Bailey Kadian: Disrupting what we label 'The Norm'

Tuesday, October 10, 2017 - 6:21pm

Rihanna is taking the world by storm — but not in her usual manner.

In early September, she released her makeup line, Fenty Beauty, and it received almost-instant praise for the line’s quality products and unique colors. It launched as a makeup line that is dedicated to inclusivity, offering 40 shades of makeup in an effort to target all skin tones and shades. Rihanna has put her incredible career in the music industry on hold and has traded that success for a bit of glory in the business world.

Her interest in starting this line came from observing her mother’s love for makeup, and as time went on, she grew to love it herself. The world of bloggers and fashion insiders have claimed that the Fenty brand is truly worth the hype, as many responded to the launch with great reviews, believing that Rihanna has risen to the challenge of creating makeup that reaches a wide range of customers.

What I love about this launch is how it clearly represents the flaws in our established industries. Rihanna moved from a thriving music career (which I don't doubt she will return to), and decided to put a real and honest idea towards a range of products. The beauty industry has established a norm of releasing makeup lines with products that only reach people with certain skin tones, and it inevitably limits the choices for what people can purchase. On the Fenty Beauty website, the brand states that the product line was created after Rihanna continued to see “a void in the industry for products that performed across all skin types and tones.”

She has disrupted an industry that is stuck in a rigid system of releasing a limited amount of products, and then increasing shade options if there is a “need.” I’m not sure why a business wouldn’t consider the development of shade ranges for darker skin tones and lighter skin tones an urgent need. Instead, for years, the beauty industry has remained limited. Rihanna offers something new, and it is so refreshing to see from someone who doesn’t claim to be the leader of the industry. She just entered with an interest, and surpassed the brands that have already been there. Her brand emphasizes that makeup should not pressure anyone into thinking they have to look a certain way — it should just be enjoyable.

Rihanna’s success illuminates a larger idea that I think is worth unpackaging. We often operate under this assumption that there is a “right” way to do things. The top beauty brands of the industry, like Estee Lauder or M.A.C. follow a “system” of running their businesses. They establish norms, which determine what products are released, which consumers are targeted, and what their goals are as a brand. Often the releases from these established brands only offer a few shades of foundation, and model the makeup on the same skin shades in every launch. These brands have used a lot of their resources to uphold consistency, and produce what they know will sell. Rihanna came in with an interest, thinking under simple terms: She loves makeup and wanted to create a line that includes all types of people, who may look different, but all love the same products.  

We often rely on the familiar mantra: “It is what it is,” when faced with a problem or a trend that feels too far along to change. It is not impossible to make change happen. Rihanna chose to disrupt the beauty industry, and alter its obvious problems. Many of us have a list of things we wish we could improve, and sometimes think it is not worth the effort to try. If Fenty serves as our example, we see that it is very much possible — and often necessary — to bring new perspectives to older systems, that are in dire need of reform.

If there is a business, an organization, a campaign or a belief that you feel you can contribute to, I suggest you go after it. We place an emphasis on experience and “learning the ropes” of the system, which no doubt holds some merit. But often, I think those who truly thrive are the ones who never let the status quo deter them from creating change. The belief that we need established precedent, or a “known” name in entering the spotlight often loses its value when someone new steps in, and prospers, having identified the very problem all the others overlooked.