The Global Beauty Report: Focus on Asia

by Lubna Khalid Founder of REAL COSMETICS, Color for Women of Color

New York, 14 June 2000

I wanted to start today by telling you the story of three women.

First woman: Young Indian girl. Hates her skin color. Thinks she’s too dark. Refuses to play outside because she’ll get darker.

Second woman: African-American, Can’t find the right foundation. Finally finds it. Goes to re-purchase it. Color has been discontinued. She’s frustrated.

Third woman: Pakistani-American model. Also can’t find the right cosmetics. Makeup artists have to blend several colors to match her complexion. Her jobs are limited because photographers and designers either see her as ‘too exotic’ or ‘not exotic’ enough. She’s frustrated with the lack of cosmetic choices and she’s frustrated with the lack of positive images of women of color.

I am this last woman and I created REAL COSMETICS, Color for Women of Color, for women like me.

As a company, we aim to revolutionize the beauty ideal while providing the right cosmetics for all women of color. Women of color are diverse ranging from Asian-American to Latina to African-American. There are young girls of color growing up in the U.S. without positive images. They look in the magazines, turn on the TV and they don’t see themselves reflected. There is a true lack of positive role models and that’s dangerous. Women of color are 40 million strong in the U.S. That is approximately 30% of all U.S. women. Given our numbers, why is it so difficult to find the right cosmetics and positive images?

Currently, there is not one cosmetics line that targets all women of color. Many of these women have given up wearing cosmetics because they cannot find the right colors. So what does the market look like?

Traditional lines have attempted to target women of color by adding darker shades to existing lines. These colors work on some African-American women. Women of color lines have traditionally focused on African-American women both in the color range and images. There is a large group of women of color, mostly Asians, who are being ignored. Asians are diverse: Thai, Sri Lankan, Indian, Japanese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, name a few. This is not a homogenous group. They have diverse cosmetic needs and they relate to diverse images.

Distribution is also a problem. Many of the women of color lines are located in budget department stores in the suburbs. Yet, Asian-Americans have a higher median income than the overall U.S. median income and are geographically concentrated in urban centers.

So how is Real Cosmetics positioned to fill this gap in the market? Let’s just put it this way, since we launched thousands of women have come to our web site and said, “Thank you! Finally! It’s about time!” We are targeting a large diverse group of urban women of color who are being ignored. They can’t find what they need where they need it.

So, what has made us successful? We come from the communities we are targeting. My partner, Anna, is Mexican-American, and I am Pakistani-American. We understand the consumer because we are the consumer.

Also, our approach to marketing is grassroots. We go to the niche magazines. We go to the community fairs. We go to the clubs where these women hang out. We reach them at a grassroots level. We know our consumers personally. They are our friends and family. We understand their needs, their religious beliefs and how those beliefs effect what they will and will not put on their skin. We ask them what they want, what is missing in the cosmetics market, and then we create it.

So, what does it take to truly target the Asian-American consumer? You must understand who your consumers are. Understand that Asian-Americans are diverse, not homogenous. They have diverse cosmetic needs and will relate to diverse images. You have to be REAL. Understand the true needs of the communities from social issues to religion to politics. Understand that this is a group that has been ignored too long.

Also understand that this is a group who is proud of their roots. They are proud of their culture, they are proud of their language. And they are proud of their heritage. As a group, Asian-Americans are changing the American mainstream and we want to see the mainstream change with us. All these aspects should be reflected in the brand.

As Real Cosmetics moves forward it’s vital that we stay close to the communities and to our grassroots approach. We must continue to understand the true needs of our consumer as we grow. It’s vital that we create the right colors for all women of color. Any woman of color, from the lightest Asian to the darkest African should be able to walk up to our counter and find the right cosmetics. Any woman of color, from the lightest Asian to the darkest African, should be able to look at our web site, look at our ads and walk up to our counter and see herself reflected. It’s vital that we use diverse images that represent the true diversity of our consumer. We aim to revolutionize the beauty ideal. The images we put out there are vital.

If we look at the world, approximately 80% is people of color. There needs to be one cosmetics brand that truly understands this diversity of culture, religion and skin complexions. Real Cosmetics hope to be this brand. We aim to revolutionize the beauty ideal while providing the right cosmetics for all women of color.

If we can make a difference in the lives of the three women I told you about. If we can help that young girl love her skin color and herself. If we can finally end the search for the right cosmetics and for positive images. Then REAL COSMETICS, Color for Women of Color, has truly made a difference and in the process empowered women of color.


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