My dissertation: Black women’s exclusion from the beauty industry

Since I was a young child I have always been interested in different cultures as well as issues surrounding race.However, I found that at university I had nobody to discuss my views with especially as I was the only Black person on my course. If I did have discussions with my friends they had no idea what I was talking about or they felt awkward, so eventually I gave up trying.

Media Inequality was the first unit I chose when selecting my final year options because I was excited that I could study topics I was passionate about. In addition to race, I could also explore other cultures and religions.

Prior to taking this unit, I had little confidence in my dissertation topic on Black women and the beauty industry. This led me to choose a topic I was not happy with because I believed with my original topic nobody would understand why I had chosen it.

However, Media Inequality gave me confidence in my original topic because I was able to explore the lack of representation in advertising. Ultimately this made me realise this was an issue that needed addressing because the UK is growing in diversity but many advertising companies lack understanding when targeting minority groups.

Towards the end of the unit I had a conversation with Deborah, my tutor, after which I decided to resort back to my original dissertation idea of exploring beauty advertisements and the representation of Black women. I chose this topic because from a young age I was always aware that Black women are excluded from the beauty industry.

I experienced this first hand when I convinced my mum to buy me a children’s make-up kit when I was around eight. However, I soon realised that the kit was not made with my complexion in mind. As I got older it became clearer that the beauty industry was a place I was regularly going to feel excluded, often noticing a lack of diversity.

It was these ongoing experiences that led to me explore the media and representation during my second year at university. Through my research I became aware of Eurocentric beauty ideals pushed in the media and how even I, unknowingly internalised these messages. It was this journey that made me undergo changes in my own life including no longer chemically straightening my hair and becoming more open to discussion.

I also decided during my final year that I wanted to explore and research the topic myself, because I felt it was time Black women were given a voice on how exclusion from the beauty industry makes us feel.

During my primary research, I was amazed by similar perceptions of exclusion and frustration among interviewees and I realised the importance such research could have, in terms of improving communication practices in the industry,

The positive experiences I had doing my dissertation and the Media Inequality unit has made me realise that my journey did not stop at university. I now believe I have developed specialised knowledge that I will use to educate and improve communication practices for marginalised groups in society in whatever job role I find in the future.