By now, most are aware that progress is being made for plus size women in the fashion industry. But what about beauty? Plus size representation in beauty campaigns is harder to come across than many realize — but soon, all of that might change.
First, some background. In July 2016, the New York Times reported that the beauty industry "ignores" curvy models. "Beauty contracts are modeling’s holy grail — highly visible and lucrative," author Crystal Martin wrote. "So they are reserved for a small pool of top actresses, pop stars and big-name models. Because the plus-size category is still niche in the American market, it’s harder for those models to reach household name status."
The Times continues, "Fashion companies may garner publicity and goodwill when they feature curvy models. Ostensibly, beauty companies would not get that same bottom-line boost, because bodies aren’t involved in their advertising imagery."
But what happens when one of the world's largest beauty brands does include plus size models in their advertising? Well, then you get a campaign like L'Oreal Paris' True Match, which aired its first commercial during the 2017 Golden Globes.
The campaign cast a massive list of stars and influencers, including actor Blake Lively, trans influencer Hari Nef, Chinese model Xiao Wen Ju, Darnell Bernard and more. The ads also feature two plus size models, Sabina Karlsson and Marquita Pring.
Karlsson is a Swedish-born mixed race curve model who has previously starred in campaigns with fashion brands like Lane Bryant, and a campaign with indie beauty brand Milk Makeup. Additionally, Karlsson walked the runway for Christian Siriano at New York Fashion Week in 2017. Pring is a black curve model who has also starred in Lane Bryant campaigns, and even booked a spread in Vogue Italia. Both women are plus size women of color working in an industry that has expanded to include them — and when it comes to beauty campaigns, both are hopeful about how much farther they'll go.
"There are so many doors that need to be opened, and I’m just trying to open one door at a time," Karlsson tells me. "Everything is changing, and it’s taking its time. But it is happening, which I’m really happy about."
"Beauty is not limited by size," Pring writes in an email to Bustle. "We all like to look our best and enhance our features, which makes the inclusion of all sizes, shapes, and colors all the more important in advertising. The fashion industry is really starting to understand that the plus size market is every bit as important (and profitable) as their mainstream market. So yes, I think its necessary that the beauty industry join that movement."
Of course, there are some that have already. As the New York Times pointed out, "In the 1990s, the plus-size model and TV personality Emme Aronson became a spokesmodel for Revlon cosmetics. Queen Latifah has been the face of CoverGirl’s Queen Collection, a makeup line for dark skin tones, for more than a decade. In a partnership with the television drama 'Empire,' CoverGirl featured Gabourey Sidibe, one of the show’s actresses. And four years ago, MAC did a collection with the musician Beth Ditto."
Still, these instances are rarer than one would hope — and sometimes, they can even lead to wishful thinking.
In December 2015, plus size model Clémentine Desseaux was "cast" as the newest face of Christian Louboutin beauty. "Desseaux, who is between a size 12 and 14, will be the star of the brand's new social media campaign for its line of rouge lipsticks," Cosmopolitan reported. The reaction from the general public was huge, but unfortunately, it also wasn't true. Desseaux created a personal video for her own social media applying the lipstick. Louboutin liked it so much that they reposted it — but it wasn't ever an official campaign. simply reposted Desseaux's video of her applying their lipstick.
"I loved reading and hearing all the positive messages that followed to both the brand and myself," Desseaux told Mic after the story (and the misunderstanding) went viral. "It was like something really game-changing had happened. And I guess in some ways, it did happen. People finally saw something that was refreshing but, more importantly, drastically different than what they have been fed by all beauty brands for so long."
The presence of not one, but two plus size models in L'Oreal Paris' True Match ad could be the beginning of a real change, one that people can get (and stay) excited for.
"I think the beauty industry has been slow to recognize that their customer comes in all shapes and sizes and the importance of reflecting that diversity in their marketing campaigns," Pring says. "For the first time ever, these companies are finally starting to realize that their customers want more. Social media provides a great platform for consumers to speak up and demand more diversity in ads. L’Oreal Paris is at forefront of this movement."
This could be a sign of things to come, considering that Brand Finance ranked L'Oreal Paris as the most valuable cosmetics brand in the world in 2016 — and for the third year running. ""[L'Oréal Paris] is performing well in three key respects," cosmetics analyst Emilie Milton-Stevens told Fashionista when the report was published. "It is investing in trends and technology; it is innovating digitally; and it continues to inspire trust."
With the top brand in the game casting plus models in its beauty campaigns, it's arguably only a matter of time before other brands follow suit.
"Last year, I sat down with my bookers saying I'd really love to do something with beauty or a beauty campaigns, because I hadn’t really seen a lot of curvy girls do that before," Karlsson reminisced. "So I wanted to open up that door — not just for me but for my other colleagues. A few months later, L’Oreal [Paris] booked me for this job. It was a dream come true. L’Oreal [Paris] is a brand that’s always been around, and everyone knows it — with me being curvy and being mixed, it was nice that I was booked for exactly who I am."
Pring concurs. "This campaign is a progressive step that should lead the way for other companies to recognize we all have beauty and value that deserves to be represented," she says. "Size doesn't matter when it comes to make up, and now it's time we see that reflected in ads."
With any luck, we will.