The past year has been a call to arms to address the lack of diversity within the beauty industry—now necessary changes on the institutional front are coming to the forefront. The Makeup Museum, which launched in September 2020 with the “Pink Jungle: 1950s Makeup in America” installation, recently announced the publication of Beauty Stories from Around the World in collaboration with L’Oréal. The book explores overlooked beauty narratives worldwide, ranging from ancient to modern practices. The Makeup Museum’s physical space has been transformed into a completely touchless and socially distanced visitor experience, while #BeautyStories will be a year-long initiative launching on its Instagram to coincide with the release.
Doreen Bloch, Executive Director at the Makeup Museum, spoke to BeautyMatter about embedding diversity into every aspect of an enterprise, shifting infrastructures to accommodate online presentations, and overhauling the beauty education space.
How would you describe the mission of the Makeup Museum?
Education, Inspiration, and Celebration. The Makeup Museum is focused on exploring the history of beauty and its ongoing impact on society, and we are dedicated to empowering all people to learn about and have fun with beauty.
How have your activations and approach changed due to COVID?
COVID necessitated major changes for the Makeup Museum. Not only was the opening of the Makeup Museum’s debut exhibition in NYC delayed due to the pandemic, but there has also been a tremendous ongoing impact on travel and the ability for people to connect in-person. The museum’s goal has always been to align to the needs of the beauty community, so we have focused on programming and preservation work that can be done remotely and virtually. In 2021, we are continuing to focus on virtual experiences and physical items, like Beauty Stories from Around the World, which can be enjoyed remotely. The safety of our community is of the utmost importance.
What are some of the challenges of shifting from a physical to an online presence?
There are different skills needed depending on the type of experience that is being created. The types of design and infrastructure needs are quite different in physical spaces compared to virtual ones. The Makeup Museum has been lucky to have such strong global support, so it has been relatively seamless for us to make that transition, but we know it’s been extremely difficult for so many museums and other cultural institutions to make those changes.
What inspired the collaboration with L’Oréal?
We approached L’Oréal with the idea for our book, Beauty Stories from Around the World, because L’Oréal was the top name that came to mind for our team of a beauty company that has a massive global impact and reach and is continuing to strive for more cultural inclusion and diversity. We were honored and excited that the L’Oréal team was as excited about Beauty Stories as we are, and their support has elevated and amplified the entire project.
How do you hope to ignite more diverse perspectives, not just in terms of product launches but also in cultural institutions?
It is critical to focus on the fact that expanding, amplifying, and celebrating diversity is not, and cannot be, a fad or a trend. For example, at the Makeup Museum, 50% of our staff identifies as BIPOC, as does half of our visitor community. Celebrating diversity is not about simply one product launch or exhibition, but rather it’s about embedding diversity and diverse perspectives throughout the institution and leadership to create real inclusivity that is profound and meaningful.
What are some of the BIPOC narratives that have been overlooked in the history of beauty?
Most beauty history books gloss over thousands of years of history between Ancient Egypt and the Renaissance, with limited attention paid to the important beauty rituals of Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Color. All cultures have enduring beauty traditions, and Beauty Stories from Around the World is the first volume of what we hope will be an iconic book series, as there are so many global beauty stories that have yet to be told. Some of the essays in our first volume, for example, highlight beauty narratives such as teeth blackening, makeup used for spirituality like bindi and tilaka, and much more.
How can the beauty education space become more inclusive?
First, beauty educators need to be aware of both the historic and the present systemic disparities in inclusivity. Proactively addressing those disparities in the content of beauty education then becomes critical. It can be hard to seek out information when diverse stories may not have been told in the past, and that’s why Beauty Stories is such an important book; we hope that it will help beauty educators, and the beauty community at large, see how vast and universal beauty culture is. Once there is recognition, there can be action.
What can we expect from the yearlong #BeautyStories initiative?
Our mission through #BeautyStories is to provide a platform for everyone to share and celebrate their unique perspectives on beauty culture. One of the cornerstones of the initiative is to share imagery of diverse beauty culture, in particular. In addition to L’Oréal, Getty Images has been a key partner for us as part of this initiative as well. Tristen Norman, Head of Creative Insights for Getty Images, has said that “visuals have a profound impact on our understanding of the world, so there’s immense power rewriting the visual narratives for what’s perceived as beautiful.”
What has the feedback from consumers and the industry been like?
The feedback has been phenomenal. We have had hundreds of beauty lovers pre-order the book, and so many people from the beauty industry have reached out to offer their perspectives, to ask questions, and to want to contribute.
What projects and installations are planned for the future?
Our debut exhibition Pink Jungle will be on display through the end of February in New York City, and then we will transition to a new exhibition which will be announced later this year. There are so many topics and themes to explore within beauty, so there are endless ideas for projects and installations for the future.