Rihanna’s Fenty pulls ‘Geisha Chic’ highlighter after social backlash
A cosmetics brand founded by Rihanna says it pulled a planned makeup product after it was criticized as an appropriation of Asian culture.
“Geisha Chic,” a shade of highlighter by the singer and actor’s Fenty Beauty, first appeared on Instagram late last week. Some fashion accounts, including the verified makeup news account TrendMood, shared images of the item. It was advertised as one of Fenty’s new “Killawatt” highlighters, which are shimmery products that can be used to draw attention to certain facial features.
Several Instagram users weren’t happy. The name recalled the Japanese geisha tradition, a group of women that for centuries worked as entertainers and paid companions in the country. Other western brands have been accused of misusing the term and geisha imagery in the past.
“I think it’s really important that you all rethink this name, as there is a long oppressive history of geisha culture,” wrote one user, trppioo, in response to the TrendMood post. The person also tagged Fenty and Rihanna’s official Instagram accounts. “The fetishization of it is something people need to move away from. Please reconsider.”
Others who criticized the shade pointed out that Fenty is usually known in the industry for its inclusiveness. When Rihanna launched the beauty line in 2017, she told the website Refinery29 that she wanted to focus on products that would work for all people.
“I wanted things that I love,” she said. “Then I also wanted things that girls of all skin tones could fall in love with,” Rihanna said. “That was really important for me.”
Fenty confirmed to CNN Business on Wednesday that it pulled the product “until it can be renamed.” The company said it sent a message to Instagram users detailing the change.
“We hear you,” the message read. “We wanted to personally apologize. Thank you so much for educating us.”
The product had not yet hit the market. A representative for TrendMood told CNN Business it first heard about the shade when Fenty Beauty posted about it on Instagram. After TrendMood’s initial post was published, the account posted an update acknowledging that Fenty had decided to remove the shade, adding that it appreciated Fenty’s “responsiveness.”
In its two years of existence, Fenty Beauty has quickly become an important asset for LVMH, the French conglomerate that controls a variety of fashion, beauty and jewelry brands — including Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior — as well as other luxury goods, like Moët & Chandon champagne. CEO Bernard Arnault told investors on an earnings call in January that Fenty reached about 500 million euros ($562 million) in sales last year.
An annual LVMH financial report noted that Fenty is expected to continue its international expansion this year, “particularly in Asia.”