2. februar 2019
The Whoman Journal had a chat with beauty influencer and social activist Eloho Ejeme about blackfishing and issues facing women of color in the industry
If you are yet to glance through Eloho Ejeme’s Instagram feed, you have been missing out. The 25 year old Brooklyn based beauty influencer is mixing makeup artistry, humor and social commentary. I caught her through the DMs for a quick talk about how she uses her platform to shed light on issues facing women of color in the beauty industry.
On social media platforms like YouTube and Instagram you might have noticed how beauty trends emerge and disappear as fast as they were created. But one thing has stuck for the past couple of years. It is what could – in the lack of a better description – be referred to as the Kardashian look. Tanned skin, fake lashes, heavy contouring and exaggerated strobing and overlined lips. Accommodated with clothing emphasizing the curves of the female body.
They are bringing life to an old trend of white women playing with ethnic ambiguity whenever it suits their mood
All power to the women and men who want to explore the artistry of makeup, but this trend have let to another discussion on whether or not women like Kim Kardashian are appropriating black culture by sporting African hairstyles, shaping their bodies with plastic surgery and tweaking their tan to match an outfit. This discussion about Kim Kardashian and cultural appropriation is an old song by now. When we are revisiting it again, it is because the actions of super celebrities are shaping the trends of fashion and beauty in the mainstream. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner and Ariana Grande are bringing life to an old trend of white women playing with ethnic ambiguity whenever it suits their mood.
In recent terms this is called #blackfishing; when a white woman poses as a black woman or woman of color by extreme tanning, African hairstyles such as braids and afros, and wearing dark makeup. This could apply to men as well. The name blackfishing is a pun of the word catfishing, which basically means fabricating an identity to deceive people online. Eloho Ejeme is one of the beauty influencers who has been most vocal about this issue.
“The message of this topic is that African and black people have had everything stolen from us. We get ridiculed for the way we look, we learn to love and embrace our looks regardless of society standards and people who have no idea what it’s like can just come along and put it all on for likes and views ? No.”
“Many white women wrote me confessing their obsession with tanning products and darkening their skin and how my influence has opened their eyes. The same thing goes for bleaching companies and the people who buy bleach cream. I just want to spread love and knowledge. Love the skin you’re in. Don’t put people down for being themselves.”
The beauty industry isn’t always beautiful. Ask any influencer of color
And the love gets spread on her Instagram account. Her loyal followers compliment her both on her activism and her artistry. But the good comes with the bad, and especially when the topic of discussion is race and racism the debate gets heated. As in the debate about blackfishing where (mostly white people) compared white women tanning with black women wearing blue contact lenses or blond weaves. According to Eloho it is because she is challenging what is perceived as normal.
“People miss my point because they blanket issues with normalization. “Oh people have been tanning for years” Does that make it OK? Learning about tanning companies and the women who buy these products was something new for me. As a black dark skin woman I’ve never paid attention to tanning advertisements because it’s not a product I need. But my findings were disheartening.”
I want to empower through education
This is part of the reason why Eloho Ejeme wants to use her platform to educate and empower.
“I want to empower through education. I want the girls who get these injections whether it be butt injections, tanning injections or bleaching injections to know how dangerous it is and how loving who you are can avoid life threatening circumstances. I use social media to shine light on issues that impact everyday life and everyday people. My platforms help me to spread my messages. I can’t ignore the fact that there are issues that concern me and shape the way I live in real life. The beauty industry isn’t always beautiful. Ask any influencer of color!”
According to Eloho, when you go to an influencer event as an influencer of color it is not rare to feel excluded because the foundations are only presented in beige colors. And recently Eloho posted a video on her YouTube channel showing how drugstores in her neighborhood do not carry darker shades of makeup even if 35 pct. of the population in this area are African Americans. “When they say they don’t see color. It’s true – I don’t see any color here at all” she says in the video.
She is persistent in her criticism of the power dynamics between races, men and women, and in the industry she is a part of. Even if Eloho is still facing hostile comments on social media, she has come to terms with it: “We all come from different walks of life which make us who we are, we all communicate differently. I don’t expect everyone will agree with me. But I will continue anyway.”