It took a four years as the beauty editor of Marie Claire South Africa for beauty consultant Mathahle Stofile to make the big leap from working within a beauty institution, to starting the process of building her own. As one of the few black beauty editors in an industry dominated by white stakeholders, she found herself in the unique position of always having to interpret products that weren’t designed with black women in mind, for black readers of the magazine and even some of her friends and family members. Not one to miss a glaring opportunity, she started The Matte Project in 2015 out of necessity – to bridge the gaps between the multi billion dollar beauty industry and the market it wasn’t speaking to – black women, especially in South Africa.
The Matte Project is a catalyst for conversations among Black women about beauty. It’s about understanding beauty from a black perspective, starting with for example, the basics of understanding the biological reasons such as why black people have melanin in our skin or why black hair grows upwards and not down, unlike other races. ‘’While most hair and beauty products can work brilliantly on all types of hair and skin, it is the way products are marketed and communicated to consumers that make black women wonder if certain products will work on their skins’’, says Stofile, who regularly hosts talks, workshops and master classes that speak to this gap, as part of her company’s effort to decode the beauty world for black women.
Her platform, which she refers to as an ‘’intervention’’, is accessible online through her blog and her very active social media presence, most notably her Instagram and Facebook page where she hosts weekly chats dealing directly with fan questions about anything from the merits of using a night cream to making home made exfoliators.
One of the best parts of this free online advice is the many ways she teaches readers how to use often intimidating products like serums, or concealers properly; whether anti-aging creams are necessary for black skin, which is often referred to as ‘’not cracking’’; and basic how to’s regarding complicated make up techniques. In just 2 days, her Facebook page raked in a following of over 2000 people, giving credence to the thirst for this kind of knowledge and platform for consumers whose voices are not usually heard and whose beauty needs are not adequately prioritized by big beauty brands.
One wonders how the industry has been a sleeping beauty when it comes to speaking to black consumers, but fortunately for the big brands and South African consumers alike, though in its infancy, The Matte Project serves to fulfill an important and much needed role in a perpetually lucrative market.
To contact The Matte Project, email email@example.com
This piece first appeared in City Press on Sunday 27 September 2015