By Cat Satterwhite
When it comes to beauty standards, Black beauty hasn’t always been at the forefront, and in many ways, it still isn’t. You do have those like Iman, Lizzo, Beverly Johnson, Tyra Banks and many more that have set some precedents, but a lot of work still needs to be done. Of course, most of us learn our beauty standards from our parents and ancestors which we have to be thankful for. But more precedents must be set to collectively make change.
I had the pleasure of chatting with Stephenetta (isis) Harmon of the Sadiaa Black Beauty Guide. Stephenetta is a journalist, Black beauty culturalist, and digital media strategist. Before we dive into the fabulousness of the beauty guide, let’s look into the role of a beauty culturalist if you’re not familiar.
“I’m West African and Liberian. I was born in the states but when you have your parents, you have this sort of dual identity. As Black Americans, we get dressed up to be accepted. We will go to the mall dressed up because you couldn’t go any kind of way. It’s like you wore your Sunday best to the mall to go shop because we wanted to be taken seriously as consumers. Studies show that we will spend more because we don’t want you to think that we are broke. But when we were broke we were doing this. And that’s how we over-index on beauty because we are still trying to be deemed beautiful in a society that tells us we are not and they continue to show us by excluding us,” Stephenetta said.
“I started as an editor. There is one thing to write about the stories and another to start positioning the stories. It’s about culture. It’s about changing the conversation about how we explore our beauty. It’s not only about beauty, makeup or hair, but the thing that makes us feel better about ourselves,” she said.
She references Fenty Beauty by Rihanna as a great example of how you’re talking about it and being about it. Rihanna has put Black beauty front and center from all of our beautiful Black tones to all shapes and sizes. I wanted to know more about how the name Sadiaa was chosen.
“Sadiaa means” fortunate one” I’m a poet as well and I’ve had the name since I was 20 years old. I was at the Amistad ship at some re-creation in L.A. at the Watt’s festival and the name came to me. I carried this name for a long time. I’m like I don’t know what to do with this,” she said.
She calls her mom and asks what her grandmother’s middle name was and her mother told her that her grandmother didn’t have a middle name. But fast forward and she finds out through another relative that she actually does have a middle name that just so happens to be very similar to the name that came to her at the festival, Sadiaa. It was just pronounced differently. How profound that this came into a full circle moment to help launch this beautiful movement. So, let’s dive into more about the guide.
“The Sadiaa Black Beauty Guide, I call it a 360-degree platform because it’s dedicated to amplifying the voice presence of Black beauty brands, entrepreneurs, and aficionados. It is Black beauty culture at its finest to me. I started it honestly in 2017 while I was a beauty editor for another publication. It was a platform for me to tell the stories that I wanted to tell. We’d have all these listicles, like five Black-owned this, five Black-owned that. I’m like, how are we supposed to put all this together? We needed one place to find it. Journalists need one place and so do brands and consumers. I needed this for us, that puts us first. We spend money, we make the trends, and we outspend and over-index in beauty spending. If you count all that stuff we get from China, we’re looking at 500 billion a year annually in beauty, and we’re not centered. We’re only brought in when it’s convenient, even pre-2020, pre-George Floyd,” she said.
The platform started as a directory and now it has a news portal where Stephenetta can talk to Black-owned beauty brands and people who are moving and shaking in the beauty industry as well as having a resource area.
Of course, with so many new Black-owned beauty brands, trends are soaring.
“We want clean beauty and things that aren’t killing us. Most of the products marketed to Black women are the most toxic on the market. We were very much on clean beauty before it was a trend. We are mixing and mashing in our kitchens and that’s what’s hitting the shelves. As far as hair, it’s about self-love. We just came out of a pandemic. We got all the decades being celebrated, the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Everything is about what made us feel good. We are seeing so many decades being celebrated because so many generations are coming together and we’re looking at what our parents did and that’s what made us feel good,” she said.
To add even more beauty to Stephenetta’s movement, she has produced her first-ever Sadiaa Black Beauty Room & Awards. ***Insert applause!
“The Black Beauty Room & Awards is something that I was talking about a few months ago like I wanna do this in 2023 and I wanted to bring this room together. I wanted to bring this room together where we can start celebrating on larger scales, our culture, who we are, and how we experience, feel, live, breathe and see beauty. I was speaking with Leah Frazier who is amazing in PR in DFW, and she said I could connect you with some people that can help you do it. What if we do it next month? The way God works from idea to reality is ridiculous. I wanted to add something else to it, which is the awards. The DFW folks, there are people who I knew of before I got here. I was following their stories, seeing their impact on a national level. It’s the number one for Black buying power, and top for entrepreneurs and women of color. I’m new to the area but I’m here and I want to amplify the people who live here. There are movements and platforms here that we can all sync and synergize on and it doesn’t have to be one here or one there. If we’re all poppin, then we should all be in the room together. We create rooms, we don’t have to wait on someone else to invite us to a room, right? That’s why it’s the Black beauty room. I want us all in the room. We are gonna have seats at our proverbial table and we are gonna make more rooms and have more seats. And my hope is that everyone expands on that,” she said.
As far as the awards, there will be a lot of focus on hair, but also fashion, makeup, wellness, and skincare. The awards take place on Saturday August 27, 2022 at Renaissance Dallas at Plano Legacy West Hotel, 1:00 PM-4:00 PM CST.
This will be a great opportunity to be introduced to new brands.
In the future, Stephenetta sees her guide being a full news platform churning out 10 stories a day, as well as becoming the largest directory in the world.