It is a fact that women of color are the most violently targeted people in the world.
Does the #MeToo movement apply to women of color?
So, what about the #MeToo movement and what does it mean to women who have, since the beginning of time, lacked representation, lacked inclusion and had no voice? Women of color, especially black women, have been reporting harassment, rape and more since the beginning of time, and have always been silenced. The message #MeToo sent to a woman of color is, if you are wealthy (influential) and white, people will listen because you matter.
When you are white and aggrieved, people will hear you. They will hear your outcries, they will hear your protest, they will share on their social media platforms by the millions and yes - it will go viral. People will shout it from the tallest mountains and untorn every stone because you are white, and you are important enough. The world has no choice but to pay attention, and now get angry, because you are Gwyneth Paltrow, Susan Fowler, Ashley Judd, McKayla Maroney, Jennifer Lawrence, or Uma Thurman, and how dare these men treat you that way.
When actress Ashley Judd stood up against Harvey Weinstein, the cry of #MeToo caught fire.
Wasn’t it an African-American woman by the name of Tarana Burke, a civil rights activist, who founded the #MeToo movement over a decade ago in 2006? She used it for the same exact reason: to raise awareness of sexual abuse, rape and assault on women. Could Tarana have been louder? Possibly, but non-white women are told to be quiet when we feel wronged.
Women of color, especially black women, have been reporting harassment, rape and more since the beginning of time, and have always been silenced.
When actress Ashley Judd stood up against Harvey Weinstein, the cry of #MeToo caught fire. It was a breaking story and in all the headlines. Not to mention the shock, when we hear that good ole Matt Lauer was fired and must go. What was new about this story this time? Most women I’ve talked to have experienced some level of sexual harassment in the workplace and in society. Time Magazine even went as far as doing a cover called the “Silence Breakers,” naming the #MeToo movement as Person of the Year. So now, in 2017, it’s okay to be a silence breaker and say to the world, that sexual harassment and rape is not okay… what took so long?! It is a fact that movements are highly successful when combined with power and influence, and the world has always told women of color that they have none. What happens to a culture that has been victimized, shut out, shunned, and silenced? They lose their voice, they feel weak, and they fear speaking up when marginalized, discriminated against, and told to be quiet. The mindset is because you don’t look like us, your voice doesn’t matter and how dare you question it. For a fact, non-white women do not have a platform and black voices are discredited.
Being an African-American woman, you are made aware of the challenges and oppositions early. As a child, I traveled four hours a day (two hours each way) for 8 years, just to get a quality education. It was evident to me that education, access, opportunities, support, and resources for African Americans are disparate.
Racism is real, still alive today, and institutionalized, which contributes to why no one was paying attention to a hashtag or a slogan from a young black woman named Tarana from the Bronx. Combine that with the lack of African-American women in decision making roles, power, and access. Awareness and empathy must go hand and hand for change.
Being an African-American woman, you are made aware of the challenges and oppositions early. As a child, I traveled two hours a day (a total of 4 hours daily) - for 8 years- just to get a quality education. It was evident to me that education, access, opportunities, support and resources for African Americans are disparate. Racism is real, still alive today and institutionalized, so, whose paying attention to a hashtag or a slogan from a young black woman named Tarana from the Bronx. Combine that with the lack of African American women in decision making roles, power and access. Awareness and empathy must go hand and hand.
This #MeToo movement is no different than most historical feminist movements, which contain active racism, and have typically ignored the needs of non-white women even though women of color are more likely to be targets of sexual harassment. Let’s change the benchmark and correct actions of wrong, from not just hearing the voices of privileged white women, but to hearing the voices of black women. It is by doing this that we will make a mark and the world will win.
Of course, women of color care about the #MeToo movement (we've always cared) BUT we’ve never been heard. When there is no power and influence behind the message, who’s listening? One thing for sure is that black women have always advocated for human rights, injustice, and social justice – before it was popular to do so. There would be no #MeToo movement without black women. Let’s hope that society be willing to listen the next time non-white women speak up the first time.
In many ways I am a shining example of the American Dream. I was born in Hungary during the Communist era, and my family fled to Israel before coming to the U.S. in pursuit of freedom and safety. When we arrived, I was just a young, shy girl who couldn't speak English. After my childhood in Hungary, New York City was a marvel; I couldn't believe that such a lively, rich place existed. Even a simple thing like going to the market and seeing all the bright, colorful produce and having so many choices was new to me. I'll never take that for granted. I think it's where my love affair with color truly began.
One thing I had was a strong work ethic. I worked hard in school, to learn English, and at jobs including my first job at Dairy Queen -- which I loved! Ice cream is easily my favorite food. From there, I moved into the garment district where my brother-in-law's family had a business. During this time, I was able to see how a business was run and began to hone in on my eye for aesthetics and willingness to work hard at any task I was given.
Eventually, my brother-in-law bought a dental supply company in Los Angeles and asked me to join him. LA, a place with 365-days of sunshine. How could I say no? The company started as Odontorium Products Inc. During the acrylic movement of the 1980s, we realized that nail technicians were buying our product, and that the same components used for dentures were used for artificial nails. We saw a potential opening in the market, and we seized it. OPI began dropping off the "rubber band special" at every salon on Ventura Blvd. in Los Angeles. A jar of powder, liquid and primer – rubber-banded together – became the OPI Traditional Acrylic System and was a huge hit, giving OPI its start in the professional nail industry. It was 1981 when OPI first opened its doors. I couldn't have predicted our success, but I knew that hard work and faith in myself would be key in transforming a new business into a company with global reach.
When we started OPI, what we were doing was something new. Before OPI came on the scene, the generic, utilitarian nail polish names already on the market – like Red No. 4, Pink No. 2 – were completely forgettable. We rebranded the category with catchy names that we knew women could relate to and would remember. The industry was stale and boring, so we made it more fun and sexy. We started creating color collections. I carefully developed 30 groundbreaking colors for the debut collection -- many of which are still beloved bestsellers today, including Malaga Wine, Alpine Snow and Kyoto Pearl.
There is no other nail color brand in the world that touches the totality of industries the way OPI does.
With deep roots in Tinseltown, we eventually started collaborating with Hollywood. Our decision to collaborate with the entertainment industry also propelled OPI forward in another way, ultimately leading us to finding a way to connect with women beyond the world of beauty, relating our products to the beverages they drink, the cars they drive, the movies they watch, the clothes they wear – even the shade they use to paint their living room walls! There is no other nail color brand in the world that touches the totality of industries the way OPI does. It also propelled my growth as a businessperson forward. I found myself sitting in meetings with executives from some of the top companies in the world. I didn't have a fancy presentation. I didn't have a Harvard business degree. I realized that what I had was passion. I had a passion for what we were doing, and I had my own unique story that no one else could replicate.
Discipline, hard work, and passion gave me the confidence to grow from that shy immigrant girl to become the person that I am today
Bit by bit, I grew up with the business. Discipline, hard work, and passion gave me the confidence to grow from that shy immigrant girl to become the person that I am today -- an author, public speaker, and co-founder of OPI, the world's #1 professional nail brand.
I learned quickly that one can be an expert at many things, but not everything. Running a business is very hard work. Luckily, I had someone I could collaborate with who brought something new to the table and complemented my talents, my brother-in-law George Schaeffer. My business "superpower," or the ability to make decisions quickly and confidently, kept me ahead of trends and competition.
Another key to my success in building this brand and in growing in business was being authentic. Authenticity is so important to brands and maybe even more so now in the time of social media when you can speak directly to your consumers. I realized even then that I could only be me. I was a woman who knew what I wanted. I looked at my mother and daughter and wanted to create products that would excite and empower them.
There's often an expectation placed on women in charge that they need to be cutthroat to be competitive, but that's not true. Rather than focusing on my gender or any implied limitations I might bring to the job as a female and a mother, I always focused instead on my vision. I deliberately fostered an environment at OPI filled with warmth. After all, at the end of the day, your organization is only as good as its people. I've always found that being nice, being humble, and listening to others has served me well. Instead of pushing others down to get to the top, inspire them and bring them along on the journey.
You can read more about my personal and professional journey in my new memoir out now, I'm Not Really a Waitress: How One Woman Took Over the Beauty Industry One Color at a Time.