One of my former professors always said journalists have to be curious. Well, I’ve always been curious to know why there’s a lack of Black hands in product photography. I know the answer is racism, peeps — but let’s unpack further, shall we?
As far as representation goes, there’s been a wave of inclusion growing since I actually graduated college. It’s the same wave that probably got my fat, Black, naturally nappy-headed behind over the threshold and into these white-owned media brands in the first place. Since getting into fashion and beauty writing though, I’ve noticed the way brands have received praise for — quite frankly — doing the bare fucking minimum. Don’t worry, I’m one of the dummies who gave them such undeserved praise. The thing is, when there’s such a lack of diversity in, well, everything, the smallest differences mean everything to the outliers of the world.
Diversifying your hand models
The more products I write about, the more I’ve noticed a lack of diverse hand models. Not everyone would take notice to something so small, but when the media folks are out here preaching their version of inclusion, it’s easy to miss.
Pattern Beauty made me realize how major representation in hand modeling was for me. Though the brand is Black-owned, there are a variety of shades of colored hands — even with vitiligo — presented to shoppers in their product shots. I noticed it some more when I bought a three-pack of Touchland hand sanitizer. The hand holding the product in the photo is a Black hand. Even Glossier’s entire Body Hero line has a dark-skinned Black hand modeling the products. Those brands have made colored hands a part of their permanent online platform. It’s the kind of inclusion that goes beyond a short-lived ad campaign or throwing a “token” or two in a fashion show whose clothes I couldn’t even afford any damn how.
Now let’s talk about hand size
Oh yes, there are certainly not enough chubby (and Black ‘cuz I’m still that, too) hand models either. The more I started posting photos of my press-on nails to Instagram, that’s when it hit me. There’s a particular hand aesthetic shown on a lot of nail pages. A lot of them (surprise, surprise) don’t consist of ones that look chubby. Many of them are more spray-tanned and dainty. Some of them even feature more, say, skeletal-looking digits (think Kylie Jenner’s hands). One of the few times I had seen hands like mine in a product shot was via the trans-owned jewelry brand, Automic Gold. Now, where else do you see hands like those in jewelry?
All of this is to say that “inclusion” can become very one-note. So far, it’s as though we fats and POC folks are still very much siloed into select moments of diversity for PWIs to show off. Our visibility on these brands’ mostly thin and mostly Caucasian platforms is a win for them. Not the people who are being used as a diversity trump card. Mhmmmmmm. Take that how you like.
Are there brands you support specifically because they’re more diverse? Who else is inconsistent with their messaging? Spill the tea in the comments, boo!