Beauty with Health

13 Black Beauty Moments From Modern History That Are Simply Iconic

13 Black Beauty Moments From Modern History That Are Simply Iconic

There are a million moments in Black history that have influenced our culture. If we’re talking about Black beauty moments, well, there might just be a million and one. From West Africa in 3500 BC to Hollywood today, the aesthetic of Black women and femmes has been a centuries-long masterclass in innovation and evolution, and the entire world has been studying.

Despite the cacophony of Internet culture critics calling out many of our faves for appropriation, we collectively continue to reference the hair, makeup, and style trends originally worn by Black women and femmes throughout civilization. To be clear, that’s because there is nothing intrinsically wrong with reimagining iconic looks from the past. If everything old becomes new again, it is only natural that hairstyles, lip colors, and everything in between will eventually make their way from the history books back onto our vanities.

But as we look at today’s geometrically-shaped Afros or celebrate another inclusive foundation shade range, it’s important to remember all those who brought us to this point. So, as we lean into nostalgia, making it the guiding light for our beauty choices, this Black History Month we’ve decided to celebrate a few of the major sources of all that light.

Keep scrolling for a journey through some of the more recent Black beauty moments that forever changed us.

Diahann Carroll in Julia 1968

1968: Diahann Carroll stars in Julia on NBC
In an era ripe with racial unrest, the world simply could not fathom a Black woman securing a network television contract as the lead in her own sitcom. Then, the universe gave us Diahann Carroll.
Starring as a widowed mother and nurse, Carroll appeared on television screens for 86 episodes in Julia. It was the first time viewers witnessed a beautiful and poised Black female character in mainstream television.
Her grace was palpable through the screen and her looks were instantly iconic. Whether she wore a pixie cut with baby bangs or an impeccably-situated bouffant, she became #hairgoals.
Her character, Julia, would later be immortalized as a Barbie Doll. By the next century, celebrities of all races would continue to carry on and recreate her iconic looks (knowingly or not).
Diana Ross onstage 1973 at Royal Albert Hall
1973: Diana Ross reigns as the queen of changing hairstyles
Diana Ross has got to be one of the first “hair chameleons” of our time.
Before Kylie Jenner or Doja Cat began sporting technicolor wigs, Ross served up a visual feast of hair options for women to consider. I mean, haven’t we all seriously considered how fun it would be to rock the bright-blue Afro from Mahogany?
“Diana Ross expressed Afrocentric beauty throughout the ‘70s and has embraced full-bodied texture throughout the ’80s to the present day. Seeing her in this light has inspired many [women with textured hair] to celebrate their natural beauty,” hairstylist Araxi Lindsey, who styles Tracee Ellis Ross, tells Allure.
“Working on such a woman like Tracee Ellis Ross makes me feel like I’m reliving my childhood, creating iconic Afro-textured hairstyles today’s generation will find inspiring.”
Vintage fashion fair campaign with Natalie Cole
1973: Black cosmetics brand Fashion Fair Launches
Several years after America adapted to seeing Black women in leading roles on film and television (and as the phrase “Black is beautiful” became popularized through the Civil Rights movement) Ebony and Jet magazines founder John H. Johnson decided it was time to launch a line of makeup products aligned to the cultural shift. He wanted to be the first to offer cosmetics products to Black women who’d been underserved in the beauty market.
The idea came on the heels of the success of the Johnson Afro Sheen product line, which dominated the market of products created specifically for Afro-textured hair. (The line relaunched in 2020 with nine new products.)
In 1973, Fashion Fair was born and would go on to become the most successful Black cosmetics product line in the world, inspiring a movement of future makeup lines and entrepreneurs (hi, Rihanna!) that celebrate darker skin tones.

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