by Nyajuok Deng
So a few months back, I appeared in a YouTube video with my MUA friend Ronke Raji that got over a million views. In the video, she did my makeup and in a voice over I spoke a bit about my struggles with finding the right shades when it came to foundations, concealers, and all things makeup. The darkest shades of many of the brands that are affordable and in my budget as a student just never worked for me. My skin is very even toned throughout my body so the color of my face, chest, and shoulders is the same. Many times the foundations I find leave my face looking cakey, ashy, or lighter than the rest of my body. During the filming of that video, I came to her with the foundation that I typically worked with and it was her who showed me why it was all wrong for my tone. I am a law student and I’m always pretty busy so makeup has never been something that I tried learning too much about. I didn’t understand what undertones are and I didn’t understand how to match a foundation to my skin tone. I always just thought, “Well this is the darkest shade they have so it should work.” So yes, I was out here using the WRONG shade for a VERY long time or just not wearing foundation at all. It wasn’t until she finished my makeup using a foundation that actually matched me that I understood.
With the launching of the FENTY BEAUTY line, I, like many other folks who frequent or dabble in makeup, was unbelievably excited. I saw the campaign and saw that there was a model whose skin tone may be similar to mine so I was hopeful that she would have a shade for me as well. And honestly, anything Rihanna does is amazing so I was gonna go out and give her my coins off principle. (Yes, I am a Rihanna stan and I continue to be)
Before heading to Sephora I saw a few initial reviews from dark skin beauty bloggers that I typically watch to get ideas. A few of them tried the darkest shade and based on their reviews I was a bit nervous that this shade wouldn’t work for me. The tones seemed very red but, nonetheless, I was still excited and headed to Sephora. When I saw the products in person, I got a bit worried because the color of the foundation from the bottle definitely looked like it would be too light for me. Still, I asked to have one of the artists color-match me. She grabbed the two darkest shades and swatched one on each side of my face. We sat there for a bit to let it set in. I looked in the mirror and I think she saw the worry on my face. She quickly said, “I mean, you could maybe make it work.” We looked at each other and both just said “nah” and laughed a bit. She apologized and suggested that I contact the company to let them know that the darkest shade didn’t work for me. I didn’t buy the foundation or anything else. But, I do plan on going back to pick up some of the glosses and highlighter, cause RiRi is still gonna get some of my coins.
I was honestly more sad than anything after leaving the store empty handed. I wanted to go home with a bag of goodies like I had seen so many of my friends had on social media. After posting my initial reaction on Instagram, I had a couple friends whose skin tone is similar to mine, let me know that the darkest shade did not work for them either. The campaign does feature a South Sudanese model whose skin tone is similar to mine at first glance, but there is such a wide variety of shades and undertones that come with our skin. *Note, comparing skin tones to highlight nuances and differences in shade with photos is nearly impossible due to differences in lighting, editing, etc,
I think when people see us they think that we are all the same shade when in reality our shades are just as varied and nuanced as the rest of the spectrum. I know many friends and family members whose skin tone is almost straight black with no hints of brown or red. So, while shade 480 or shade 490 may be the absolute perfect shade for one of my sisters, it didn’t work for me and I would imagine it wouldn’t work for anyone with darker skin than myself. Again, for me, my skin is very even toned so if I use a foundation that is even slightly lighter than my skin, the difference on my face is pretty noticeable, if not to others, it is to me.
I am not a makeup artist and I am not a beauty guru. I’m just a regular, extremely busy, twenty-something, with very dark skin, who is just trying to get through her last year of law school. With that being said, I like playing in makeup when I can. I wanted to do a write-up about my experience simply because there was some conversation on twitter with some people saying the range of shades for the deep dark end of the spectrum wasn’t as extensive as the lighter end. In response, I saw people’s critiques and feedback getting shut down without discussion. While I do understand and really do appreciate that the launch of 40 shades at once is unprecedented and even more amazing that it was done by a black woman, I think healthy critique and feedback is critical and important. I also think the points being made about the variations within the deep dark tones are valid. So, while what Fenty Beauty did this week was amazing and I take nothing away from it, there is always room for improvement, even when you are the best.
With all of that being said, I personally, am not too pressed about the shade not matching perfectly but, I did want to speak up about it because I think it’s important to note that deep dark skin is not one shade. I’ve heard rumblings that there may be more shades coming out in the future and I hope it’s true because I would love to buy and support!
I wasn’t able to do a review of the actual product because I’m not a YouTuber or beauty guru. For reference, I have included the video collaboration that I did with Ronke Raji a few months back. It includes a before and after so you all can see what my tone looks like before and after foundation. The foundation she used for me in that video is AJ Crimson’s foundation in shade number 8.