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January 2021

MM Musings, vol. 29 : Diversity and inclusion

Makeup Museum (MM) Musings is a series that examines a broad range of museum topics as they relate to the preservation, research and exhibition of cosmetics, along with my vision for a physical Makeup Museum. These posts help me think through how I'd run things if the Museum occupied a physical public space, as well as examine the ways it's currently functioning. I also hope that these posts make everyone see that just because the Makeup Museum does not have a physical space or official nonprofit designation, it is as valid as other museums, and more legitimate than many other profit-driven entities calling themselves "museums". 

Diversity memeLet me just say up front that the timing of this post has nothing to do with the Capitol insurrection that took place a few weeks ago, or the fact that Black History Month starts in two days.  This is something that's been in the works for over a year, as it's extremely important to the Museum's mission and to me personally.  After giving myself a crash course in diversity and inclusion, I feel as though I'm finally ready to write something a little more in-depth than the thoughts I jotted down back in June 2020.  One of the Museum's primary goals is to present makeup and its history differently than what currently exists, and a big part of that is sharing previously undiscovered or underrepresented stories.  So many of them concern BIPOC and LGBTQ+ histories, and it's important to tell them not just for diversity's sake but for history more generally.

This post will not go into detail regarding the obvious facts that 1. Despite good intentions, all museums are rooted in colonialism; 2. U.S. museums have a critical diversity problem; and 3.  Diverse and inclusive museums are better in every way than non-inclusive spaces.  Instead, it seeks to answer the following question:  How can the Makeup Museum, in its current state, be as diverse and inclusive as possible?  I don't have all the answers, but MM Musings are an exercise to think through the heavier issues and ponder how the Museum can be better - more of a journey than an endpoint. To help guide this installment of MM Musings I relied on these two books, along with the anti-racism books I purchased last year. I also looked at all the articles and other resources I could access for free online. 

Diversity in museums books

Anti-racism-books

As I noted previously, there are unique challenges for a cosmetics museum to become a diverse and inclusive space.  But that doesn't mean there's not room for improvement.  If the Museum occupied a physical space and had paid employees (well-paid and with full benefits, of course, and while I hope they would not have a need for a union, they would absolutely be encouraged to form one if they want), it would no doubt have a diverse board and staff at all levels that would be treated as integral to the organization and not tokens, along with the other essentials such as diversity training for docents and consultants to continually evaluate the Museum's efforts and provide recommendations.  In its current form, however, the primary focus in terms of diversity and inclusion is on the Museum's content and collection.  Since there are no blueprints as to how to run an online cosmetics museum/blog whose existence and finances depend entirely on one person who is also not technically a museum professional, it's tricky to come up with a concrete plan of action for diversity and inclusion. But here's a start.

Diversify the collection.

Collecting Chinese, Japanese and Korean brands are not an issue, nor are ones founded or owned by LGBTQ+ people - there are plenty of those as well as artist/fashion collaborations - but Latinx and Indigenous brands and collabs remain somewhat elusive.  I can write about my beloved Pai Pai but they no longer ship to the U.S., and I know of only a handful of other Latinx or Indigenous-owned brands.  Contemporary Black-owned brands are easier to find than ever now so I will continue purchasing more from them, but it's still difficult to find many vintage pieces simply because there were so few compared to the big mainstream brands, none of which catered to BIPOC's needs until the 1960s or so (and even then their efforts continued to miss the mark.)  I will continue to keep my eyes peeled and buy from BIPOC and LGBTQ+ brands as much as possible.

Diversify blog, IG and exhibition content. 

  • The Museum's collection may not be diverse enough right now, but that doesn't mean I can't write about objects or other pieces of makeup history related to BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities, along with topics centered on ageism within the industry and people with disabilities. There are so many that are either have not been fully explored or not mentioned at all. One stumbling block remains: namely, I'm still not sure they're stories appropriate for a white, able-bodied, cis-het woman to tell.  This is particularly important when discussing makeup used by Indigenous people, as in some cases it has a spiritual or religious purpose rather than beautification or self-expression.  I'm afraid I don't have a solution other than to forge ahead and write about topics that may not be 100% appropriate but that are important. I think as long as I'm treating them in a sensitive manner and open to feedback and constructive criticism, it's better to share these histories even if they're from a non-BIPOC/LGBTQ+ person.  One thing I eventually learned last summer was that being totally silent and not even attempting to diversify content is worse than trying and getting it wrong.  I only hope I don't inflict any harm, but if I do, then I can always remove the post and do better the next time.
  • Search for more BIPOC and LGBTQ+ artists and brands to feature on Instagram and in Color Connections.
  • Exhibitions: How are BIPOC and LGBTQ+ represented in exhibitions?  If they're not adequately represented, why?  The solutions to this would normally be to have an exhibition that thoroughly incorporates diverse objects and voices, or have one focused on BIPOC and LGBTQ+ themes and ensure appropriate curation and oversight, e.g. not hiring someone who doesn't belong to those groups or has little to no knowledge about the topic at hand. This is a hurdle for the Makeup Museum as the founder and sole curator is not from an underrepresented group.  The only thing I can do at the moment is choose exhibition topics in which marginalized people have adequate representation and make sure they see themselves in the exhibitions.  It must be obvious that they're not niche visitors and that they are essential to the story the exhibition is telling. Theoretically I could explore whether anyone would be interested in co-curating or guest curating an exhibition focused on BIPOC or LGBTQ+, but as the Museum is entirely a labor of love and I'm unable to provide compensation, I'm sure as hell not asking someone from a marginalized group to curate or write for free.  That brings me to my next point.

Identify fees for guest writers, curators and consultants and see if they are feasible without drastically cutting the budget for new acquisitions. 

Like most of the initiatives I would love to pursue such as overhauling the website ($10-20k),  purchasing archival storage containers ($1-2k), establishing a nonprofit (about $2-4k), getting a degree in museum or curatorial studies ($50k minimum) and purchasing and maintaining proper collections management software ($2k per year), I fear I would never be able to afford to hire professionals to work on the Museum with me even if I never bought another object, but it can't hurt to at least ask what their fees are.  And who knows, perhaps I could even work out a plan whereby payments are due in installments rather than the full sum up front.

Further develop a community-focused, collaborative mindset.

Since its inception the Museum has operated in a mostly isolated environment. I'm not only a hardcore introvert and lifelong loner, but I always wanted to have my own space, something that I had full control over and without the involvement of anyone else.  And that impulse is still quite strong.  But I've also always wanted to educate, and though I'm not comfortable with it, being a resource means inviting people to help create it: by the public, for the publicCommunity for the Museum largely means either makeup aficionados/professionals or the local geographic area.  I've always asked blog visitors to respond to my posts, and starting with the Stila girls exhibition in 2019, I began asking visitors to submit memories, photos or anything else they'd like to share to be incorporated into the exhibition.  Lately I started investigating how the Museum might be able to collaborate with local museums, schools and historical centers - obviously I've considered pitching a pop-up exhibition at their spaces for over a decade now, but I realized I have to be more mindful of the approach. There's no way an organization is going to agree to host or be involved with an outside museum offering a pop-up exhibition if it has nothing to do with their mission or at least their collections.  The goal, it seems, is to match interests.  For example, the Maryland Center for History and Culture would be more interested in an exhibition on a history of Baltimore beauty parlors than, say, a display of rose-themed makeup, because their mission and collection have nothing to do with botany or natural history but is focused on the state of MD.  I think there are ways in which the Museum can engage with both the makeup and local communities, and become more diverse and inclusive in doing so.

Establish metrics for the Museum's collection and content and share them publicly.

To keep any organization accountable in their diversity and inclusion efforts, it's necessary to track measurable outcomes of said efforts.  Museums and Race's report card gave me the idea to develop one for the Museum based on the steps listed above.  It would be updated annually each January and indicate the progress or maintenance of goals, which are as follows: 

  • Increase the number of posts that focus on or incorporate BIPOC and LGBTQ+ makeup and related topics (for example, the "multicultural" makeup of the '90s).  Originally I wanted to follow U.S. demographics and keep a strict 60/40 split in which 40% of posts would be BIPOC-focused, with 18% Latinx topics/artists/brands, 15% Black, 6% Asian and 1% Indigenous. Alas, after crunching some numbers I realized that it would be impossible unless I both greatly scaled back the number of Asian-focused posts and hired or collaborated with BIPOC/LGBTQ+, and there's no telling if I will be able to achieve the latter.  So for now, I'm going to take stock of what was written in 2020 and plan on more diverse posts in 2021. In terms of Instagram, taking a cue from the 15% pledge, my goal is to ensure at least 15% of IG posts feature Black makeup history, artists, models or Black-owned brands.  I've been doing 11% since June (or 1 out of every 9 posts) and it has proved challenging. It's difficult because I don't want to repeat the same brands, models or artists ad nauseam and also want to provide meaningful and unique content, i.e. I don't want to toss up some ad that people have seen a thousand times before, especially without offering any new insight, just because I need to fill a quota that I set.  Representation is critical, but can easily veer into tokenism. Having said that, I'd still like for 1 post out of every 6 (or 17%) to have Black-focused content and I'm working on how I can do that without blindly regurgitating things that are readily available and well-known. I'm also going to count other topics towards this goal even if they don't show a Black model or brand.  For example, I have a bottle of Revlon's Touch and Glow foundation from the early 1950s in the deepest shade they made up until about 1957.  As you may have guessed, it's medium toned at best.  This is an example of how mainstream brands simply did not care about the needs of BIPOC customers, especially Black ones.  I'm still not sure how to handle other demographics, however; as noted above, Latinx and Indigenous brands, artists and topics are somehow more difficult to find than Black ones.  Nevertheless, Instagram makes it easy to track so I will take stock of 2020's posts and work on at least increasing the number of posts involving these groups.
  • Increase the number of Museum objects from BIPOC-owned brands.  I will keep track of what was acquired each year and work out the proportion of objects that came from BIPOC-owned brands.  Then monitor those numbers each year to ensure they increase.  For example, I purchased 22 makeup ads in 2020 and 6 of them were from Black-owned brands or featured Black models.  So this year, let's say I purchase 22 ads again, 7 or more of them should be from BIPOC-owned brands or feature BIPOC models.  The acquisition of objects from white-owned brands will still soundly outpace BIPOC-owned ones, especially for vintage pieces, but the goal is to increase that number and work towards a bigger percentage of BIPOC-owned objects in the collection.
  • Track the number of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people or organizations I reached out or donated to, along with community organizations.  While nothing may come of these attempts on my part to collaborate with them, I feel it's important to at least get in touch. And there are plenty of BIPOC and LGBTQ individuals and organizations that can use donations.
  • Ensure all exhibitions meaningfully represent BIPOC and LGBTQ+ individuals and brands, and if not, discuss why.

I think this sort of report card is more valuable than some bland diversity statement.  Most of the statements I found lacked substance - they were just a bunch of jargon with no actionable steps outlined.

The Museum's diversity efforts are ongoing, of course. And I plan on tackling the related topics of social change and accessibility as future installments of MM Musings. But this is a beginning of a shift towards meaningful action.  Thoughts?  I'm off to create a report card for 2020 so I will have something to compare 2021 to. 


Makeup Museum ideas for now and the future, 2021 update

It's the time of year where I babble on about things I want to tackle but most likely won't be able to.  I reviewed last year's blog post ideas and out of the 30 topics I only managed to accomplish, let's see, 10.  One-third of what I was aiming for.  Sigh.  As for exhibitions, I only did one and it wasn't all that cerebral. Anyway, no point in ruminating over what I should have done so here's a bit of an update. 

In an effort to sort of narrow down the massive amount of exhibition ideas I have, I came up with a priority list of topics that might be doable in the 1-5 years (if the Museum is still in existence) and a secondary list for, well, I have no idea - eventually. I tweaked some of the descriptions as needed.  Also, please keep in mind these are working titles.  Hopefully I can think of better ones!  Once again the husband came up with handy graphics.

Priority:

    1. "Black and Blue:  A History of Punk Makeup"
    2. "Catch the Light:  Glitter in Cosmetics from Ancient Times Through Today" - Aiming to have this up for holiday 2021, but it's a big one and I will need lots of help that I'm not sure I can get.
    3. "The Life Aquatic:  Mermaid Makeup" - I need to think of a better title soon because I want this to go up in June this year.
    4. "Color History Through Cosmetics: Blue" - I decided to scrap the gold-themed exhibition in exchange for blue. I discovered so many fascinating things about blue makeup while pulling together some trivia on Instagram, there's definitely enough there for an exhibition.
    5. "Ancient Allure: Egypt-Inspired Makeup and Beauty" -  I did some polling on Twitter and Instagram and this one won as the next exhibition, so the tentative date is March 2021.
    6. "Just Desserts:  Sweet Tooth Revisited" - It might be good to revisit this on its 10-year anniversary in 2023.
    7. "Aliengelic:  Pat McGrath Retrospective" - Still a priority, but again, I will need lots of assistance and would strongly prefer having a makeup artist co-curate with me. Alternate title instead of Aliengelic:  "The Mother of Modern Makeup".
    8. "From Male Polish to Guyliner:  A History of Men's Makeup" - I know that a new book on men's makeup will be released in June this year and it would be great to have the author as a co-curator.
    9. "She's All That:  Beauty in the '90s" - Oh, poor little neglected '90s makeup book and exhibition. You know I've been wanting to do a comprehensive exhibition and book since at least 2014, but just never seem to have the time.  I do have the chapter outline but I think I need to make deadlines for each chapter and publish the drafts as blog posts, otherwise it's not getting done.
    10. "Pandemic:  Makeup in the Age of COVID-19" - Depressing but historically significant. I'll need to wait until the pandemic is safely behind us, but I am gathering bits of what will surely become history now.
    11. "Ugly Makeup: A Revolution in Aesthetics" - I am so incredibly inspired by Makeup Brutalism and her other effort Ugly Makeup Revolution, I absolutely need to explore looks that completely shatter our notions of makeup's purpose.  The exhibition would be a deep dive into how makeup is going beyond basic artistry and self-expression.
    12.  "Nothing to Hide:  Makeup as Mask" - This was the other choice I included in the Twitter and Instagram polls. While respondents chose Egyptian-themed makeup over this one, the mask theme in makeup goes back centuries and would certainly make a rich topic, plus I could do a subsection on mask-wearing's effects on makeup in the pandemic.

Makeup Museum exhibition list

Secondary list/things I'm not sure about:

    1. "Queens:  A History of Drag Makeup" - Amazing topic but overwhelming. Need much help!
    2. "From Mods and Hippies to Supervixens and Grrrls:  '60s and '90s Makeup in Dialogue" - In my opinion, cultural developments in both the late '60s and mid-1990s radically changed the beauty industry and gave birth to new ideas about how people view and wear makeup; there are many parallels between the two eras. I feel, however, that I'd need to do the '90s exhibition and book first so this would have to wait.
    3. "Gilded Splendor:  A History of Gold Makeup" - This is nice but the more I thought about it the more I didn't think it would be a priority.
    4. "Design is a Good Idea:  Innovations in Cosmetics Design and Packaging" -  Another that I still like but not so much as to make it immediate.
    5. "The Medium is the Message:  Makeup as Art" - This will trace how makeup is marketed and conceived of as traditional art mediums, i.e painting and sculpture, and also how art history is incorporated into makeup advertising and collections.  Consider it a comprehensive discussion of this post while working in canonical artists whose work has appeared on makeup packaging.  My issue with it is that it's overwhelmingly white.  The artists used in vintage ads such Lancome's are white and even collections today don't collaborate with many BIPOC artists, especially Black ones.
    6. "Wanderlust:  Travel-Inspired Beauty" -  A rich topic and would be timely in light of the pandemic limiting travel for most, but honestly, I'm not that excited about it.
    7. "By Any Other Name:  The Rose in Makeup and Beauty" - I pitched this idea to the FIT Museum as a small add-on to their "Ravishing" exhibition.  They weren't interested and now that the exhibition has passed I'm tabling it for now.

Makeup Museum secondary exhibition list

And now for blog posts!

MM Musings (2):  FINALLY getting up the diversity and inclusion in museums post up this month after a year of working on it, and the other topic to tackle this year will be becoming a nonprofit organization.

Makeup as Muse (3):  I managed to get around to covering Gina Beavers last year, but that was it.  The artists on my list are Sylvie Fleury, Rachel Lachowitz, Asa Jungnelius and Tomomi Nishizawa.

MM Mailbag (2-3):  Once again the MM mailbag overflowed in 2020 and most of the inquiries took a significant amount of time to research and answer.  I'll see what might be feasible. 

Brief histories (4-5): I still want to go ahead with histories of powder applicators, setting sprays and maybe colored mascara, color-changing cosmetics and how makeup language has evolved (for example, why we typically say "blush" now instead of "rouge" for cheek color.) The author of Cosmetics and Skin kindly suggested an article on copycats, i.e. how companies clearly ripped each other off and continue to do so today in terms of packaging, ad campaigns, etc. which is a great topic.  I'm also interested in a history of Day of the Dead makeup.

Trends (1):  Makeup brand merchandise and swag - another I didn't cover in 2020 as planned. I'm also very interested in the video game trend in makeup, but I'm hoping this amazing person writes about it instead!

Topics to revisit (1-2):  faux freckles, non-traditional lipstick shades, and cultural appropriation in cosmetics advertising. I did not update any of these in 2020 so I hope to do at least one of the three this year.  Also, perhaps a deeper dive into surrealism and makeup.

Vintage (6): series of Dorothy Gray ads featuring portraits of well-to-do "society" ladies, '90s prom makeup, and wear-to-work makeup from the 1970s-90s, defunct '90s and early aughts brands (Benetton, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Nina Ricci and Inoui ID to start with), and a slew of other brand histories, especially Black-owned brands like La Jac and Rose Morgan. I'm also itching to write something about Black salespeople and customers in direct sales companies, i.e. Avon, Mary King by Watkins, Fuller, Artistry by Amway, etc. The company I hope to tackle this month if the objects I purchased on Ebay ever arrive will be Holiday Magic...the story is absolutely bonkers. 

Artist collabs (5):  As in 2020 I'm still trying to catch up on some of last year's holiday releases, including Fee Greening for Mikimoto and Cecilia Carlstedt and Morag Myerscough for Bobbi Brown.  There are tons of others from previous years that I'm still thinking about, such as El Seed for MAC, Connor Tingley for NARS, the Shiseido Gallery compacts and lip balms, and a series on the artists whose work appears on Pat McGrath's packaging.

Book reviews (2):  In the interest of saving time and also because my reviews tend to be badly written (even for me), I decided to do regular reviews only for some books and speed reviews of others, combining several books in a single post.  Most of the ones I'm planning on are in the Beauty Library section of the website.

Dream Teams series (1-2):  I did actually start this series last year, albeit without the mockups I had wanted to do.  Stay tuned for more fantasy artist/makeup collabs. I especially want to focus on BIPOC artists and flesh out the idea I had back in 2016 for a Rrose Sélavy-themed collection. 

Color Connections (5+): I returned to Color Connections last year but only once.  They just take so much time. However, I've been toying with the idea of putting them as a dedicated series on Instagram separate from the Museum's regular account.  That way it might make me accountable in terms of working on them more regularly.

Finally, there will be lots of other random things popping up, and I have so many people I want to talk to so I hope to nab some interviews and guest posts. :)

And here we have my book ideas.  They're the same as last year.  The first one is an alternate title for the '90s exhibition.  The second one would basically be the accompanying catalogue for the Makeup as Art exhibition.  I still want to do a coffee table book of pretty makeup, but my concern is that it won't be diverse.

Makeup Museum book ideas

Any of these topics interest you?  Which ones would you like to read about/see first? 


Curator's corner, December 2020

CC logoI was too tired and sad to do a 2020 version of Curator's Picks and Pans, so I'm skipping straight to Curator's Corner for December.

- Mother has become a Dame!  Huge congratulations are in order for Pat McGrath, who became the first makeup artist to receive damehood from the queen. I remember when she got the MBE in late 2013, so I was thrilled to see this. 

- I was also really pleased to see Allure's digital feature on accessible beauty.  Just wish it was in their print version.

- I was not, however, happy to see that the president of Japanese brand DHC is under fire for some racist remarks. The really sad part is that instead of making an attempt at any sort of apology he just shrugged it off, but I guess that's to be expected as he has a history of doing this.

- Interesting piece on beauty and makeup as instruments of political power over at Teen Vogue, the author of which will be releasing a whole book on the subject.  I only hope the fable about Elizabeth Arden handing out lipsticks to suffragettes doesn't make it in there, as no one has been able to produce solid proof.

- Wallpaper had an article about the new marketing and branding for Shiseido.  How nice that the company they hired gets access to their archives for "guidance" and "inspiration" but researchers like me are repeatedly shut out.

- While I'm being a cranky old lady, I must confess that new tech advances like digital makeup printing and Google's virtual makeup try-on service seem rather stupid.  There's also Moi lipstick, which I grudgingly admit sounds somewhat interesting in terms of being able to match basically any color in the world, and I understand the need for reducing makeup packaging waste...but it also reeks of a futuristic dystopia.  

- Sad news from happi.com (the irony): Benefit co-founder Jane Ford passed away. I imagine it was tough to go on without her co-founder and twin sister Jean, who died in January 2019.  Flori Roberts, founder of her eponymous line that catered to Black women as well as Dermablend, also passed away.  More to come on Roberts as I have mixed feelings about her.

- And because I'm lazy and various news outlets have covered them already, I'm linking to some articles on beauty in 2020 and what's in store for 2021. In 2020, the biggest trends I saw were the rise of TikTok, a slew of celebrity lines, an emphasis on skincare, experimental and "ugly" makeup, and video game/makeup and beauty crossovers, whether that meant a collaboration with a video game or beauty brands making an appearance in Animal Crossing and the like. Of course, the impact of Black Lives Matter and other calls for diversity and inclusion in the industry cannot be ignored; however, I refuse to see it as a passing trend that was unique to 2020.  Both companies and consumers need to keep up the momentum.

The random:

- I love grey and yellow together, as evidenced by my wedding colors and some beloved Museum staff members, so I'm very in favor of Pantone's picks for 2021.

- "A virtual experience of high quality is not just second prize to being there in person, it may offer fresh revelations." Great piece on why digital museum exhibitions should become standard accompaniments to real-life ones.

- If Reservation Dogs is half as funny as What We Do in the Shadows, it will be hilarious. 

- Memes were one of the few things that helped keep me somewhat sane in 2020.

Are you looking forward to the new year?  I have to admit I'm not feeling optimistic, not just about the pandemic nightmare but the Museum and my family.  It was more of a slow burn of trauma and grief in 2020 rather than the sudden, unexpected events that took place in 2019...and I'm not sure which was worse. I hope 2021 will be better but based on these past two years the outlook is bleak.  :(