Black Girl Magic and the Power of Makeup

Coco Jones mainly uses Juvia's Place palettes, Tarte Cosmetic foundations and lashes and LA Color lip gloss to complete looks on her clients. Photo courtesy of Coco Jones

By Frances Clause

The beauty industry continues to evolve with the rise of beauty gurus posting their makeup looks to Instagram and sharing tutorials on YouTube. But has makeup become more inclusive with this growth?

According to Coco Jones of Cake by Coco, makeup brands became more inclusive after Rihanna launched Fenty Beauty in September 2017.

With 50 shades of foundation, Fenty is a makeup line that focuses on a wide range of traditionally hard-to-match skin tones, formulas that work for all skin types and universal shades, according to the brand’s website.

“There were brands that were targeted toward African American women before [Fenty], but it wasn’t until Rihanna dropped her line that made more brands really think about expanding,” Jones said.

Coco Jones of Youngstown runs an in-home business, Cake by Coco, where clients can schedule a session to get a full face of makeup. She calls this look, “We’re worth more than 28 days.” Photo courtesy of Coco Jones

Jones began her in-home business three years ago in Youngstown, where her goal is to build confidence in the clients that sit in her chair.

“I remember a homecoming client I had where her mom came to the appointment and was telling me about how insecure she was,” she said. “When I was done and saw photos of her in her dress and makeup, it felt so good to have been a part of that.”

Besides Fenty Beauty, Jones recommends Milani and Juvia’s Place for black women because the hues of the brands’ eyeshadow show up vibrantly on dark complexions. But Jones also recommends drugstore makeup as an alternative.

“I try to work with drugstore brands because they’re more affordable,” she said. “If I have to pay more for products, then I have to charge more for my clients.”

Jones believes black women shouldn’t be afraid to explore makeup lines because even if there is a product they don’t like from the brand they may still be able to find a different product they love from that same brand.

Sierra McCorvey, a graduate student in voice performance at Youngstown State University, is not afraid to explore makeup lines and relies on them heavily for her career onstage.

“Makeup on stage is fundamental to the full theatrical experience because it conveys often what words cannot,” she said. “If done correctly, it highlights facial expressions needed to convey narrative, work or song.”

McCorvey said just 10 years ago she remembers walking into Sephora to find that only one brand in the store carried a foundation that matched her complexion.

But much longer than 10 years ago, the first person to recognize the lack of cosmetics for black women was Anthony Overton, a black lawyer with a background in chemistry, according to

He opened the Overton Hygienic Manufacturing Co. in 1898 with face powder as his first product. The powder soon became a sensation in Egypt, Liberia and the U.S.

Then in 1920, Anita Patti Brown, a famous soprano opera singer, started a mail-order business geared toward women of color. 

“What Rihanna is doing is the same thing Anita Patti Brown was doing — using her fame to get these products made,” Tim Samuelson, Chicago’s official cultural historian, said in a article.

Sierra McCorvey, a graduate student in music performance, wears makeup frequently onstage for her profession.Photo courtesy of Sierra McCorvey

Fast forward to 2020, where brands from L’Oreal to Estee Lauder now provide a wide range of shades to complement black and brown skin.

“[The industry] has become so much better,” McCorvey said. “Glam Candi Cosmetics, which is a local black-owned brand based out of Warren, is my favorite. Kat Von D and Make Up For Ever are good brands, too.”

Her advice to black performers who are required to wear makeup is to consider the size of the venue and plan makeup coverage accordingly.

“Also, don’t be afraid to take classes,” McCorvey added. “Glam Candi in Warren is always offering makeup classes for all shades.”

But if makeup classes aren’t what someone is comfortable taking up, Rozzie Davis of Youngstown recommends watching black beauty gurus on YouTube.

Some of these gurus with a large following include Jackie Aina, Nyma Tang, Shameless Maya and Bri Hall.

“Those gurus on YouTube are lifesavers,” Davis said. “Try to mimic what they’re doing. Practice makes perfect.”

But before she applies her everyday makeup, Davis said it is always important to moisturize the skin.

“Even if I’m not wearing makeup, I moisturize my skin before leaving my house,” she said.

Chaste Chapman, a senior psychology major, said although she wears makeup often, moisturizing is the most crucial step of her daily routine.

Coco Jones mainly uses Juvia’s Place palettes, Tarte Cosmetics foundations and lashes and L.A. Color lip gloss to complete looks on her clients. Photo courtesy of Coco Jones

“I think anything Neutrogena is good, especially anything that says ‘hydro boost’ is good for the skin,” she said. “I personally use the Clean & Clear [product] to moisten my skin and clear away pimples.”

Because she has eczema, Chapman consulted an expert to find the right skin care products for her condition that are oil free.

“I hate dry skin and oily skin, and I think the best part of my skin routine is the results I get,” she said. “It’s different when you wash your face before you put on makeup.”

Jones echoed the importance of moisturizing before applying makeup, noting that patience with applying both is key.

“You should feel beautiful no matter what,” she said. “Especially when you’re sitting in my chair.”