feature: black model maryse kyelem’s mere existence on mac cosmetics instagram account draws immediate wave of racism

February 19, 2016

“If I survived middle school in america I can get over this. The bullying and alienation from others solely based on my features and skin color did not stop me from doing what I want,” 19-year-old model Maryse Kyelem. wrote on Instagram after MAC Cosmetics featured her lips in one of their lipsticks at Fashion Week. The picture, which was posted late Wednesday, quickly illicit disrespectful and blatantly racist commentary from hundreds of white people and non-black POC with paper thin lips and Kylie Jenner lip kits. “I read the comments below this picture felt so insecure and a bit embarrassed as I just wrapped up fashion week a time period that is tough on models especially black models as we encounter the harsh reality of the fashion world,” Kyelem continued.

The issue? That a black woman dared to exist in public and that MAC dared to show the diversity that they’ve long since recognized and promoted in their product line. White folx didn’t like this. The mere sight of naturally juicy (black) lips prompted “unfollowed” comments, because how dare MAC show black woman (what?), to more viciously racist “nigger lips” and comparisons to animals. In America, black people are constantly told that we are overreacting, that by mentioning racial differences we’re perpetuating racism, that most white people are “colorblind”, and that racism died out 40 years ago. And yet, the mere sight of a black woman existing and being valued for her beauty draws immediate, violent, racist commentary by the hundreds.

Question: Can black women live? Can we just exist and contribute our gifts to society without being torn down and berated with hatred? MAC has been deleted many comments but has yet to address the issue directly.

By Erin White*, AFROPUNK contributor

Above: Original photo posted on MAC Cosmetics’ Instagram account

(on the left) @meepnsjabahshsbs: “Black women will never be as beautiful as white women. The only argument Blacks have is they have more melanin like that matters Yes white women can get injections and when they do, they are basically flawless. You don’t have anything over them anymore and thats why you get so pissed off, keep lying to yourselves thinking yalls dark asses look better…”

*Erin White is an Atlanta-based writer and AFROPUNK’s editorial and social media assistant. You can follow her on Tumblr or friend her on Facebook. Have a pitch or an inquiry? Shoot her an email at erin@afropunk.com.