A black woman says Ulta worker told her she was ‘too dark’ for makeup in store

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A black woman said she was told by an employee at an Ulta Beauty store in New Jersey that her “skin was too dark for most colors in the store.”

Ebony Kankam London wrote in Instagram and Facebook posts that that she had the experience on Dec. 28 at an Ulta store in Holmdel, near the Jersey Shore.

London, who lives in Houston, said she was visiting New Jersey to attend her baby shower and went to Ulta to get her makeup done for the occasion.

“I brought in a picture for reference and was told that my skin tone was too dark for most colors in the store,” she said in the posts that featured side-by-side images of her desired look and how she said her makeup was ultimately done by a makeup artist at the store.

“So this was the best she could do,” London wrote.

Afterward, London said, the employee asked her if she had ever gotten her makeup done professionally. London said the experience made her feel like she was in 1990, when makeup “was made for one type of skin.”

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“In a store full of people who didn’t look like me I felt sad and upset,” London said. “Like my skin tone was a problem.”

London told NBC News on Thursday that when she told the makeup artist she was displeased with the results, “she got really upset and said she had done makeup for 20 years and never had anyone be unhappy.”

Ulta said in a statement Thursday that it was in contact with London regarding her experience.

“Guest satisfaction with our services is a top priority,” a company spokeswoman said. “We never want to hear that a guest has had anything less than a great in-store experience. This is our responsibility and we take it seriously.”

Ulta provides “ongoing artistry education, and diversity and inclusion trainings across the organization, which is an important commitment that we recognize requires daily action and accountability,” the spokeswoman said. “We remain committed to provide a welcoming, inclusive environment where our guests can feel their best.”

As of Thursday morning, London’s Facebook post had been shared more than 2,500 times and drew almost 300 comments, the vast majority expressing support.

London said that she was contacted Monday by a manager at the Holmdel store “who is apparently biracial and witnessed the entire situation.” The manager told her she and a corporate manager were in the store at the time of the incident but did not step in because they didn’t want to make a big scene, London said.

The store manager also told her she felt “comfortable doing black makeup” and offered to do her makeup over. London said she declined because she no longer needed her makeup done and was returning to Houston. London said she was also offered a bag of sample lotions as compensation.

“If she felt comfortable doing my skin tone, I’d much rather she have come over,” London said.

The availability of makeup appropriate for black women and of stylists trained in applying it has long been in an issue of concern for some in the beauty industry. Sam Fine, who has been in the industry for decades, told The New York Times in 2018 that makeup lines are offering diverse shades but that more needs to be done.

“It’s not just about putting a black model next to Gigi Hadid,” Fine said. “The stock needs to be there, and not only 40 shades at your Times Square store. The people at the counter need training.”

Last summer, Ulta was accused by some of its current and former employees of encouraging racial profiling at its stores. Ulta responded: “These accounts are disappointing and contrary to our training and policies. We stand for equality, inclusivity and acceptance and strive to create a space that is welcoming to all.”

London said she believes Ulta should issue an apology and educate its staff on different skin tones and textures.

“What I would like to see happen is for there to be more training on working with women of color so that we don’t feel like we don’t belong,” she said. “Especially when we spend so much money in those stores.”





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