More Carol’s Daughter news broke early in the day on Monday, October 20th. Beauty conglomerate L’Oreal acquired the Carol’s Daughter brand. Lisa Price, Carol’s Daughter Founder and President made the following video announcement via the Carol’s Daughter Facebook Page:
“I want to thank all of you for the support and the love and for being beside me, and I want you to hold my hand as we walk into this next chapter of the Carol’s Daughter life… It brings me so much pride and joy to be able to join a family like L’Oreal because I know I’ll be with the right shepherd … the company that will help to take what I’ve built and solidify it in its place in history and beauty, and I don’t have to wonder if, 20 years from now, 30 years from now, will there still be a Carol’s Daughter brand. … ”
Price further expands,
“I have worked hard for the past 21 years nurturing my brand and am thrilled that we will have a new home with L’Oréal USA. L’Oréal has a proven track record of helping established companies achieve their full potential while staying true to the core of the brand and they have an understanding of the future of multi-cultural beauty. I could not be more proud to begin this next chapter of the Carol’s Daughter brand with them. I know that my mother (Carol) is smiling as well.”
In a separate statement, L’Oreal USA’s President Frederick Roze sheds some light on what drove the aquisition:
“Carol’s Daughter possesses an expertise in the multicultural consumer segment, a rapidly expanding market that represents an important growth opportunity in the beauty industry. This acquisition will enable L’Oreal USA to build a new dedicated multicultural beauty division as part of our Consumer Products business, and strengthen the company’s position in this dynamic market.”
The L’Oreal website and official press release identifies the Carol’s Daughter brand as an “American multi-cultural beauty brand with a pioneering heritage in the natural beauty movement”. Furthermore, the beauty conglomerate articulates that Carol’s Daughter caters to a “diverse, rapidly growing market and has established a loyal consumer following across the country” while throwing in the facts and figures — Carol’s Daughter brought in $27 million in sales during the last 12 months.
Carol’s Daughter will join 28 other brands under the L’Oreal umbrella, including NYX, Essie, Clarisonic, Garnier, Lancome, Maybelline New York, Softsheen-Carson, Redken, Urban Decay, Georgio Armani Beauty, and others. The closing of the deal is still subject to regulatory approvals, but it’s pretty much a done deal.
Now that we’ve gotten the facts out of the way, let’s have a little candid conversation. Fair warning about the words ahead: they’re 100% honest. I may come across a little harsh to some of you, and for that I apologize in advance. Ultimately, my intent is not to drag Lisa Price or Carol’s Daughter. I just want us to engage ourselves a little more critically in matters pertaining to natural hair. Feel free to disagree with me at any point, as I’m hoping this article will inspire thoughtful (respectful) debate.
Let’s carry on.
The last time we had a chat about Carol’s Daughter, it was back in April about the Chapter 11 Bankruptcy filing of the Carol’s Daughter Stores leg of the brand. It was in that article I shared that Lisa Price no longer owned the brand she created, rather that it was owned by Pegasus Capital Advisors, LP. It’s no secret that the brand sought to “broaden” the scope of who the brand caters to, by introducing a more “polyethnic” marketing campaign — much to the chagrin of long-time Carol’s Daughters supporters. The sale of Carol’s Daughter aligned with this multi-ethnic approach, and what many former supporters have identified as a decline in the quality and ingredients of the products.
Everything in me wants to be happy for Lisa Price — I wish her nothing but success and continued blessings as a pioneer in the natural hair industry. I’m not a hater, nor do I wish ill upon her. Carol’s Daughter is (?) her legacy, and let’s keep it real — when her brand launched in 1993, I was only 8 years old. She’s undoubtedly a natural hair heavyweight who helped pave the way for brands like Camille Rose Naturals, Alikay Naturals, Oyin Handmade, Koils By Nature, TGIN, Soultanicals, Eden BodyWorks and countless others. In that regard, she has my respect. But when I take a step back and look at the latest business moves of Carol’s Daughter with a more critical lens, I see something very problematic.
Off the bat without even thinking too hard, I see dollar signs. Roze’s statement reads like a flashback to Duck Tales, with Scrooge McDuck diving into a vault of golden coins and dollar bills. To put it plainly, L’Oreal wants our money…now. I would have respected Roze a little (a very, very little bit) more had he just come out and said, “We see how lucrative this natural hair thing is, and well, we want in.”
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to benefit financially from a market segment on an upward trajectory. Heck, I’d be lying if I said I never entertained the thought of founding my own line of products. Small business owners don’t just create brands with plans of taking hopes, dreams, and hugs to the bank — they’re in it to make money too. And there is nothing wrong with wanting to financially benefit and leave a footprint in a community that you are an active participant in. But this acquisition in my opinion, is just disingenuous.
After all, L’Oreal has been shading Black women for years. In 2008, L’Oreal came under fire internationally for being accused of (and denying) lightening Beyonce’s skin in print advertisements. The very next year, Garnier (one of the 28 brands under the L’Oreal banner) was forced by French courts to pay out over 60,000 Euros in fines and damages for intentionally creating an all-White sales team to promote the brand throughout Europe. [source]. In 2012, L’Oreal was under the microscope again, for broadcasting what many believed to be a commercial in which Beyonce distances herself from Blackness by identifying as African-American, Native American, and French. [source]
And this latest acquisition is nothing more than a facade for the shading that will continue under the banner of “multiculturalism”. I have absolutely no qualm with celebrating natural hair and beauty with women across the African Diaspora, and women who claim more than one ethnicity (I don’t talk in terms of race, as it is a social construct — but that’s another article for another time). There is beauty in our diversity, and no haphazard marketing campaign can take that away. But the deliberate “lightwashing” of the natural hair community does us a collective disservice. Calling Carol’s Daughter an “American multi-cultural beauty brand” is reminiscent of Raven-Symone foolery nothing short of a slap in the face. After all, American standards of beauty are what ultimately forced the hand of the natural hair counterculture. To allow the brand to fall to the point of being labeled as some bubbling cauldron of ethnically obscure and culturally ambiguous dollar signs and hair milks is an insult to every woman of color who has ever supported Carol’s Daughter.
At the end of the day, I’m sure this is an incredibly lucrative deal for both Price and Carol’s Daughter — but at what cost? I’m talking more than alienating faithful customers (because there will always be new ones to replace ya’ll #keepitreal) or potential changes in formula (pure speculation on my part, but it has happened before). I’m talking about our economic legacy as a natural hair community. Whether Price and the Carol’s Daughter team believes L’Oreal has what it takes to etch the brand in stone for the next 20 or 30 years is not for me to debate or dispel. My concern is this: that the Carol’s Daughter brand (with Lisa Price as the face) is continuing a dangerous trend of Black owned (or in this case, formerly Black owned) businesses aspiring to be bought out by mainstream companies who prior to now, have quite deliberately ignored us. Our communities will never grow to be economically stable or independent if we continue to let our end-game success be defined by mainstream valuation.
I’ll leave you with this quote from Price herself in response to a concerned supporter (who had hoped the news wasn’t true because she feels sadness when Black owned companies are sold to major white corporations), which I found while perusing my Instagram explore feed:
“…Please don’t be sad. It is business. It isn’t about color. Honestly. This is a good and phenomenal thing for me, my brand and my family. I am not going anywhere. I am proud to have been able to grow from $100 at a flea market in Brooklyn, making products in my kitchen to being sought by a French conglomerate. Please know, this is good. I promise you.”
What are your thoughts on the L’Oreal acquisition of Carol’s Daughter? Savvy business move, or another blow to the natural hair community? Please keep all comments respectful.