A Closer Look At Diversity & Its Implications
There is a common saying - show me your friends and I will show you your character. I believe a much truer statement exists; show me your favourite version of Drake and I will show you your future.
The Drake personas can be placed into three primary categories - Champagne Papi, WYD Text Aubrey and of course the unforgettable 6ix God. Champagne Papi is the Jumpman and Started From the Bottom energy that became the foundation for his current success. The birth of Champagne Papi marks the first days of the beard and fresh line up combo that has become a staple of Drake’s brand. This is the twitter fingers turned trigger fingers that left Meek Mill a meme and established Drake as a legend.
WYD Text Aubrey is much more sullen, it’s the physical manifestation of Marvin’s Room lyrics and summer ‘16. Aubrey is more than a handful of songs - it's a feeling that makes you want to go back in time even if it can only be for a moment. WYD Text Aubrey makes us believe that love exists and things will be okay.
Lastly, and arguably most importantly we have the 6ix God. This persona is what has crafted Toronto to no longer be a city but rather an idea. 30 for 30 Freestyle shouting out Brampton and Know Yourselfs’ reference to York had me claiming cities and roads I never even knew existed. I was complaining about the TTC fares as if I had an hour long commute. The 6ix God created an identity for a city that had, for so long been divided. IYRTITL isn’t just a staple album because each song is amazing (the Drake fans are going to riot but am I a bad person for thinking Scorpion was better?), it transformed a forgotten city into a key player within the rap game.
The question still remains; what do the Drake personas have in connection to beauty and diversity? For me, the Drake personas are the perfect example of how the beauty industry functions. Similarly to the personas of Mr.Graham himself, the beauty industry is market oriented. It holds onto what it feels the people will want the most, bending over backwards to meet those needs. Drake adapts and adopts identities that he feels suit him best in that time frame but is also quick to drop the London accent and “gyalchester” slang from his lyrics when he feels the time is right. The beauty industry has a habit of doing the same. Ideas like diversity, empowerment and solidarity among women are no longer ideologies but rather trends to be exploited and movements to be undermined. In doing so, the industry sets a very dangerous precedent.
As of 2020, inclusion sells. In December of 2018, Victoria Secret marketing executive Ed Razak made comments saying the brand would not hire plus size or trans women to be angels in their annual fashion and entertainment special. The comments received backlash and caused extreme controversy on all sides. The 2018 show was the least viewed version in the brands history and the 2019 show was cancelled due to a lack of interest.
The Drake personas also lead back to a critical figure - businesswoman and beauty mogul Rihanna Fenty. (Drake and Rihanna are going to end up together right? He didn’t spend all that time asking for her name and finding the square root of 69 for nothing?). Drake and his personas have spent the last fifteen years attempting to capture the attention of Rihanna but it seems as though her time has been spent on an industry that requires full attention - constantly shifting, evolving and creating new standards, one can ever be sure what the beauty industry will hold.
Rihanna’s entry into the beauty world revolutionized it and set new standards on organizational diversity. Before the launch of Fenty Beauty and all 40 shades in 2017, popular makeup brands like Mac, L'Oreal and Tarte had no more than 25 shades. Quantity does not equate to quality. In their attempt to play catch up and follow along the trend of a wider shade range, It Cosmetics and L’Oreal both introduced “new foundation shades” The former only had a total of 12 shades in their launch and although the latter had formulated 32 shades, there was only three that catered to the tan/dark shade section. This is where we see the problems with token diversity. Brands formulate shades that have a dash of brown pigment and suddenly crown themselves as market leaders for inclusivity. True diversity goes beyond the number of shades available - it is interwoven into the discussions the brand has, campaigns and the overall vision. It’s bigger than a marketing tool - it is a reminder to millions of girls and boys around the world that beauty takes on no specific shade, shape or size. Since 2017, both brands have issued apologies and widened their shade range to include 44 shades.
The conversation on organizational diversity does not begin or end with Rihanna and Fenty. A study done by Essence magazine in 2018 found that black women spend 80% more on cosmetics than their non-black counterparts. The purchasing power of women of colour is unlimited, but it must be invested in the right things. No woman, regardless of race should ever be told that she cannot be catered to. The purpose of business is to identify and meet consumer needs. A business that fails to meet this objective, is one that will have consumers saying “boy bye” similarly to the doomed love story of Diamond and Carleton from Love is Blind. (If Lauren and Cameron don’t last forever I’m suing. Although, I’m still learning to love Amber, Barnett and her student debt.) On occasion, we see that this conversation can be dominated by people outside of the movement or even become tone deaf when big brands miss the mark. For example, even within the movement for diversity, brands must also tackle issues of colourism and internalized racism. These issues are complex, multi-faceted and go beyond shades of foundation but makeup is an excellent place to begin the conversation.
As consumers, it is crucial that we use our dollars to pick the correct persona. We owe it to the women before us and the women after us to ensure there is always space to have conversations regarding diversity and inclusivity. When we do this, we ensure safe spaces and that established open dialogues aren’t just trends but permanent manifestations of advancement towards equality. I think this form of change is exactly what Drake meant when he said ““where you movin’ on” I said “onto better things.””