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Mac Cosmetics
MAC Cosmetics

MAC Cosmetics responds to allegations of racism from former staff

Make-up artists have been speaking out about the brand

MAC Cosmetics Belgium has issued a statement addressing accusations of racism within the company from several former employees.

Karla Quiñonez Leon, an Afro-Latina make-up artist, told Dazed Beauty about the racism she endured during her time working at a MAC store in Brussels, Belgium from 2017. “I was so naive to think that I was going to work at a place where equality existed and Black lives really matter,” she said of the experience. “The way they treat Black people at MAC is disgusting.”

After Quiñonez Leon came forward with her story, other make-up artists began sharing their own similar experiences, including one incident when a Black employee was fired because a manager decided the team looked “gangster” with more Black staff.

Since these stories were shared, Instagram users had been calling for the brand to acknowledge them, flooding their solidarity posts with comments. 

MAC Belgium has posted a response to Instagram, apologising and vowing to do better moving forward. “In the last week, we at MAC Belgium have heard and reflected on raw and painful experiences courageously shared with us on social media. We want to thank the individuals who have come forward and let them know how deeply sorry we are for the pain they felt and are still feeling,” the statement reads. 

“We have been listening carefully and listening intently. Our listening is not silence. Listening leads to learning. And everything we have heard and learned has helped to influence how we will take action now and for our collective future.”

Outlining its commitment to action, the brand says it will continue to reinforce its “zero tolerance” policy of discrimination, sharing that employees have multiple channels, including helplines, availble to them to report any concerns. It will also focus on building a stronger internal culture of advocacy and inclusion including training for managers. The brand will be making an effort to continue to raise awareness for the systemic inequality facing the Black community on their head account @maccosmetics.

“This is only the beginning. Some of the actions will be immediate, others will take time, but we will ensure that all are lasting and impactful,” the statement ends. “We pledge to hold ourselves accountable, which builds on our long-standing commitment to inclusion and equality for All Ages, All Races, All Genders.”

MAC’s apology comes just a day after L’Oréal Paris issued its own response addressing criticism for its statement on racism. The brand received widespread backlash when it posted in solidarity with the Black community last week which many felt was hypocritical in light of the company ending its relationship with Munroe Bergdorf over a statement she made denouncing white supremacy and racism. After several big industry figureheads, including Bergdrof herself, spoke out about the brand, L’Oréal Paris has set up a Diversity and Inclusivity Board which Bergdorf will have a role in and donated to LGBTQ+ organisations.

These incidents continue to highlight the discrepancy between what companies are projecting publicly and the reality behind the scenes, as beauty brands and wider corporations grapple with their solidarity responses and promises to do better by their Black staff and patrons.

Quiñonez Leon told Dazed Beauty that she did not feel comfortable voicing her experiences with racism at MAC in part because of the lack of Black people in management positions within the entire Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg) MAC team. It is because of workplace cultures such as this that Uoma founder Sharon Chuter started the #PullUpOrShutUp challenge, a campaign that calls on beauty brands to be transparent on the number of Black people they currently have employed in managerial and executive roles.

As of writing, major beauty companies including Unilever, Shiseido, P&G, and L’Oréal have all released their data, as have independent brands such as Glossier, Huda Beauty, Kylie Cosmetics, and Anastasia Beverly Hills.