Another day, another racial controversy. At this point, I feel like brands are using racial insensitivity as a marketing ploy. While H&M is still receiving backlash for putting a little black boy in a “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” T-shirt, another European company is under fire for using culturally insensitive (to put it mildly) language in its marketing of a nail polish.
Wycon Cosmetics, which at first glance of their website appears to be a fun, colorful brand selling makeup, nail polish, and beauty accessories, decided to name the deepest shade in its new line of gel nail polishes “Thick as a Nigga.” Like, they seriously actually did that. Mind you, taking a scroll through their @wycon_cosmetics account, you’ll be pressed to see any representation of people of color (save for a selfie repost of a Wycon customer in a collage image posted on January 5) but of course hip-hop culture is up for grabs when it comes to the naming of product shades for the brand, which also uses names like “Drop it Like It’s Hot” and “Bootylicious.”
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Now, before we go out giving passes because the company is based in Italy, I’d like to point out that 1. there are black people in Italy and 2. this is the Internet, which the global community can access from everywhere. “But we didn’t know!” feels like a lazy excuse. And what makes matters worse is when confronted, the brand seemed to brush it off at first. The exchanges are in Italian, but according to Forbes, the company replied to a comment expressing offense to the shade name with, “They’re made-up names that are a bit crazy.”
Except that they are definitely not made-up names and can we finally as a global society learn to acknowledge immediately when we make a mistake that offends a group of people?
I spoke to Afro-Italian singer, actress, and YouTuber Loretta Grace about the controversy through Twitter DM. “My community was shocked about it,” she told Allure. “But most of the Italian beauty community said that I am exaggerating and that a lot of American rappers and singers like Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé say the N* word on their songs so we cannot complain about it. SMDH.”
This line of defense is often the reply in these situations. Think of it like this: You can call your siblings all kinds of things besides “a child of God,” but imagine if someone outside your circle tried to diss your siblings the way you do? It wouldn’t be the same thing, right? Right.
Eventually though as more people expressed their thoughts via the comments section, the brand finally added a non-apology “apology,” which has been translated into English from Italian through Forbes:
“We’re sorry that this post has triggered these types of reactions: Every color from our Gel On collection is inspired, with a cheerful attitude and a pinch of naiveté, by famous song titles, many of which derive from the landscape of hip-hop. For example ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’ by Snoop Dogg, ‘Bootilicious’ [sic] by Beyoncé, ‘Candy Shop’ by 50 Cent, Lollipop, Lady Marmalade etc… The reference here is ‘Thick Nigga’ (sic) by DBangz. Wycon is the brand for everybody #nobodyexcluded is our motto and we didn’t mean to offend anybody!”
The company has also since removed all of the shade names and replaced them with numbers instead. Sheesh, no one said they couldn’t have cute names at all. But perhaps “Black Hole Sun” or “Paint It, Black” or “Back to Black” could have been more viable, less racist options, no?
Of course, this won’t be the last racially offensive goof a brand will make this year let alone in this lifetime so, as many have suggested time and time again — hire more diverse teams. Especially in this world where we’re easily connected to people from all over the globe.
Just in case you need blatant examples of racism in beauty:
- Here’s How NOT to Apologize After Being Racist on the Internet
- Beauty Blogger Vika Shapel Called “Racist” for “Chocolate Challenge” Makeup Tutorial
- Are We Really Doing This Whole Asian Cultural Appropriation Fashion Trend Again?
In case you need to see blatant examples of why diversity is beautiful: