An Open Letter to Sephora:
As two Black female entrepreneurs in the beauty industry who have worked to create a space for women and all people of color, we have been shocked, saddened and angered by the recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and so many other Black people who continue to go unnamed. Their deaths affirm the notion that despite our accomplishments, successes and hard work we continue to live in a country that believes Black lives have no value.
But this anger has turned into action and activism, as we’ve seen hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life take to the streets and demand change. While we have been empowered to do the same, we’ve also looked for ways that we can use our talents to make change in our own industries and areas of work. We are encouraged by the Beauty for Black Lives movement which has challenged Black beauty entrepreneurs to give back to the cause of Black Lives. Through this movement we have committed to giving 10% of our sales this month to Black Visions Collective, a Minnesota community organization dedicated to the movement for Black Lives. As a business that is still struggling to get back on its feet during a global pandemic, this wasn’t an easy decision. We mention this not to pat ourselves on the back (because we wish we could do more) but to highlight the added burden that is often placed on Black people to fight racial inequality.
We have also been inspired by the #PullUpOrShutUp movement launched by Sharon Chuter which has asked for large brands such as yourself to be transparent about how many Black people sit in executive leadership positions. This is the start of an important conversation.
Unfortunately, we have been disappointed by your response in this moment. The figures you all recently released about 6 percent of Black people in your senior leadership including retail and warehouse employees, fail to outline how many Black executives actually reside in executive level positions. Providing real transparency around this would go a long way to opening a dialogue with the Black community.
In addition, past practices of mistreatment of Black female customers in your stores, as well as concerning stories about the disregard for your workers during the pandemic, deserve a response. While there was recognition that you all closed your stores last year for a one-hour diversity training, there is still little understanding of what your long-term plan is to ensure discrimination isn’t part of your company culture and that women of color, and in particular Black women, feel safe and are treated with dignity and respected as valued customers in your stores.
We know your store well. We have both at one time or another been customers, and as a brick and mortar store we even share a neighborhood with one of your most recently opened locations. As buyers at a smaller level we also understand the role you play as a leader and a corporate financial driver of the industry. Your company buys and distributes hundreds of other beauty brands which gives you an opportunity to set the tone and lead by example for an entire industry.
We have seen other large companies like Glossier and Ben & Jerry’s set an example for what it means to support Black Lives Matter in this moment, by going beyond Instagram posts and expressing genuine solidarity and financial commitment to the movement for Black Lives.
We call on you to be truly transparent about the number of Black people in your C-suite, we also ask that you disclose what your long-term plan is to ensure discrimination and racism is not tolerated within your stores and within your company culture, and we call on a substantial financial commitment to the movement of Black Lives and ending police brutality– a commitment worthy of a company of your stature.
We thank you in advance for your attention and we look forward to your response.
Kimberly Smith and Amaya Smith
Co-founders, The Brown Beauty Co-op