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mark j sebastian

Is this Cosmopolitan beauty trend list racist?

Some readers think this list of beauty trends is racist for only recommending styles with white models.


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw


Posted on Apr 2, 2015   Updated on May 29, 2021, 4:16 am CDT

Cosmopolitan is facing an online backlash after publishing a list of beauty tips that appears to favor the makeup choices of white women.

The listicle, “21 Beauty Trends That Need to Die in 2015,” was first published in January, but the most intense criticism began this week.

Cosmo‘s list, which compares hair and makeup trends that “need to die” with fresh styles for the new year, is the kind of simple trend piece that you see in fashion magazines all the time. The problem is that all 21 of the “gorgeous” beauty trends are modeled by white women, while all the women of color on the list were labelled “R.I.P.” Some readers found this offensive, saying that it implied that the white women’s styles were more desirable.

In the larger context of the fashion industry’s many racist faux pas, this Cosmo list isn’t even the worst thing we’ve seen in the past month. It’s definitely not on the same level as blackface photoshoots. But as several people have already pointed out on Twitter, it still shows a certain cluelessness.

While it may have been coincidence that non-white celebrities and models were only chosen for the negative beauty trends, it speaks volumes that the magazine failed to pick up on the subtext before the article was published.

Just two weeks ago, a similar magazine piece went viral after comparing Naya Rivera and Allison Williams, saying that Williams’ skin tone looked better because Rivera was too “bronzed.”

In the case of the Cosmo list, it’s easy to see how this could have happened by mistake. But however you interpret the trend comparisons, the list is still dominated by white faces. In a gallery of 42 images deemed relevant to the fashion zeitgeist, only four styles are modeled by women of color.

At the very least, this shows a lack of interest in representing a more diverse range of women in fashion.

We’ve reached out to the list’s author for comment and will update if she replies.

Photo via Mark J. Sebastian/Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: Apr 2, 2015, 12:00 pm CDT