The beauty industry may seem like the last place that could ever embrace the message of the female empowerment, but now in 2017, brands are taking the mantra of female strength and diversity to a whole new level. Gone are the airbrushed ads filled with stick-thin models, and here to stay are campaigns that embrace women of all sizes and colors.
To get a better understanding of how beauty brands are taking the female empowerment message into their own hands, we talked to four brand founders and CEOs on what girl power means to them.
1. Jane Iredale, Founder and President of Jane Iredale - The Skin Care Makeup
As the founder of president of her own beauty brand for over 20 years, Jane Iredale has definitely seen a shift in the beauty industry, as she notes that the message now reflects natural confidence, self, expression, female strength, and diversity. She credits the internet in spearheading this change, as consumers are now using social media as a tool to communicate with brands on what beauty means to them.
“When I started my company, impacting women's lives began almost immediately," says Iredale. “In those days, they let us know by phone; now it comes from all directions, including social media, texts, e-mails, and reviews. And it isn't just about the products, it's also hearing from single moms who've been able to keep a family together by selling our line in their workplace. There's nothing like the satisfaction in that."
Giving back is another part of how Iredale's company embraces female empowerment, as she is the largest employer of women in the Great Barrington area, where she works with dozens more through the company's international reach. In addition, her brand partners with Living Beyond Breast Cancer which raised more than $477,000 to help those in need.
But at the end of the day, Iredale says that girl power is all about giving confidence to others, as confidence can help a woman feel like she can conquer anything.
“It's all about confidence," iterates Iredale. “If you can impact that, and we do every time a woman feels better about the way she looks, then the girl power increases."
2. Angelica Fuentes, Entrepreneur, Businesswoman and Founder of A Complete
With the new wave of girl power defying normal beauty conventions, Angelica Fuentes argues that brands are responding to the message by adopting it into their own campaigns. A Complete is no exception, as the brand works with strong, empowering, and inspiring influencers of all ages and backgrounds.
“Our main goal is to show our customers and potential customers that there are no beauty stereotypes, and that gender and age are not something that define you as a woman," says Fuentes. “We believe that all women are marvelous and unique, just for existing, and we want A Complete influencers to reflect that."
In celebrating women, Fuentes' brand has definitely seen a lot of results. A Complete's Mother's Day campaign for example, partnered up with five different influencers of all ages and backgrounds.
“We have seen great results with female-forward marketing campaigns; they have been our greatest growth tool in the past few months," says Fuentes. “Campaigns that encourage women empowerment boost our sales, and considerably grow our social media platforms."
3. Carolyn Aronson, Founder, CEO and Owner of It's a 10 Haircare
Carolyn Aronson Courtesy of Home Business Magazine
Like Jane Iredale, Carolyn Aronson of It's a 10 Haircare credits a new generation of tech-savvy women to growing the message of female empowerment. Through these mediums, women are making their voices heard louder than ever before. Taking the reigns of the industry is another way Aronson sees female empowerment through beauty, as It's a 10 is one of the few woman-owned professional hair-care brands in the world.
“The beauty industry is interestingly mostly run by men, although its products are mainly marketed to women," says Aronson. “I'm all about handing the torch and not only putting women in positions of power, but hopefully inspiring them by example and sharing my path of experience for others to learn from. It's still a man's world, but every step towards women being given opportunities they didn't have before is progress."
Embracing diversity is another way Aronson's brand embraces female empowerment, as the brand caters to all women, regardless of their color or race. The brand's 2017 Super Bowl commercial clearly illustrated this message, as the ad focused on real-life women instead of airbrushed models.
“It's a 10 Haircare made history with our industry-first Super Bowl Commercial, which celebrated diversity," says Aronson. “I could have hired models for this, but instead I hand-picked everyday people I admired, and I shot the commercial in black-and-white, because real beauty doesn't need color. I wanted to show we are all perfectly imperfect in our own ways."
But despite the positive feedback from the recent big game commercial, Aronson assures that uplifting women has been and will continue to be a top priority from the brand.
“I recently bought out my male partner and it was one of the biggest moves I've made as an entrepreneur and brand owner," adds Aronson. “I answer to no board of directors. From the products we develop to the message we share, it is 100 percent done on my own terms, which makes every woman (and every person) feel like a ten."
4. Kay Zanotti, CEO of Arbonne International
Kay Zanotti Courtesy of Arbonne
Encouraging women to become financially independent is a big priority for Kay Zanotti at Arbonne International, as the brand's Independent Consultant sales force is 98 percent female. Zanotti sees this as a great way to empower women, as it gives them an opportunity to have their own business and create their own schedule.
“Our Arbonne Independent Consultants live and breathe the female empowerment message every day through their business of transforming lives with Arbonne's products and opportunity," says Zanotti. “There is no other brand I've ever worked on that inspires positive leadership and provides women, especially, the chance to truly own their lives and decide when they work, where, with whom and how. It's life-changing."
Celebrating Independent Consultants has also been the sole focus of the Arbonne brand's marketing campaigns, as Zanotti sees them as the brand's real influencers and celebrities. In focusing on individual success stories of everyday women, Zanotti sees this as empowering women through beauty.
“This is just one example of the kind of campaigns we do that share the message of female empowerment in a way that celebrates the success of the individual we're spotlighting, and at the same time it promotes the products and opportunity to other women who can relate to the stay-at-home mom or teacher or doctor or even the Amish woman from Ohio who have, each in their own way, started from scratch and built a business and transformed their lives and the lives of people they know," says Zanotti.
Elizabeth Warren majorly called out "arrogant billionaire" Michael Bloomberg for his history of silencing women through NDAs and closed-door settlement negotiations. Sound familiar? Probably because we already have a president like that. At this point, Bloomberg may just spend the remainder of his (hopefully) ill-fated presidential campaign roasting on a spit over a fire sparked by the righteous anger of women. A lesser punishment than he deserves, if you ask me.
At last night's Democratic debate, Michael Bloomberg could barely stammer out an answer to a question on whether or not he would release any of his former accusers from their nondisclosure agreements. His unsatisfactory response was basically a halting list of what he has done for certain nondescript women in his time at City Hall and within his own company.
But that certainly wasn't enough for Elizabeth Warren, nor should it be, who perfectly rephrased his defense as, "I've been nice to some women." Michael Bloomberg is basically that weird, problematic Uncle that claims he can't be racist, "Because I have a Black friend." In a society where power is almost always in the hands of straight, white, cisgendered, men being "nice" to a lucky few is in no way a defense for benefiting from and building upon the systematic silencing of all marginalized communities, let alone women. Stop and frisk, anybody?
Here is a brief clip of the Warren v. Bloomberg exchange, which I highly recommend. It is absolutely (and hilariously) savage.
But let's talk about the deeper issues at hand here (other than Warren being an eloquent badass).
Michael Bloomberg has been sued multiple times, yet each time he was able to snake his way out of the problem with the help of his greatest and only superpower: cold, hard cash. Each time these allegations have come up, in Warren's words, he throws "a chunk of money at the table" and "forces the woman to wear a muzzle for the rest of her life."
As reported by Claire Lampen of The Cut, here are just a few of his prior indiscretions.
- Pregnancy discrimination—Bloomberg reportedly told a former employee of his to "kill it," in reference to her developing fetus.
- Sexual harassment—You could literally write a book on this subject (someone did), but for the sake of brevity...
"I'd like to do that piece of meat" - Michael Bloomberg in reference to various women at his company.
- Undermining #MeToo—Not only did he defend the accused, but he went on the disparage accusers every step of the way.
- Defaming transgender people—Though he claims to support trans rights, he has also been qupted multiple times as referring to trans women as "some guy wearing a dress."
Furthermore, Warren points out the simple fact that if, as Bloomberg claims, these instances were simply big misunderstandings (He was just joking around!) then why go to all the trouble to cover them up? Does Michael Bloomberg think women can't take a joke? Or can we only surmise that the truth of these events are far darker and dirtier than we could even imagine?
Certain commentators have called Elizabeth Warren's debate presence "agressive," especially in regards to this instance but also continually throughout her entire campaign. If asking poignant questions to known abusers who are seeking to further their own political power is considered "aggressive," then I am here for it. Bring on the aggressive women, please and thank you.
Calling a woman aggressive for being confidant and direct is a gendered complaint. You don't see anyone whining that Bernie is "aggressive" when he goes off on a screaming tangent. Also, have you seen our president? He's basically the poster boy for political temper tantrums. But still, it's Warren that is deemed "aggressive," for honing in on the exact issues that need to be considered in this upcoming election.
This type of derisory label is another aspect of how our society silences women—much like Bloomberg and his NDAs. Because "silencing" is more than just putting a "muzzle" on someone. It's refusing to listen to a person's cries for help. It's disregarding what a woman has to say, because she's too "aggressive." It's taking away someone's power by refusing to truly hear their side of the story. Because if you aren't listening, responding, or even just respecting someone's words, they may well have said nothing at all.
"Silence is the ocean of the unsaid, the unspeakable, the repressed, the erased, the unheard." - Renecca Solnit
Nondiscolusure agreements are a legal gag for people who have experienced harassment and abuse at the hands of those above them.
Gretchen Carlson, possibly the most famous person subject to an NDA, is one of these people. Her story is so well-known that it has even been immortalized on film, in 2019's Bombshell. Yet she is still forced to maintain her silence. She cannot tell her side of the story even when Hollywood can. She was cajoled into her current position after facing harassment in her workplace. She didn't have the power then to do more than accept her fate. And now, she doesn't have the power to tell her story.
She was, and still is being, silenced.
After her experiences, Carlson was moved to fight for all women to have the power over their truths. In a recent op-ed for the New York Times she declared: "I want my voice back. I want it back for me, and for all those silenced by forced arbitration and NDAs."
Carlson may still be tied to her NDA, but there are those who go a different route. Celeste Headlee, who wrote an op-ed on SWAAY about her experience, chose to break her nondisclosure agreement. Though doing so undoubtedly opened her up to numerous legal ramifications, she knew that she could no longer "sign away [her] right to justice."
Because that is what an NDA is all about, signing away a person's right to justice. Their story is their justice. Their NDA is a lock and key. Headlee may have broken through that lock, but she must face the consequences.
Neither Carlson nor Headlee are any less brave for how they have handled their journeys. They are both actively working to shift the cultural and political norms that led them here, and their work will, with hope and time, lead to real change. But they are just two drops in an ocean of women who are held hostage by their nondisclosure agreements, by men like Michael Bloomberg, and by a society that would rather silence them than let truth and justice be had.