By Delfine Kernizan
There is a beauty revolution occurring, and its latest battle is skin-deep.
When it comes to representation, the beauty industry as we know it is undergoing a serious overhaul. Diversity and inclusion have become the latest trends in social activism, and makeup, hair care and skin care brands are being forced to create products and marketing material that women (and men) of all colors and backgrounds can relate to.
Imagine walking into your favorite department store, or down your favorite cosmetics aisle, and seeing ads that feature a woman who looks just like you— brown skin, curly hair, full lips. Now take that level of representation even further, and imagine knowing you share a similar cultural background and upbringing as that woman.
Thanks to Ulta Beauty and beauty blogger Jasmine Rose, for many Haitian Americans this is more than just an exercise in imagination. It’s a reality.
“It means a lot to me, because when I was growing up, growing up Haitian in Brooklyn wasn’t the ‘it’ thing,” said Rose. “I got made fun of, and especially the fact that I am a darker-skinned woman. Also, growing up I didn’t really see that much in the media that reflected me and was seen as beautiful, so being seen by a big brand in that way— me and my dark skin, me and my curly hair, me and my broad nose and my wide smile— I didn’t even feel like it was real.”
Rose actually thought the email from Ulta headquarters was a scam, at first. Ulta Beauty, Inc. is the largest beauty retailer in the United States, with a wide range of cosmetics, fragrance, skin care products, hair care products and salon services available across the nation.
After doing her research and confirming the validity of the pitch, Rose accepted the offer and Ulta laid out the proverbial red carpet. She was flown to Los Angeles, provided hair, makeup and wardrobe and given the resources to shoot video and photo campaigns.
“They were very supportive of my cruelty-free stance and made sure that I had available food options and makeup options,” said Rose. “I just hope that if a little girl that looks very similar to me in nature just walks up into an Ulta and sees me smack-dab in the middle as a type of beauty, I hope that I can inspire them to just lift their heads up a little higher and be more proud about the skin they’re in.”
Rose caught the attention of Ulta’s marketing team through her YouTube channel, where she intentionally infuses her culture into her videos.
“Hello everyone! Koman ou ye? Sak ap fet?,” is the traditional greeting for every video on Rose’s YouTube channel. Ulta representatives suggested Rose repeat the same introduction in the promotional videos shot for Instagram ads and available on Ulta’s YouTube channel.
Jasmine Rose was introduced to blogging in 2009, when she first discovered YouTube. She found regular people doing their makeup on camera, and it didn’t take long before she jumped in and filmed a video herself, on her webcam.
Fast forward to 2019, with a focus on vegan and cruelty-free products, Rose has worked with vegan and cruelty-free brands like ELF Cosmetics, Pacifica, Clean Beauty Collective, OZNaturals, Sky Organics and others. She’s even been able to use her social media and content creation skills to win a free wedding. Rose now has over 400 videos uploaded on her YouTube channel and an Instagram following of over 22,000.
“I loved, in terms of makeup, being able to dress up and do my makeup in any which kind of way, kind of like I felt like a chameleon, said Rose. “I could wear these many hats, play these different parts and it was fun for me, it was therapeutic.”
Rose believes she has always been an artistic person, citing photography, film, and now makeup, as her top interests. Despite coming from a traditional Haitian background, taking on a less-traditional career path wasn’t as hard for Rose as one would think.
Rose went into college with hopes of being a lawyer, but after being bored by her political science curriculum, she quickly changed directions. “It didn’t fuel me, so I decided to take a couple of film classes, and I ended up falling in love with it,” she said.
Lucky for Rose, creativity ran in her family.
“One of the reasons why I decided to take film was because I was actually inspired by my dad, because he did photography on the side, just for fun.” Rose recalls memories of her dad capturing special moments for her and her sister throughout their childhood, which fueled her decision to pursue film. “Film is kind of like photography squared, where you have moving images,” she said.
After graduating with a Bachelors of Science in Political Science, and a minor in Film Production, Rose was unsure which career path she wanted to pursue, but knew that law school would not be the next move for her. She quit her job at Target’s Brooklyn Junction location and moved to Haiti, where she taught English at an orphanage for the next year.
“It was a stressful, emotional time for me, but I ended coming out of it alive, by the Grace of God,” Rose said of the move.
Upon her return from Haiti and wanting the freedom of living on her own, Rose worked in various government positions to pay her bills, all the while feeding her love of beauty through her videos.
“I was still doing YouTube on the side! this was something I loved to do. So I did on the side without telling anybody. I started getting recognition from YouTube and was part of the YouTube Next Up class and also part of the NYX Face Awards.”
In March 2016, Rose’s father, a taxi driver for over 35 years, was diagnosed with liver cancer. Knowing her father shared the same creativity that drove Rose, she wondered what he would’ve pursued, had he been given the opportunity.
“I remember asking him when we were at the hospital, if he could be doing anything else what would he do.”
She continued, “That obviously wasn’t a passion for him, and his response right away was music, because he was a musician. He was a creative person in every sense of the word. He like photography, he play guitar, he played piano. He did all these things.”
Three months later, Rose’s father passed away, leaving her with a very important lesson. “I remember thinking, I don’t want to go through life wondering, ‘What If?’… what if I did this. I have to at least try and go for my dreams. I figured since I didn’t have kids or any major responsibilities, why not?”
Following her father’s passing, Rose made the decision to enroll in film school. She was able to secure a part-time job at a film start-up, which afforded her the opportunity to quit her government job and immerse herself in her passion.
Rose knew she was headed in the right direction when the next few offers and decisions happened to take place on important dates in her life.
“I like to follow the signs, she said. “I like to go with my gut and see if the Higher Power is giving me signs.”
She was offered a position at the film start-up on her birthday. Two days later, on Father’s Day, she turned in her two weeks’ notice.
“My dad, he was actually, surprisingly, really supportive of my creative endeavors. My mom wasn’t too too thrilled, only because she wants the best for me and wants me to be financially secure. But you know, it’s what’s in my heart.”
Rose plans to continue working in makeup and skincare, and explore projects in sustainability and environmental industries. She has submitted a short film to the American Black Film Festival and has a few upcoming projects for this year, possibly with her husband.