What self love means for women and girls from the BIPOC community

And what The Body Shop is doing about it

When it comes to self-esteem, beauty is serious business

What a society sees as ‘beautiful’ is an idea about what society values.

It is planted in the minds of young girls of color, invading their most private spaces. Growing up, British-Nigerian writer Renni Eddo-Lodge writes:

“Even in my bedroom, I couldn’t escape a sense of otherness. Black and brown models were in magazines, but they were always exoticized and marked out as ‘other’ (the subject of an ‘out of Africa’ themed photo shoot). Or I’d tear out little sachets of foundation given away in teen magazines only to feel downcast – they were far too light, smearing like chalk on my skin. A universality had been assumed, and my skin was not included.”

At The Body Shop we know that to evolve as a brand that empowers women and girls from Black, Indigenous, and POC communities we must understand what it means to feel truly represented.

SELF LOVE WORLD MAP

The first step on this journey is getting to grips with the problem. The Body Shop Global Self-Love Index, a first-of-its kind study surveying 22,000 people from 21 countries, showed us how urgent the self-love crisis truly is. Our study found that 1 in 2 people feel more self-doubt than self-love. It highlighted that 6 in 10 people around the world wish they had more respect for themselves, and 4 in 10 say that they feel useless at times. These feelings are particularly acute for people of color.

This crisis is disproportionately affecting young girls. Nearly half of Gen Z women fall in the lowest 25% of self-love scores, compared with just a third of Millennial or Gen X women. We found that BIPOC women and girls in Gen Z had the lowest self-love scores compared to all other groups. Girls of color need action.

SO, WHAT DO WE DO?

Firstly, we have to get our own house in order. That means ensuring diversity in our casting practices, developing products that work for all skin types and tones. It means we empower every single woman and girl of color in our business to have an input on how we change.

Then, we need to listen, learn and do better. That’s why on International Day of the Girl we’re giving the floor to some of our colleagues. This will be the beginning of an ongoing conversation about what The Body Shop gets right (and wrong) when it comes to improving the lives of women and girls from the BIPOC community.

What is self-love? Find out more here

Sarah Adjepong-Duodu

Sarah Adjepong-Duodu

Global Training Manager for The Body Shop At Home™.

“As a girl I never saw examples of anyone who looked like me on beauty products and adverts…I was made to feel like an alien, like I didn’t exist.”

Sarah has been collaborating with women of color across our brand to create our upcoming range for textured hair.

“From as early as I can remember, I didn't see myself reflected in the world around me. I grew up in Canada and I’m biracial. My mom’s white and my dad’s Ghanaian. I struggled to find beauty within myself because I wasn't society’s norm. As a girl I never saw examples of anyone who looked like me on beauty products and adverts. Some products I was like, ‘Can I even use this?’ Barbies, magazines and beauty products all made me feel like an alien, like I didn't exist.

“My hair was very different from the other girls. When I used to say to my white friends I’m washing my hair as a kid, they’d be like, ‘Ok see you in an hour.’ And I’d be like, ‘Nooo… I‘m washing my hair – this is an all-day thing.’

“I have always been passionate about inclusivity and diversity. I think an inclusive culture goes beyond representation, it means a brand invests time and money into educating teams and the consumers about different cultures. For example, when The Body Shop were developing a new haircare line I had to get involved. So much haircare is developed around Eurocentric hair. I don't shampoo my hair every day and if I did it would probably fall out!

SARAH ADJEPONG-DUODU
SARAH ADJEPONG-DUODU

Haircare isn’t shampoo, condition and treat for everyone.

Sarah Adjepong-Duodu

GLOBAL TRAINING MANAGER

“I’ve been helping to develop the new haircare line for textured hair at The Body Shop and it’s been really great to have the opportunity to speak about so many different haircare routines. Haircare isn’t shampoo, condition and treat for everyone. An understanding and respect for those parts of people’s lives we don't see is where I want to get to.”

KHUZAIMAH MOHAMMED

Khuzaimah Mohammed

Sales Assistant, Bradford store

At The Body Shop, we encourage our staff to live their activist values. She believes she can be an ambassador for girls of color by living hers.

“I am Pakistani and choose to wear a headscarf. And I can tell you – there’s a particular kind of stare you get if you are a woman of color who wears a headscarf. Even though I follow loads of Muslim influencers on Instagram, which is great to see, I think people need to live by what they say on social media because I don’t want to live in a filtered version of reality. When I am out in public, subtle Islamophobia is everywhere. I notice when white people avoid approaching me in stores. It makes me sad to feel out of place in my home town.

“I think representation in beauty is very important. It’s upsetting how many young Pakistani women ask me if we sell whitening products. I don’t want anyone to be ‘fixed.’ I am glad I can be a low-key activist, and point them towards products that will make them feel good about themselves.”

KHUZAIMAH MOHAMMED
KHUZAIMAH MOHAMMED

It’s upsetting how many young women ask me if we sell whitening products. I don’t want anyone to be ‘fixed.’

Khuzaimah Mohammed

SALES ASSISTANT

Celine Phan

Celine Phan

Business Development Coordinator

“I’ve had to constantly adapt my concept of beauty.”

Celine Phan has been kicking off conversations across our diversity networks. She knows how important diverse casting is when you feel you don’t belong anywhere.

“I am French-born Vietnamese. I grew up in a part of central France where there are very few Asian people. I was bullied by the other girls behind my back and called a ‘chink’ to my face. I have been in conflict about my identity all my life.

“I’ve had to constantly adapt my concept of beauty. I didn’t fit the standard of beauty growing up in France which was very Western. It affected my self-esteem. But then I would go to Vietnam and, because I am tall to them, everyone would say, ‘How are you so big?’ People there are very brutally honest and will openly tell you that you need to work out. If I tanned in Vietnam people would try to stop me, then I’d go back to France with a tan and people would tell me I looked so pretty. It’s confusing.

Celine Phan
Celine Phan

I was going between two countries with different standards I couldn't meet.

Celine Phan

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR

“I was going between two countries with different standards I couldn't meet. Beauty is now less important to me than my values. It’s taken a long time for me to find self-love and finally accept who I am. The more I’ve travelled and met different people it’s helped me. I finally realize the benefits of having a multicultural background.

“The Body Shop’s commitment to diverse casting is so important for sending a message to young girls that they belong. I’m glad that Korean skincare is so popular in the West, but now I think the industry needs to step up for the global Asian community. When the #StopAsianHate movement began, it was great to be part of a company that stood with North American Asians by donating $30,000 to charitable funds that seek justice for them. I think The Body Shop could be even more proactive for Asian people all over the world. It will help the next generation struggling to accept themselves.”

MELANIE HIDALGO

Melanie Hidalgo

Human Resources Director, North America Retail

Melanie Hidalgo is using her voice to help diversify our hiring processes and empower women and girls from Black, Indigenous, and POC communities to speak up.

“As a young girl I believed my place in the world was a submissive one. My mother was a single parent and I believed it was a woman’s place to do everything for everyone and not look after her own needs. As I grew up, I learned that fostering self-esteem and the careers of women is a way to lift them up. I help young girls of color find their goals and how they can tie their role with us to future success. Everyone deserves to follow their passion and live a life full of purpose. I want to hear about what drives them. I want everyone who works in store to go to work believing they rock.”

MELANIE HIDALGO
MELANIE HIDALGO

As a young girl I believed my place in the world was a submissive one.

Melanie Hidalgo

HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTOR

SUGANI WIGNARAJAH

SUGANI WIGNARAJAH

Commercial Customer Manager

“I thought, ‘Hang on a minute. I’m buying in foundation for this company and there still isn't a shade I can wear.’”

Sugani is the co-chair of SEEN (Solidarity and Engagement Ethnicity Network) diversity network that forms part of our mission to make all BIPOC women and girls in our business feel, well, seen. She’s also been helping the brand develop our new range of makeup shades for different skin tones.

“As a teenager there were periods where I doubted my beauty. I used to bleach my skin because even in my own Tamil community, fair skin is desirable. Luckily, spending more time with strong, dark skinned Tamil girls taught me what true beauty is.

“I joined this industry in my twenties. I was suddenly like, ‘Wow, I’m the only brown person on the floor.’ I fell into this career by accident but it’s surprising how few people from my background even know it exists.

“When I was a teenager, my mom had to take me to a department store to buy my first foundation because I couldn't buy it on the high street. Recently, I was sitting in a meeting and I was like, ‘Hang on a minute. I’m buying in foundation for this company and there still isn't a shade I can wear.’ I was supported by my team to say something. Since then, I’ve been part of a team swatching and developing a more inclusive range. Soon there will be 40 shades for different skin tones. It’s a step in the right direction.

SUGANI WIGNARAJAH
SUGANI WIGNARAJAH

Self-love starts from within, but without a support system it’s hard to have a voice.

Sugani Wignarajah

COMMERCIAL CUSTOMER MANAGER

“When I have wanted to speak out at work, I had a network of colleagues to back me. I’m not afraid to challenge issues like anti-racism. My journey to self-love is 100% down to the people I have been surrounded by. Self-love starts from within, but without a support system it’s hard to have a voice. I hope The Body Shop’s SEEN network can be that for other people.”

We all belong

Read more about our commitments to diversity here.

Self love