how we want to see ourselves. Thanks to the internet, that is more possible than ever.

  3. I agree with your post here. Carol's Daughters really dropped the ball on this one and really this doesn't even surprises me. I don't buy CD products personally, nor am I interested, but if I did, I would definitely think twice about it.

  4. @Afromorena--Why wasn't it a suprise for you? I was suprised b/c why would you totally alienate a huge pool of your customers, especially the ones who helped your biz soar. Black women spend billions on beauty products.

  5. I guess it doesn't shock me because there seem to be this movement of "moving into a polyethnic space" (as you as ONLY with women), whether in beauty care, movie industry, music industry, etc. However, it's my belief that CD, just like with the other industries I listed above, won't lose much of its original customer base.

  6. This doesn't surprise me at all. I'm so over all this stuff I don't know what to do.

    Good post!

  7. Hey Jenee, do you mind if I link this post to another blog? We've been talking about the beauty of Black women in recent posts and this is a perfect article to reference. Thanks in advance.

  8. @Afromonrena--It will be interesting to see if this campaign hurts them. I doubt. I'm sure they will lose customers, especially since the products are pricey. But some women are hooked on that hair milk. :)

    @Amaya--Another person not suprised. How sad that this is becoming so common that it doesn't shock people anymore. Amaya, you can always post a link to my website, but not the post's content. Thanks for asking in advance.

  9. Great blog and excellent post. This is some bull ish. "Polyethnic" screams "convenient compromise." This way, America gets to skip to the end of it's race problems without have to get down and dirty to actually solve them.

  10. @Ankhesen -- Even if everyone in the country were the same color it still wouldn't end racism. People always find some differences to fight about. As I said in the post, there should be products and campaigns targeting biracial people because they have been left out of the market. But particularly in black media, "colorlesness" really means erasing the darker-skinned black woman. If I started a campaign about black men and the faces were Tiger Woods, Vin Diesel, The Rock and Al B. Sure, black men would have a fit. LOL I don't think there would be such an uproar over this campaign if the execs weren't on this colorlessness idea.

  11. @Ankhesen btw, thanks for your comment. :)

  12. @ Jenee

    It's like "polyethnic" is the new "post-racial." Once again, there's this rush to embrace the mixed black woman as THE black woman, while forgetting about those who are just good ole-fashioned Negro, and who after 400 years of living Stateside, have yet to get their "rush."

    It's like CD is trying to remind people that many black women living in the US are mixed with something, so they're not "really" black, and so people should be - I dunno - nicer to them or something?

    Over on the Blasian Narrative, we've talked about white women using the polyethnic excuse while doing their darnedest to breed out the Asian. Now it looks like black women are being encouraged to jump on the bandwagon, scraping up whichever non-black ancestor they can find. Solange doesn't speak Creole. I bet Selita doesn't know a word of Gaelic, two paragraphs of Irish history, or a damn thing about the Native American tribe she's supposedly descended from.

    And furthermore, like Amaya pointed out elsewhere, none of these women at first glance is assumed to be anything but black. 'Cause that's the thing about being Negro. All other flavors tend to pale comparison.


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