Greensboro's African American Community Newspaper since 1967

The comeback of an iconic beauty brand


Having the confidence we need as Black women to get out there every day is not easy. Doors are opening, I’m happy about that, but once we get in that door, it’s still not easy. Any little edge I can get, if it’s my Nuditude lipstick, I’m happy to have that edge that makes me feel comfortable to be able to do a presentation that I have to do and to get people to support the two brands and the communities that I represent.”

Desiree Rogers

Trendsetting. Pioneering. Elegant. Iconic. The year was 1973 when Eunice W. Johnson, wife of Ebony Magazine founder John H. Johnson and founder of Ebony’s Fashion Fair show, introduced Fashion Fair Cosmetics to the world. The line was created in direct response to the difficulty Ebony Fashion Fair’s runway models had in sourcing makeup for their different skin tones. Recognizing this gap, Eunice’s makeup line quickly became a symbol of empowerment and representation. However, in 2018, after years of challenges and a period of decline due to an emerging competitive market, Fashion Fair cosmetics filed for bankruptcy.

Three years later, in 2021, Fashion Fair cosmetics was officially brought back to life, marking a return to its roots, and reclaiming its space in an industry it helped revolutionize more than 30 years ago – all with New Orleans native, Desiree Rogers, at the helm as the company’s new CEO and co-owner.

Reviving Fashion Fair Cosmetics under Rogers’ leadership is not just a business venture, but a cultural resurgence - one that she is committed to preserving and evolving.

Since its rebranding, Desiree, and her partner Cheryl Mayberry McKissack, have made it their mission to modernize the historic beauty brand to compete in today’s beauty market. The company hired a Black dermatologist to help create vegan, cruelty-free products and began testing their products on melanated skin. But even with these improvements, some wonder if nostalgia and name recognition is enough for the brand to reclaim its former relevance.

Unlike when Fashion Fair launched in the 1970s, it is reentering a market in what is arguably known as the golden era of Black beauty products. Over the last 10 years, popular Black-led brands including Beauty Bakerie, Fenty Beauty, Mented Cosmetics have emerged, offering as many as 40 foundation shades to its customers. And yet, even with a seemingly oversaturated market, Black women still experience hurdles when finding products that meet their unique needs.

In 2021, 73 percent of Black women reported that Black beauty products were often out of stock, according to McKinsey & Company. And when they were in stock, 44 percent reported they were hard to find. This explains why Black brands make up only 2.5 percent of revenue in the overall beauty market, despite accounting for 11.1 percent of total beauty spending products, and 12.4 percent of the U.S. population.

Fashion Fair’s relaunch can also be seen as a representation of economic empowerment. Black-owned businesses face systemic challenges including limited access to capital, distribution networks and lack of data and research, making it less likely for these businesses to sustain themselves. The return of Fashion Fair signifies the triumph over these obstacles, showcasing the resilience and viability of Black entrepreneurship.

Eunice Johnson sought to redefine beauty standards by creating a cosmetics line that celebrated the unique beauty of Black women. As the industry continues to evolve, Fashion Fair stands as a testament to the transformative power of recognizing and celebrating the beauty in diversity and reshaping societal perceptions of Black beauty.

Marc H. Morial is the president and Chief Executive Officer of the National Urban League, the nation’s largest civil rights organization.