This Makeup Artist Saw the Cosmetics Industry Failing Women of Color — and Changed It

Jacqueline Laurean Yates
aj crimson, makeup artist
Celebrity makeup artist AJ Crimson is a pioneer in cosmetics for women of color. (Photo: AJ Crimson/Yahoo Beauty)

Yahoo’s Diversity in Beauty Awards (The DIBs) highlights and celebrates personalities, brands, and products that embody inclusiveness and innovation. We enlisted eight experts who have championed diversity in their careers and cover all bases of the beauty industry to vote on the best in makeup, skin care, hair care, and more. Here, we put a spotlight on DIBs judge and makeup artist AJ Crimson.

AJ Crimson is a veteran makeup artist, educator, and cosmetics creator of a high-end makeup line for women of color.

Crimson made his way to New York City more than a decade ago with just $500, a bus ticket, and a dream. He tells Yahoo Beauty, “It was me really taking that bus ride from Detroit to New York, and just taking this leap of faith that everything is going to be alright.”

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Crimson was absolutely right in his thinking, and his move quickly led to work with celebrity clients such as Fergie, Hilary Duff, LeToya Luckett, and Estelle. Early in his career, he also had the pleasure of working alongside makeup legend Pat McGrath during Paris Fashion Week. This further inspired him to keep pushing the envelope, and building his name as a trusted expert and authority in the industry.

Fast forward a few years: Crimson decided to take a backseat from makeup and move towards what would become one of his biggest career achievements yet. “I thought if I’m not going to physically be doing the faces of people every day, I need to give them something that can work to my aesthetic,” says Crimson.

He recalls the many challenges he had while working with Estelle, and how certain makeup shades were not available for deeper skin tones. He pondered the question, “Why don’t black people have an opportunity to go to Barneys or Saks or some other high-end place to get beauty products?” These observations lead to the birth of his namesake cosmetics line, AJ Crimson Beauty. “In developing AJ Crimson [Beauty], it was important that I tell that black girl story in a luxurious way, and give her other options,” he said.

AJ Crimson Beauty is like a breath of fresh air for women of color. For starters, the pro really did his homework when it came to curating foundation shades for fair to deep skin tones. The insanely rich and creamy formula delivers medium-to-full coverage. There’s also the affordable Match Me Perfect Sample Kit ($35), which allows individuals to test 12 shades from his signature line and choose the perfect hues.

In addition to his popular foundation, Crimson has also crafted highly pigmented liquid matte and high-gloss metallic lip colors that are all fun, flattering, and best of all, brown-girl friendly.

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Crimson’s first 500 units sold as fast as Beyoncé concert tickets, and women everywhere grew excited about the makeup professional’s diverse range, which includes something for everyone. The success of AJ Crimson Beauty has led to a flagship store in Hollywood, Calif., and new developments are happening by the minute.

Crimson believes women of color have been underrepresented in the cosmetics industry for far too long, but he has noticed more diversity within the industry over the past few years. And Crimson would like this trend to evolve even further: “I would love to see more black-owned beauty lines that cater to black people, as opposed to beauty lines that have black faces on them as a representation but they’re really not owned by black people at all,” he says.

Whether or not that’s the first thought consumers or companies have, Crimson believes that women of color need products that work for their skin tones and desires. Thankfully, he has given many beauty lovers plenty of hope — one tube of complexion-flattering lipstick and compact of foundation at a time.

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