Actress Thandie Newton and make-up artist Kay Montano met nearly 10 years ago on a shoot for UK Vogue (see ‘Our First Shoot Together’ post here). Since then a strong friendship has grown out of countless professional collaborations in fashion, beauty, red carpet, on stage and screen.
In 2012, ThandieKay.com was born. Both Thandie and Kay were struck by how little real representation women of colour get in media and pop culture, particularly in the beauty industry-being so undiversified and stiff. Having so much to do with these industries and knowing full well how easy it is to feel isolated when there is so little to identify with and so few opportunities to have a voice, they set out to create a community that aims to represent women of colour. Racial and gender equality are so important but it also great to know that our voice is not only the voice of protest.
ThandieKay is about liberation, celebration and the lived social life. Its about having an outlet and sense of sisterhood and security based on shared stories.
I was coming out of a chrysalis when I met Kay – personally and professionally. I’d reached a point where I’d taken command of my life as a successful woman. That’s no easy task in a high profile profession where women are continually objectified, and where women of color struggle to get a foothold in the mainstream.
My epiphany came when I realized that I had been holding myself back – by allowing the mainstream to define and determine who I was. Once out of that pecking order I felt liberated, ecstatic and keen to shift the ground for other people who might feel similarly trapped.
See Thandie’s TedTalk , ‘Embracing Otherness, Embracing Ourselves’ here.
Being a make-up artist from the age of 16 has given me a lot of access to ‘the beautiful people’ and I’ve earned my living collaborating in a rarefied and often bizarre world. This has been a most valuable vantage point for what ‘ beautiful’ does, and doesn’t mean. Beneath the myths I’ve helped create, I’ve learned a lot about gold pots at the end of rainbows because I’ve polished, painted and gilded them. Although successful, it was never a place I felt much belonging, but meeting and getting to know Thandie has coincided with, and cemented a belief that beauty can be more of an inclusive word, bigger and kinder than most media might suggest. I have to say that Thandie’s epiphany is also mine.
Make-up can mask, enhance and disguise. It can accentuate the good or the bad, can be obvious or invisible. It can be used to erase or embrace cultural diversity, perhaps even be a self-affirming ritual of our growing years.