Before Fenty Beauty and The Lip Bar, there was Fashion Fair. And if you grew up obsessed with the contents of your mother’s makeup table, you know all about the pink lipstick tubes and compacts that were proudly displayed on the vanity of virtually every black woman in the 1970s and 80.
Now, just in time for Women’s History Month, a new documentary tells the story of the rise, fall and recent resurgence of the iconic brand. The beauty of darkness was produced by Sephora, which partnered with Epic Digital and Vox Media’s Vox Creative and acquired by HBO Max. The film was directed by Tiffany Johnson (Black Monday, dear white people and Around twenty) and Kiana Moore (VP of Content Production and Head of Epic Digital at Vox Media).
Fashion Fair Cosmetics was first launched in 1973 as a makeup brand for women of color. Publishing director and wife of Johnson Publishing Company CEO John H. Johnson, Eunice Johnson created the brand and made it the first international cosmetics brand for women of color available in high-end department stores like Neiman Marcus .
But more competition in the black-owned beauty space and the death of Eunice Johnson in 2010 contributed to the brand’s decline and eventual demise from the market. The brand was revived in 2021 when former Obama White House Social Secretary Desirée Rogers and her longtime friend and colleague Cheryl Mayberry McKissack won the auction for Fashion Fair. The couple already had experience reviving a beauty brand after buying drugstore brand Black Opal and relaunching it as BLK/OPL.
This time around, Rogers and Mayberry McKissack have teamed up with Sephora as they prepare to relaunch the classic beauty brand. They enlisted well-known dermatologist Dr. Caroline Robinson and celebrity makeup artist Sam Fine to help create a new and improved version of Fashion Fair products for a new generation of makeup enthusiasts. The brand has been relaunched with new packaging and vegan and cruelty-free versions of Fashion Fair’s most popular shades and brands. And instead of being sold in department stores, the new Fashion Fair product line is available on the Fashion show website and at the largest retailer of beauty products Sephora.
Although Rogers and McKissack wanted to give the brand a new and improved look, the pair insisted on keeping some of the things loyal Fashion Fair customers loved, including 10 shades of lipstick from previous collections. “Fashion Fair was at the forefront of making sure beauty was truly something every woman had the opportunity to experience, especially black women and women of color. We want to keep that entrepreneurial spirit , this historic spirit,” said the co-owner Cheryl Mayberry McKissack.
The beauty of darkness also features interviews with well-known beauty editors, models and celebrity makeup artists who talk about Fashion Fair’s impact on the industry and what the brand has meant to them personally. Destiny’s Child alumnus Kelly Rowland also appears in the film.
The beauty of darkness is now available to stream on HBO Max as part of its Black Voices and Women’s History Month lineup.