I continue to wonder how women in general, and Black women in particular, became so beholden to the beauty industry. Black women were attracted to the Black beauty industry of the early twentieth century for at least two key reasons. First, the Black beauty industry promoted the message that Black women were beautiful. This message refuted larger societal notions that Blacks were bestial, unclean “people” little better than animals. Participating in and using the products promoted by the black beauty industry wasn’t just about developing pretty creatures to look at, such actions helped to convey the humanity of Black people. Second, Black women could gain wealth by participating in the beauty industry. Madam C.J. Walker is an exemplar of the self-made woman entrepreneur (http://www.madamcjwalker.com/bios/madam-c-j-walker/).
One of Madam Walker’s advertisements illustrates the call to participate and encourages participants to view her beauty company as a “haven of hope for millions”. I wonder what Ms. Walker would think about the messages directed at Black women today.