If you had told my teen self I’d be a beauty journalist and that I would write a book on beauty, particularly one geared towards women of colour, I’d have called you a false prophet. “You can’t be what you can’t see” is a hackneyed phrase, but in my case rang true. I loved magazines, but I always skipped the beauty pages. The voices behind them didn’t speak to me. The faces on the pages didn’t look like me. The products weren’t geared towards me. I had no place there. Growing up, I had always heard my Nigerian parents and their friends say: “This is not our country.” And so, despite being British, I parked any expectation to be included in the beauty industry. It never occurred to me that I could be a part of this world, let alone driving change from within.
When I started writing about beauty, almost 15 years ago, it was nothing to do with race. My reasons were pragmatic. I was a freelance fashion writer, work had dried up, so I turned my hand to writing everything and anything because at that time, in the timeless words of Gwen Guthrie, Ain’t Nothing Going on But the Rent. And I was irked by the way beauty was written – fluffy and asinine, as if for one-dimensional airheads. I made a conscious decision to go against that. Unconsciously, however, my foray into the beauty world was driven by my blackness and the industry’s rejection of it. My route to realising that was surprising, even to me.