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Is Cover Girl The Most Progressive Cosmetics Company?

It doesn't matter if you're black or gay

JOSSIP FEATURE — Cosmetics companies gets a lot of shit, and rightly so, for teaching girls and women to hate their bodies by pushing unrealistic beauty ideals: skinny models with perfect skin and eyelashes that you can only obtain with their product. Cosmetics companies also get a lot of shit, also for good reason, by amplifying the image of "white beauty," making black, Hispanic, and Asian women all feel inadequate next to their Caucasian sisters. You only need to look at the latest controversy, just five weeks old, that L'oreal started when they so obviously lightened Beyonce Knowles' skin in a recent ad campaign — and then denied doing so, despite the most clear visual evidence.

But the cosmetics industry, we must admit, does do some good. They give women who might not otherwise have the self-confidence to go on a blind date or sit for a job interview the ability to do so. (Though we'll certainly accept the argument that the makeup counter also drives this lack of self-confidence, reminding women of their problem skin and that beauty mark they hate but can't afford to laser away.) A little eye shadow and some lipstick can make a woman feel beautiful, even when there's no man around she's trying to impress. And making a woman feel good about her femininity is not something we can completely shit on.

And neither, then, is a cosmetics company that takes the commonly accepted scarlet letters of the beauty industry — and doesn't just ignore them, but flaunts them positively.

We're talking about Cover Girl, the enormous division of Procter & Gamble, which doesn't care if its models are black or white, thin or skinny, or gay or straight. And unlike other cosmetic giants, when Cover Girl enlists these women to sell the brand, they're not interested in Photoshopping away their identities. Which leads us to believe: Might Cover Girl be the most progressive cosmetics company around?


Cover Girl is most recently in the news for signing talk show host and newlywed Ellen DeGerenes to be the face of its brand. DeGeneres, of course, is about as out as lesbians come; she showed footage of her wedding with Portia de Rossi to her millions of daytime viewers. And yet Cover Girl still signed her.

Before DeGeneres, there was Queen Latifah. Herself the object of gay rumors, Latifah then carries three typically "negative" attributes: (maybe) gay, black, and not stick thin. And yet Cover Girl still signed her — and didn't even lighten her skin.


And while Cover Girl has signed pretty white girls like Niki Taylor, Lucy Gordon, Faith Hill, and Molly Sims to represent the brand before, they've also hired black beauties like Kiara Kubukuru, Brandy, Rihanna, and through America's Next Top Model, Eva Pigford — all without lightening their skin, or slimming them down (as far as our naked eye can tell).

That Cover Girl would not go the skin lightening route is, certainly, not something we should have to congratulate a cosmetics company for. But, actually, we do. Because there are other beauty giants out there that want the black community's dollars, but still aren't entirely comfortable with the idea of black beauty.

So kudos to Cover Girl. Even if they are making bank by pushing an idealistic vision of beauty, at least they're respecting the women, and their communities, that they hire to do it.


N.B.: Interesting how Cover Girl has taken such a healthy liking to the black and gay communities, just like those responsible for handing out talk show deals.

Comments (5)
No. 1 · matukonyc

Unfortunately, I think describing P & G as "progressive" is a bit naive. Cover Girl is among the least expensive of major drugstore cosmetics; one could easily argue that marketing to black women is a cynical attempt to make poor people buy their cheap product.

Are KFC and McDonald's progressive because they use black people in ads?

As for being "gay-friendly," I think the fact that Ellen DeGeneres has a popular daytime talk show with the right kind of demographics is why she's in their ads.

Capitalism trumps prejudice every time, if the price is right!

Posted: Sep 18, 2008 at 2:49 pm · @Reply · [Flag?]
No. 2 · Key

I think Matukony is probably right. It's more capitalism than a progressive business outlook.

Posted: Sep 18, 2008 at 3:32 pm · @Reply · [Flag?]
No. 3 · NR Davis

Not to mention that the very idea that to wear lipstick is to embrace femininity is a kick in the teeth all by itself. Wearing paint on one's face and a dress has nothing to do with being a woman. It's all about being a certain kind of woman with a particular mindset and who wishes to show herself in a well-defined (and disgustingly restrictive) way. Love Ellen, but Cover Girl progressive? It's all about money. For Ellen, who's on the record as hating makeup, it's all about money too.

Posted: Sep 18, 2008 at 5:53 pm · @Reply · [Flag?]
No. 4 · marc

matuionyc, in my country, Canada, our KFC and McD commercials usually have all white people.
Is it progressive to have asian and blacks in the ads?
YES, it's long overdue, but it's still progressive.

Posted: Sep 19, 2008 at 9:58 am · @Reply · [Flag?]
No. 5 · ilnazhad

matukonyc- Your post got its own post on Jezebel!

Posted: Sep 21, 2008 at 9:32 pm · @Reply · [Flag?]
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