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Finally! A Subscription Service For (and By!) Black Women


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Essence, a lifestyle and entertainment publication known for being the preeminent voice of black women for over 40 years, is on the come-up with the launch of a new beauty box subscription service — one that is set to be released this month. The major news is that it will be tailored to and curated by a team of black women. Finally! Cue the gallery of black women everywhere nodding in unanimous approval, exhaling with sighs of relief — this one may be long overdue.

While there's an influx of beauty and fashion subscription services flooding the market, the brand’s aim is to stay clear from the pack — the goal here is to fill a void. "The market is absolutely ready for this, because a box of our scale and reach doesn’t exist," explains Essence Beauty and Style Director Pamela Edwards-Christiani. "There is a lack of products specific to her needs with mainstream boxes. With the Essence BeautyBox, she can get an entire box geared towards what she needs."

This could, in many ways, be the tinge of hope for those of us whose luck runs out even before to stepping into a cosmetic store. With no good options, we end up falling adrift in the aisles, scouring for the perfect shade of foundation, lip shade or bronzer. Here, the concept, "for us by us," is tantamount to saying, "we finally see you."

Image: Essence

For a monthly subscription fee of $15, customers will be introduced to five new products (a range of cosmetic, skincare and fragrance items). With each box, a conscious move will be made to prominently feature at least one independent African-American owned brand. "We plan to shine a light on these brands and hope that it will lead to even more exposure for them in the long run," reveals Edwards-Christiani. "Best of all, most of these brands have already been featured in the magazine, so our audience knows them."

And while the market may be reaching its peak box moment (most recently with Play! By Sephora), the brand is less concerned about competition, focusing as they are on a still-overlooked demographic. "Although the African-American population spends $4 billion annually on hair care and other products, we know that Black women still have beauty needs that are unmet," explains Essence president Michelle Ebanks.

A sneak peak of the inaugural beauty box includes Ginger + Liz Argan Oil Remover Wipes, Eden BodyWorks Coconut Shea Leave In Conditioner, L'Occitane Hand Cream, Fekkai Hair Fragrance Spray, CK Eternity Now Fragrance, and Earth’s Nectar Coconut Curls. Subscribers can flock to the venture’s newly vamped-up site, where they'll soon discover monthly product unveilings, online beauty reviews, and expert tips brought to you by editors of the monthly magazine.

We caught up with Christiani to learn more about the launch — and what to expect from the beauty authority.

With the recent uptick in subscription box services (i.e. Target’s recent launch as well as Sephora's). Why a beauty box specifically for women of color? Why now, and where do you see this fitting into the current market?

Essentially what we found is that African-American women don’t have a mainstream box tailored towards them. Often, when they do subscribe to a mainstream box, nine times out of 10 there’s a product or color that’s not for them, so it becomes a waste of money. That is what makes ours unique from other mainstream boxes.

"Nine times out of 10 there’s a product or color that’s not for [Black women], so it becomes a waste of money"

The Essence BeautyBox is curated by the beauty experts at Essence, specifically for Black women, and will address all the needs of women of color — whether color in makeup or texture in hair. Similar to how the magazine has had a 40-year plus legacy as a trusted beauty authority, the Essence BeautyBox is a trusted solution for the audience in meeting their indicated beauty needs.

What factors will go into deciding which companies to partner with?

The audience we serve deserves the absolute best. Therefore one of our main criteria is that the products are both fabulous and loved by our audience.

Any inaugural launch is pretty big, what should women expect to find in their first box?

We are extremely excited about our inaugural box! We will feature a fresh new fall scent, a tried and true moisturizer, a new conditioning treatment for the hair, an amazing styling aid for hair, and a great brow tool!

Do you foresee any challenges when it comes to reaching your target audience?

I’d say that one challenge for us is that there are so many great things that we want to give to our audience. We can’t wait to get the quantity of things to her fast enough! We want to expand her knowledge of what’s out there, and allow her to be exposed to a breadth of products that she may not have otherwise been privy to. So, we will present special recommendations across the prestige, mass and targeted categories to be featured in each box.

"The audience we serve deserves the absolute best."

A year from now, what do you expect or hope the impact of a venture such as this to have on women of color?

A year from now, we hope that our subscribers will be even more satisfied with the selection that we offer. We also want her to be more knowledgeable on the brands that we expose her to.

What do you feel are some of the major hurdles for women of color when it comes to either defining their own sense of beauty or simply feeling beautiful? Do you feel the beauty box addresses some of those issues?

We found that African-American women generally feel more positive about their beauty versus their general market counterparts. One great thing about Essence's BeautyBox is that it offers product solutions that are inclusive of general market and independent brands, as well as personalized beauty information and inspiration through a passionate online community who knows and trusts Essence. Although we spend an incredible amount on this industry, this market is still underserved in many ways. As we have found previously, marketers are really missing out by not tapping into and acknowledging the African-American beauty enthusiast.