Urban Decay’s newest UD Global Citizen on moving beyond buzzwords and revolutionizing beauty standards.
Normani was forced to reckon with universal beauty standards, ones that didn’t often include Black women like her, from a young age. Starting in elementary school, where she was only one of three Black students, she would study the rich, deep tone of her skin and the kinks and thickness of her hair in the mirror. These are the same qualities classmates cruelly mocked and the ones Normani would wish away in front of the mirror, hoping for a transformation that wouldn’t make her feel like the “other.” “I remember asking my mom to straighten my hair because I became very exhausted, having to explain why my hair appeared so different from theirs,” she tells ELLE.com. “I often wondered what life would’ve been like if my skin were lighter.”
Now, instead of following beauty norms, Normani is helping define them.
Normani is joining Urban Decay as the brand’s newest UD Global Citizen. The singer joins Urban Decay’s new class of Global Citizens alongside Riverdale star Camila Mendes and Hong Kong singer G.E.M for the brand’s Pretty Different campaign, which celebrates these women for their individuality and unapologetic nature, and pushing boundaries in their respective fields. Each UD Global Citizen will support the brand’s launches, including the newest iteration of Urban Decay’s Naked series, the Ultraviolet Eyeshadow Palette. Normani has always been hyper-aware of her racial identity. Beyond being one of the only Black students in school where her Blackness was excessively mocked and nitpicked, she later became the only Black woman in pop group Fifth Harmony and had to yet again sit with that feeling of otherness as she was relegated to background vocals and the target of bullies online that dissolved the self-esteem she spent years building.
These days, the familiarity of otherness returns in a different form as the Black community is forced to mourn the untimely deaths of Black men and women each day, and intensify their fight for racial equality as well as diversity and inclusion in various industries—including beauty.
So, when Normani was presented with the opportunity to star in her first-ever beauty campaign, it had to be for a brand whose mission and beliefs were an extension of her own and views diversity as more than just the buzzword du jour. “I had to build a personal relationship [with beauty] and find my own sense of self. I was very fortunate to be raised by strong Black women that reminded me that I was also the standard of beauty,” she adds.
A longtime fan of the brand, Normani says Urban Decay has always “trail-blazed and challenged the industry’s definition of beauty since the beginning, working against the grain by celebrating differences and standing with marginalized groups by showing that makeup should be and can be inclusive for everyone.” Just last year, Urban Decay tapped stars like Lizzo, Ezra Miller, Joey King, Karol G, and CL as ambassadors, a move that celebrated all forms of beauty and furthered the idea that beauty is not monolithic. If Urban Decay does one thing, it’s backing up its mission with action, Normani says. “I am grateful to have partners that support getting louder and bolder to implement real change,” she adds.