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I can't breathe makeup nails George Floyd trend

‘I can’t breathe’ beauty looks are the last thing we need right now


TextDominic Cadogan

George Floyd’s last words before he was murdered by Derek Chauvin are not a trend

If George Floyd’s murder by white police officer Derek Chauvin – and the unrest that it has sparked across the world – has taught us anything, it’s that people need to do better

Yesterday Munroe Bergdorf called out L’Oréal Paris for its hypocrisy and similarly many brands are now being called out on their social media posts that claim to support black lives, while taking no direct action. 

In a more unsettling trend that is appearing on TikTok and Instagram, beauty fans are attempting to show their support by creating ‘I can’t breathe looks’, many of which disturbingly feature artists in blackface or covered in fake blood – you can’t make it up. To clarify, Floyd’s last words – and a phrase that exemplifies violence towards black people at the hands of the police – are not a trend and never should be treated like one. 

“White/ Non-Black MUA’s, I promise painting ‘I can’t breathe’ on your lips isn’t revolutionary like I really promise that isn’t what we mean when we say be an ally,” beauty influencer Alissa Ashley posted on Twitter, addressing the trend. “Black peoples trauma/reality isn’t a makeup trend. Like y’all can’t possibly be this dumb,” she added when some of her followers said they couldn’t see the issue.

NikkieTutorials also condemned the trend on her Twitter account, saying: “Logging in and actually seeing people creating ‘I can’t breathe’ makeup looks................... friendly reminder: don’t be that person. It’s disrespectful and low, have some respect, sign petitions and DONATE!”

Like many of the creators of these looks – who have either deleted their posts or become private – nail artist @dre.s.nails found herself being called out on social media after she posted nail designs that featured a black man with his mouth covered by the words: ‘I can’t breathe’. However, rather than reflecting on the backlash, she replied to the controversy by trying to divert attention to another nail artist, and a woman of colour. “@queenofnails didn’t get this treatment from the black community, why am I ?,” she said. 

If you’re an independent beauty creator and not sure how best to support black people during this time, speak out, educate yourself and others, and donate to causes that support Black Lives Matters and other black movements if you’re able to. It’s that simple.

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