Ebony Kankam London is the Texas mother-to-be who is calling for more diversity training among professional makeup artists after a technician at Ulta Beauty said that her skin tone was “too dark for most colors in the store.”
The encounter happened at an Ulta Beauty store in Holmdel, New Jersey, on December 28, 2019. London lives in Houston but was in New Jersey for the holidays, where her family was throwing her a baby shower. London decided to get her makeup done for the event. But the makeup artist told her that the look she wanted was not possible due to her dark skin. London shared the experience on social media and her story has since gone viral.
London explained in an email to Heavy, “Initially, I was surprised by the amount of attention my experience has received. However, after speaking with so many women across the country I have learned that this is a common issue for many women of color.”
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Ebony London Described the Experience as Upsetting & That the Technician Made Her Feel As If Her ‘Skin Tone Was a Problem’
Ebony Kankam London went to the Ulta Beauty store in Holmdel with a picture of a model. The title below the image read, “8 Eyeshadow Ideas For Black Women.” She asked the makeup artist to replicate the makeup from the picture.
But the final product was far different from the reference picture that London had brought in, and she shared the results on social media. London explained in the caption that the makeup artist told her that “my skin tone was too dark for most colors in the store. So this was the best she could do. She then asked if I had ever gotten my make up done professionally.”
London went on, “I felt like I was in 1990 when makeup was made for one type of skin. In a store full of people who didn’t look like me I felt sad and upset. Like my skin tone was a problem. Thank god for makeup like @fentybeauty and @lancomeofficial for being so progressive. But I honestly think #ultabeauty should give their make up artist some diversity training and teach them how to glamorize all skin types.”
In the comments on Facebook, London further shared that the makeup artist had reacted with indignation when London expressed disappointment with the look. “The lady had the nerve to argue [with] me and say she’s done makeup for 20 years and knows what she’s doing.”
2. A Store Manager Witnessed Ebony London’s Appointment But Did Not Step In
Ebony London later explained in a follow-up Facebook post that Ulta Beauty’s store manager had witnessed her encounter with the makeup artist. But the manager decided against stepping in.
London said the manager called her to apologize and said she hadn’t intervened because she “didn’t want to make a big scene.” The manager offered to do London’s makeup again because she was “comfortable doing black makeup.” London wrote that the manager was “apparently biracial.”
But London declined the offer of a makeover. She told NBC News that the store had also offered her a bag of lotions to try to make up for the disappointing makeup session.
3. Ebony London: ‘This Is Bigger Than Me’
Ebony London explained in an email to Heavy that she hopes that her experience will prompt positive change within Ulta Beauty, and prevent similar situations from happening again.
“For so many, Ulta is their local one-stop-shop for product, tips, and service. I am hoping that Ulta takes the time to train and educate their service line members to better and more efficiently serve women of all ethnic groups, skin tones, and textures. I am in contact with Ulta and hope to have positive news to share soon.”
London also posted on Facebook that when Ulta Beauty offered another makeover, she turned it down because “this is bigger than me.”
4. Ulta Beauty Faced Accusations of Racial Profiling In the Summer of 2019
But the brand has faced scrutiny over its in-store practices. In August of 2019, current and former employees accused Ulta Beauty leaders of encouraging racial profiling of customers. For example, NBC News quoted a former Ulta Beauty employee who claimed that her general manager instructed her to follow black and Hispanic people around the store, and would cut her hours if she refused to do it. The company said in a statement at the time, “These accounts are disappointing and contrary to our training and policies. We stand for equality, inclusivity and acceptance and strive to create a space that is welcoming to all. That is why we have our associates participate in ongoing trainings on diversity and inclusion.”
“A guest recently had a disappointing experience in one of our stores. We recognize that there have been times when individuals have not experienced the inclusive environment we strive for in every Ulta Beauty location, and we take that very seriously. We stand for equality, inclusivity and diversity and when we hear that we are not meeting that expectation, we want to understand what our guest is feeling, and hold ourselves accountable to do better.
We will be taking additional steps toward continuing our depth of training and education of our stylists and make-up artists in our stores to meet all of our guests’ needs and create an inclusive experience for everyone. It is our responsibility to listen, learn from our guests and improve always. We want every individual to see themselves and feel welcome in Ulta Beauty.”
5. Ebony London Is Having a Baby Boy
Ebony Kankam London managed to set aside her feelings about the experience at Ulta Beauty and enjoyed her baby shower. London wrote on Facebook, “Despite all the make up drama, yesterday was a pretty good day. It was a great baby shower!”
She added on Instagram, “My heart is so full. Thank you to everyone who came out and showered baby London with love. It’s not everyday that you’re able to take your baby bump on tour and receive so much support.” She and her husband are about to welcome a baby boy.
As referenced higher in this article, London lives in Houston, Texas. She earned a degree in communications from Howard University in 2011. According to her LinkedIn page, London works as an English teacher.