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“The Pantene commercial found me,” says musician and model Demi Grace, at an event hosted by Macy’s and ColorComm, a network of women of color who work in communications on April 19. A panel discussion called “Slay Woke,” moderated by author and lifestyle blogger, Ty Alexander of Gorgeous in Grey that included celebrity makeup artist, Stephanie Flor; Founder, Gold Label Cosmetics, Kristen Brown; model and singer/songwriter, and inner beauty and freedom activist, Taren Guy as well as Grace, provided an ideal forum for a discussion about the representation of women in color in the beauty industry. Additionally, the “Slay Woke” panel gave Grace a chance to celebrate her commercial milestone.
Last month, Grace made history by appearing in a Pantene commercial that celebrates a range of feminine black hairdos, including “locs,” the style in which Grace wears her hair. The commercial is for Pantene’s Gold Series line, formulated specifically for natural and relaxed hair and developed by scientists “who all happen to be black women,” according to Cosmopolitan.
In an interview with Teen Vogue, Grace explains that wearing locs opens her up to a variety of unsolicited opinions. “‘People have judged me based on my locs. They think I smoke a lot of weed.'” In the April 19 panel discussion for Color Comm, Grace brought up the notion that for many women of color feeling “free” can be a challenge. After all, diversity of women in beauty campaigns is a hot cultural issue. Grace’s infectious optimism insists that her Pantene commercial (as well as spots appearing as a model for Make Up For Ever and Laura Mercier) proves that the fashion/beauty industry is moving in the right direction when it comes to inclusion of identities. As noted in The Huffington Post, representation of women of color in beauty campaigns is on the rise, but the playing field is hardly level. Yet. After the panel concluded, Grace told me that the natural hair movement on social media was instrumental in Grace landing the Pantene commercial. “It’s not just that the natural hair community has grown, which it has, but it’s more visible, which is key. People take selfies and post them, share them, comment on them—this builds a community,” Grace says.
“They see us! That means so much,” says Grace. Not only does representation of women of color with diverse hairdos in a major commercial campaign add visibility to the beauty of all kinds of women and styles, it shows the purchasing power of these women.
“I was in shock when I saw the commercial the first time. It represented many firsts for me: my first national commercial, the first time a woman with dreadlocks appeared in a major campaign. As a model of Nigerian descent, the commercial was empowering on many levels.”
Grace, who plans to release more music soon, and continue her modeling career wants to spread a message of fearlessness amongst her peers. Her Pantene ad is just one way this pioneer is helping to carve out safe spaces for women to celebrate their identities and self-hood, and take pride in their feminine beauty at the same time.