Young and black in Babylondon: part five

I’m not worth it.

Not according to L’Oréal, anyway:

In a landmark case, the Garnier division of the beauty empire, along with a recruitment agency it employed, were fined €30,000 (£20,300) each after they recruited women on the basis of race. [Link: The Guardian]

Non-white women needed not apply:

In July 2000, a fax detailing the profile of hostesses sought by L’Oréal stipulated women should be 18 to 22, size 38-42 (UK size 10-14) and “BBR”, the initials for bleu, blanc, rouge, the colours of the French flag. Prosecutors argued that BBR, a shorthand used by the far right, was also a well-known code among employers to mean “white” French people and not those of north African, African and Asian backgrounds.

I’m not surprised. In every city, in every country in which I have so far lived – including T&T – the prevailing notion of beauty has never applied to my face, my hair or my body.

In London, trendy beauty salons have been advertising all-in-one packages for women about to go on a tropical holiday – £90 for a manicure, pedicure, bikini wax and blowdry.

I am tempted to call one of them and ask whether I could substitute the blowdry for a wash and retwist.

Neomie Lenoir, Marks & Spencer Model‘Acceptable’ Black women – those who appear on television, in fashion magazines or billboards – conform to one of two stereotypes: Beyoncé or Alek Wek.

Honey-blonde flowing tresses and golden-brown skin – closer to mixed race than not – or burnished black, suitably African, necessarily exotic.


These are the images with which society – writ large – is comfortable. These are the faces, the bodies, the hair styles and textures that fit what mainstream media deem to be camera-friendly.

So it go.