Yahoo’s Diversity in Beauty Awards (the DIBs) highlights and celebrates personalities, brands, and products that embody inclusiveness and innovation. We enlisted eight experts who have championed diversity in their careers and cover all bases of the beauty industry to vote on the best in makeup, skin care, hair care, and more. Here, we spotlight DIBs judge and YouTuber Jackie Aina.
Jackie Aina is a prime example of creating your own destiny.
The beauty YouTuber, who currently boasts more than 1 million followers on the platform, eagerly excites her audiences with her charisma and love for makeup. That’s allowed her to become a major force in tackling the politics of the beauty industry and tearing down misconceptions about black women.
“Over time, I felt like I was bringing beauty to the forefront in a different way. It’s more for women of color; I wanted to acknowledge and create content for them, and have them see beauty wasn’t just what media shoves down our throats,” Aina tells Yahoo Beauty.
She continues, “I think what differentiated my content was that I made people think about how the media shapes how we as women of color are perceived — instead, I want to show how we can put ourselves at the forefront of beauty. I’m more about the politics of beauty, and a lot of people aren’t comfortable with speaking on that. Nobody was doing it back then,” referring to the launch of her vlog in 2006.
One recent example of Aina’s using YouTube to spark a heated yet much-needed dialogue occurred when designer Marc Jacobs sent white models with faux dreadlocks down the runway for his spring 2017 show. Many debated whether the hairstyle was truly artistic expression or cultural appropriation, but Aina explained clearly and creatively exactly what made Jacobs’s runway look so problematic.
As the child of an American mother and Nigerian father, Aina felt pressured to pursue a career in the sciences — a sentiment many children of immigrant parents can relate to. However, her artistic abilities led Aina to explore other opportunities, even when she found herself in the military.
“When YouTube started happening, it was a creative outlet for me. I was married and quite unhappy; at the same time, I started my artistic passion with fashion. I got into makeup when I was in college. I was obsessed with makeup tutorials, but I wasn’t seeing any women in the space who looked like me,” says Aina. “I was taking tips from Asian and white women and applying them to me. I wasn’t really interested in being a YouTuber, but I figured I could try it. I didn’t realize I was filling a void that so many people needed. I had this fun and creative outlet that was keeping my mind off other things happening in my life.”
Aina utilized whatever resources she could to build her channel, predominantly through trial and error. Now she has become the voice of the marginalized yet remains genuine, as she develops relationships with major brands such as Sigma Beauty and e.l.f cosmetics.
“It all boils down to what’s important for you. I am always going to choose what’s important and authentic to me. I’m just more vocal than other bloggers, but the meat and potatoes is not always politics or current events.”
Through her YouTube channel, Aina not only stands up against racial prejudices in the beauty industry, but she addresses the issue of colorism that leaves many people of color out of the conversation.
“What I want people to see is that it is problematic when we only want black women in spaces when they fit a certain [physical] aesthetic. There are a lot of black bloggers that people don’t even know are black. It’s a color thing. I get it that people want to see others that look like them, but I want to challenge their thinking that you have to be restricted to only people who look like you. I want all people, including dark-skin women and men, to get the same courtesy and opportunities as everyone else,” she says.
Aina notes, “If we have that racial color bias on YouTube, I’m more than willing to bet it applies in the real world. We need to be made aware of that to make a change.”
Those changes, for Aina, expand to issues on gender equality as well. That is why she became a change ambassador in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Action Campaign.
“When I became a U.N. global ambassador, they wanted us to work on global awareness on one of their goals, which was gender equality. It was recognized by the U.N., and we got to talk about the mission, what gender inequality meant to us, and see how people are looking at these things in ways to change it around. It definitely was a high career achievement for me,” she says.
Looking at the current state of the beauty industry, Aina does believe it’s become more diverse. “I feel like we’ve come a long way but we still have a long way to go. I want to see more men and women of color, specifically browner skin, breaking down those feelings and sentiments,” she says. “I’ve always been about the empowerment and betterment of all people of color. I turn down a lot of opportunities because I want someone else to get those opportunities and share that space as well, no matter what race they are. Art is art, I really don’t care who you are. I just feel everyone should be included.”
Read more from Yahoo Style + Beauty:
- Yahoo’s Diversity in Beauty Awards: Celebrating Inclusiveness and Innovation
- This Makeup Artist Saw the Cosmetics Industry Failing Women of Color — and Changed It
- ‘There Is a Difference Between Cultural Exchange and Cultural Appropriation,’ Explains Beauty Expert