It must be hard to be a cosmetics brand in 2017. The market is saturated, Instagram is the new birthplace of trends and make-up palettes are a dime a dozen. Not to mention the fact that, despite being a seemingly obvious and easy thing to remedy, the beauty industry still has a problem with diversity – or lack thereof. Thankfully, it’s an issue starting to be discussed and addressed more readily (about time, too), which is why one product from The Balm Cosmetics feels particularly out of step. Yes, in a weird turn of events, the US-based brand appears to have produced a racist eyeshadow palette. Oh, 2017.
Called “Meet Matt(e) Trimony”, which I think is a pun, though on what it’s hard to tell, the palette features nine different skin tone-like shades, all weirdly personified as “Matt”, with each given a surname that supposedly corresponds with each shade. These surnames include “Lin”, for a pale, yellow-tinged colour, “Lopez”, for a caramel-like shade, “Moscowitz” is given to a darker purple colour and “Ahmed” for the darkest, almost black shade. There’s even a tutorial on theBalm’s website, where a woman handily teaches you how to “take Matt Lopez and put it all throughout [your] crease”.
It’s hard to tell how this made it past the initial ideas stage and actually went into production but, according to The Cut, it’s receiving rave reviews online, despite its dubious approach to branding. Really though, all anyone should be asking is: how on earth did someone manage to make eyeshadow offensive?
This week, it was announced that Rihanna’s own beauty line, Fenty Beauty, would launch a foundation with 40 different shades. Obviously, this is great news but the very fact that it’s news is so depressing. The beauty industry has long had a problem with exclusivity, from the lack of diversity in major global campaigns, many of which only use white models, to the actual products themselves only catering to lighter skin tones. So, while The Balm’s palette could be dismissed as a silly oversight, it’s actually a harmful setback for an industry desperately trying to overcome its racist reputation. With brands like Mac, Bobbi Brown, The Ordinary and Lancome working towards greater representation for all skin colours, The Balm Cosmetics’ Trimony palette feels completely outdated and totally unnecessary.