The #PullUpOrShutUp Black Employment Movement is Showing Who’s Behind Your Favorite Beauty Brands

Sharon Chuter, founder and CEO of UOMA Beauty and Founder of “Pull Up or Shut Up”
GETTY IMAGES FOR TEEN VOGUE edited by Coreyiel Ellis

The past few weeks have been tough. I’ve cried over the murders of men and women in my community. I’ve avoided videos of George Floyd on the ground while a racist policeman kneeled on his neck until he was completely unable to take a breath. I’ve mourned George Floyd, , and Ahmaud Arbery and took time to think about how I will personally move forward in this fight for equality and justice. I haven’t been that active on social media, even before the protests began, as that’s what was best for my health. However, since the public’s outrage at the public lynchings that are still happening in our country after hundreds of years, brands have come out of every corner of the world to post their images and messages of solidarity with the black community. While the Black Lives Matter movement can use all of the support that comes, we have to be cautious of the motives of these brands that had never spoken out before, who hardly ever show black representation in their brand campaigns and social media content, and who most likely do not have more than 1 token black employee, if any. 

Beauty brands especially have finally spoken up claiming their allyship to this cause but I’m a little hesitant to believe this having been employed by some of them. If you didn’t know this already, I worked in PR & Influencer Marketing for some of the top beauty and fashion brands in New York and although I learned a lot, what stuck with me the most is how black people are treated in corporate America. It was a whole other ballgame from my time working in retail. Microaggressions ran rampant from the leadership to the associates, so you could understand my skepticism around those claiming to value black lives and rebuking racism. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who noticed the hypocrisy…

On June 3, 2020, Sharon Chuter, Founder of Uoma Beauty, launched the Pull Up for Change movement on Instagram to pull the curtain back on beauty brands and the inequality of ethnicities represented in their corporate offices, including the executive and leadership teams.

The @pullupforchange posted the following:

Dear Brands – Thank you for the public statements of support for the black community. Whereas we understand and appreciate the support, be conscious that to piggy back off a trending hashtag when you have been and continue to be a part of the problem is once again appropriating and exploiting the black community. So we ask all brands who have released a statement of support, to publicly release within the next 72hrs the number of black employees they have in their organisations at corporate level. We also need to know the number of black people you have in leadership roles. You all have statements and policies about being equal opportunity employers, so show us the proof! PULL UP or SHUT UP! #pulluporshutup@pullupforchange

With this challenge, the public would soon get to see what I had known to be true: there are little to no black people employed by these beauty brands who claim to be champions of diversity and inclusion. Two days later, brands started to pull up with the employee breakdowns of their corporate offices. While some were forthcoming, listing out each percentage of ethnicities represented as requested by the call-to-action, some were more ambiguous with their stats. 

I was happy and shocked to find out that some brands employed 9%+ black people, but having been employed at some of these brands, the sad statistics of the other companies weren’t surprising at all.

Ulta beauty pulled all the way up with a healthy percentage of black people on their board and executive teams, although, they still have work to do on their associate team.

While I’ve never used their products, it’s upsetting to see a brand such as Cover FX, which is widely loved by black influencers, admit to employing one black person on their 23 person team.

There are still a lot of brands that haven’t pulled up to the call at all, choosing instead to shut up. A lot of those being brands that I’m a fan of including Chanel Beauty, Dior Makeup, YSL Beauty, Hourglass Cosmetics, and Fresh Beauty.

Biossance, a brand whose products I’m a fan of, also admitted that only 5% of their team are black. This is disappointing to me as a black woman and a fan of their products. They’ve committed to adding black representation to their board and increase representation by 50% on their brand teams in the next 18 months. They’ll be updating their progress via their Instagram account every 6 months. The follow-through is so important and I can’t wait to see the changes made in the coming months.

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We’ve heard the calls from activists for brands like us to #pulluporshutup, and we’re answering that call. Our Biossance community deserves nothing less than transparency. *UPDATE* Additional information for some common questions we’ve been seeing: • To ensure we stay transparent, we will update our progress publicly every 6 months. • All of our internships are paid roles and will continue to be. • For more information on roles that are currently available, you can head to amyris.com/careers. • To clarify further, here is the breakdown for the percentage of our Hispanic, Latinx and Asian team members: Asian – 31% Hispanic and Latinx – 9% Other – 4% We have an inclusive and diverse culture of innovation and are committed to improve ourselves with the increase of Black team members to our family. • In addition to working more closely with HBCUs, we are also committed to working with local colleges and universities such as CSU East Bay, San Jose State, San Francisco State, UCSF and UC Berkeley, just to name a few.

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However, there were a few that pulled up and shut up. Glow Recipe decided to not share a breakdown of its employee numbers but listed out an action plan for the future instead. Fans of the brand were shocked and disappointed as they felt that this was a cop-out and an obvious way of saying they employ little or no black people on their team.

Based on the comments on the @pullupforchange posts, this challenge has been eye-opening to beauty consumers everywhere and it has them reconsidering where their dollars are going. As a beauty blogger, it’s tricky to boycott so many brands because there really are so many that have very few black employees, however, it’s even trickier to knowingly give my money to companies who do not care about me or my community. It’s been my goal to find more black beauty brands to support and there are a lot that have launched in recent years. Although I’ve found some that I’ve become a fan of, there’s still so much I can do to use my platform to promote the brands in my community. I’ve been guilty of not stepping outside of the brands that I’ve used for years or the ones that I’ve read 5 star reviews about on Sephora and in the blogging community. That changes now.

Although this blog is mostly centered around luxury beauty and there honestly aren’t too many black-owned luxury beauty brands out there (hoping this changes soon!), I’ve always said that luxury is more about the quality than the price. I’ll be continuing my mission to test and share as many black-owned beauty brands as I can here on the blog and on Instagram. I’ll be venturing outside of Pat McGrath & Fenty Beauty to find lesser-known brands that offer high-quality skincare and makeup products. This challenge not only lit a fire under the brands in the beauty industry but also the bloggers. Well at least, this blogger. 

While I and many others are hitting pause on those brands with the extremely low black employment rates, the #PullUpOrShutUp challenge doesn’t stop here. According to a comment from Sharon Chuter, there will be bi-annual check-ins with these brands that have laid out their action plans to increase diversity within their companies. Consumers are expecting to see growth in these numbers and @pullupforchange will hold them accountable. I suggest we as consumers, bloggers, and influencers do the same.

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