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Fenty Beauty is a PR Gold Mine

Fenty Beauty wants to be MY bestie?


By Cydian Witherspoon



As celebrity brands like Haus Labs by Lady Gaga and Rare Beauty by Selena Gomez earn recognition for their complexion products’ wide shade range, I can’t help but reminisce about Rihanna’s launch of Fenty Beauty. Although I had been fairly new to makeup in 2017, the launch of Fenty Beauty was one of the most exciting brand debuts I had seen to date. Rihanna and her team put substantial thought into this makeup line from the very beginning, almost vilifying other makeup brands for not doing what she had so effortlessly done from the beginning. This brand launch came during the time of Tarte and It Cosmetics receiving criticism for releasing foundation and concealer lines with 12 fair shades and only 3 shades for deep complexions. Companies had been condemned countless times before this and it almost seemed as if they were mocking darker-skinned women for failing to act on their criticism. With the slogan “Beauty for All”, the Fenty Beauty team made it clear that they heard our cries and wanted to make a change.


Rihanna in Sephora Times Square launched Fenty Beauty on Sept. 7, 2017. Kevin Mazur, Getty Images.

According to PRSA, public relations is defined as a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their public. Fenty Beauty’s connection to its audience is a large part of what makes the company so successful. The introduction to the original campaign was a 50-second video that opened with Duckie Thot, a deep-dark complexioned model followed by model Slick Woods with a much lighter skin tone, and then Halima Adem, a Hijabi model. This was clearly strategic in order to not only showcase that even the deepest of skin tones can comfortably wear the foundation, but also to have a hijabi makeup brand ambassador was uncommon at the time. This immediately gets their point across that they want to be seen as an inclusive brand.

Social Media Butterfly

Their social media presence is a huge part of their outreach to their customers. Their captions are casual and conversational, even using African American Vernacular English to get a point across. They know that many of their customers are women of color so they are not afraid that phrases like “IYKYK” and “Anotha one THANK YOU” won’t fly over their audience’s heads. It is refreshing when a brand can use pop culture references to connect with its audience and do it well! Staying up to date with what your audience is interested in at the moment is a great way to keep them interested and entertained. They also do a great job meshing their company’s photos with content from fans on their social media. Small makeup artists post raving about their products in hopes of being reposted on the company’s Instagram which has a following of almost 12 million.

Fenty Reaches out

Although Fenty does not share about its philanthropy often, the brand is dedicated to several causes. Rihanna takes pride in her Caribbean heritage and works hard to be a positive representation and give back to her community in any way she can. As a response to Covid-19, the company donated 100% of its profits from its Killawatt Highlighter and its Clara Lionel Makeup case to the Clara Lionel Foundation. This foundation’s goal is to invest in climate injustice initiatives in the Caribbean and in the United States, helping communities prepare

Rihanna in Malawi for a Clara Lionel Foundation initiative in 2017. Evan E. Rogers

for natural disasters. The Foundation has donated $36 million to several other organizations including The World Health Organization’s Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund, Feeding America, and the International Rescue Committee. I’m not sure why there is not more media coverage surrounding the foundation as they are still very active; I had no idea she had such a successful non-profit. It’s admirable to see wealthy celebrities giving back in such a major way and I was delighted to see that she had such a thoughtful and successful non-profit organization.

When They Dropped the Ball

In the last five years, there has not been much backlash surrounding the brand, but it did drop the ball back in 2019 after releasing a shade of its Killawatt highlighters named “Geisha Chic”. The term geisha refers to a Japanese tradition of a group of women who worked as entertainers and paid companions of the country. Some commented on how companies should steer clear of the term as it comes across as a fetishization of the tradition. Fenty replied to the backlash saying that they hear their audience and thanked the commenters for educating them. The highlighter was removed from shelves until it was renamed, Ruby Riches. With other high-end brands like Estée Lauder who have been slammed for still testing on animals and Kat Von D being an anti-vax mom, it is almost a challenge to find a popular makeup brand that hasn’t been involved in some kind of scandal or controversy.

Fenty Beauty’s momentum is not stopping anytime soon. They are consistently releasing products, and each is even better than the last, releasing new and exciting cosmetics each time. During my research, I noticed Fenty Beauty’s 5-year anniversary just recently passed this September, but they did not do any special promotion or even post anything recognizing it on their Instagram. While that feels like a missed opportunity, it doesn’t take away from the overwhelming success the company has earned. I was never the biggest Rihanna fan, but after the release of her makeup brand, I can’t help but love what she does. While mega-stars and billionaires receive valid criticism, I still admire the work that she has put in to create such a high-quality and accessible brand for all.

About the Author

Cydian Witherspoon is currently a student at the University of North Texas studying journalism with a concentration in PR. She is on track to graduate in December 2022.

References


“About Public Relations.” Www, https://www.prsa.org/about/all-about-pr.

Disis, Jill. “Rihanna's Fenty Pulls 'Geisha Chic' Highlighter after Social Backlash | CNN Business.” CNN, Cable News Network, 3 Apr. 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/03/business/rihanna-fenty-beauty-geisha-chief-pulled-trnd.

“Fenty Beauty's Inclusive Advertising Campaign - Think with Google.” Google, Google, https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/future-of-marketing/management-and-culture/diversity-and-inclusion/-fenty-beauty-inclusive-advertising/.

Gross, Elana Lyn. “How Rihanna's Clara Lionel Foundation Is Changing the Emergency Response Model.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 21 Mar. 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/elanagross/2018/07/24/how-rihannas-clara-lionel-foundation-is-changing-the-emergency-response-model/.

Gross, Elana Lyn. “How Rihanna's Clara Lionel Foundation Is Changing the Emergency Response Model.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 21 Mar. 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/elanagross/2018/07/24/how-rihannas-clara-lionel-foundation-is-changing-the-emergency-response-model/?sh=1500519a10f1.

Https://Claralionelfoundation.org/News/.

Moné, Brianna. “4 Times Beauty Brands Were Dragged for Having a 'Limited' Range of Foundation.” Insider, Insider, 30 July 2018, https://www.insider.com/beauty-brands-called-out-for-not-enough-foundation-shades-2018-7.

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