“Changing the standard of beauty, one video at a time,” reads the bio for Jackie Aina’s YouTube page, which has amassed over 3.45 million subscribers since she released her first video a decade ago. Since then, Aina has partnered with brands including Anastasia Beverly Hills and e.l.f. Cosmetics and has effected tangible change in the makeup industry. Case in point: the expansion of Too Faced’s foundation range for its Born This Way collaboration with the YouTuber. Aina has always led the conversation around colorism in her field and beyond and continues to do so with her involvement in the “Pull Up or Shut Up” campaign — a now-viral movement spearheaded by Uoma Beauty CEO Sharon Chuter that urges brands to publicize statistics surrounding the number of Black employees they have.
In our latest Cut Chat, Aina and Cut Instagram editor Nana Agyemang talk about everything from the campaign to the importance of mainstream representation of dark-skinned Black women — “I always just wanted to see more influencers like me become more mainstream” — and how the makeup expert initially began to have an open dialogue surrounding her experiences.
Nana Agyemang: You’ve been an activist in the beauty space for like ten years on YouTube. For those who don’t know who are tuning in from the Cut, can you talk to why you started addressing racism in the beauty space in the beginning? You’ve made videos on this before, and you’ve been attacked constantly, but you kept going. And I want to know — and I want people to know — why you kept speaking on this and why you started speaking about racism in the beauty sphere.
Jackie Aina: To be honest with you, I don’t even see it as like a form of activism, because the conversations I have … I feel like this is stuff that every dark-skinned Black woman has at some point felt or said or verbalized. I just happened to do it on camera. I feel like there’s nothing special or different or particular about what I do. It’s just second nature. It’s like the equivalent of putting on concealer. I can talk about concealer for days. I can talk about how frustrating it is to walk into a counter and the othered for days. That’s just something that I naturally do. So it never felt like I was doing anything different. What I will say is, as with any industry that you’re in, there are levels to it. When I first started my channel, I definitely was not as vocal as I am now, because: 1. I didn’t know how to be; and 2. I didn’t really know where I was even going with this YouTube thing. Was it an actual career? I wasn’t thinking that far ahead. I wasn’t thinking, Oh, this is something that could go somewhere, you know? I mean, I was just literally getting on camera and talking about things that I experienced right then and there at that moment. And so I guess because I was the most consistent with it, maybe that’s why people kind of view me in the way that they do. But I just don’t feel like I’m owed anything for that. I feel like I’m just doing what I do. I’m doing what every dark-skinned Black woman has had to face — it’s just recorded and filmed! But I will say, as years go on, I get more confident. I get more comfortable.
To hear more about how Aina began to increasingly use her voice and influence for advocacy, the significance of hiring more Black women in beauty, and whether she sees herself transitioning into another career path, watch the full video now, both above and on Instagram.