Lovette Jallow: The Founder of BLACK VOGUE Discusses Beauty, Race, and her Mission to Overhaul the Beauty Industry
Lovette Jallow is an activist, a beauty blogger and YouTuber, and her skill, motivation, and dedication do not end there. Lovette is stunningly inspirational with her candid and outspoken views on racism and cultural appropriation among other societal inculcated issues, often perceived as too controversial. As the founder of BLACK VOGUE, a forum for black men, women and non-gender binaries, she aims to amplify black voices in the beauty industry. Lovette is a force to be reckoned with. Her passion and fire burn bright with no fizzling out in sight, a fierce mama bear for humanity.
Openletr: Please share a bit about your background with us. What led you to start your channel and how did you get where you are today?
Lovette: I was born in the Gambia to a Fulani tribe with reaches in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Ivory Coast. I grew up amongst independent black women, who were politicians and entrepreneurs before it became a tagline. I moved to Sweden when I was 11, and lived there until I moved to England to attend university and attain my bachelor's degree in Science.
Openletr: Tell us about BLACK VOGUE, and what led you to start such an inspiring platform.
Lovette: I moved back to Sweden in 2013 and founded a forum for black women, men, and non-gender binaries to celebrate beauty regardless of shade and skin tone, but also to organize and make changes in the beauty industry. That led me to write the first European makeup book for darker skin tones, work as a consultant in the beauty industry, as well as run an NGO. Instead of asking for a seat at a table where 90% do not want you, I had to build my own, and allow the voices of marginalized people to be brought to the forefront.
Openletr: What is your favorite part of the online beauty community?
Lovette: I don’t socialize within the beauty community. But within the community I created, I must say, I love how people can and are uplifted even when we disagree on certain points, the way we can discuss everything from winged eyeliner to colorism and everything in between, and how we erase the lines of separation between countries to find a common ground and solidarity.
Openletr: Who do you look to for beauty inspiration — celebrities or people in your own life?
Lovette: I mainly only look to people in my immediate surrounding. I find that they affirm and embody beauty in a way celebrities and models cannot affirm me. I look at people like Kelechi Okafor, Oloni and my immediate family, and I am in awe of not only their external beauty but their strength and pride and unbreakable vigor for life. I look at all black women in my surrounding as beauty inspiration.
Openletr: What are your favorite videos to film and share with your audience?
Lovette: I’m a strange bird in this community. Sometimes I do makeup looks, clothing looks and hair, and sometimes we talk about racism. I like all the videos I do, because they show different aspects of myself and my work. It tells people that we can be so many different things and have so many strengths that are not limited by society's definition of who we are as black women.
Openletr: What are your top three beauty tips or products?
Lovette: My top three beauty products are from the Motherland. Shea butter, coconut oil, and neem oil – they can remedy almost all ails for me, my skin, and hair.
Openletr: How does your daily beauty routine make you feel — confident, relaxed, etc.?
Lovette: My skincare routine can make me feel replenished and moisturized whilst I decolonize my mind. Makeup is just an outlet for creativity for me personally, a moment of meditation, as I apply my makeup and have some me time.
Openletr: If you could change one thing about the beauty community or the beauty industry what would it be?
Lovette: I think the beauty industry needs a complete overhaul. The same structural problems we find in our society, where black voices and people are being excluded, are the same problems we have in the beauty industry, with products and shades for women not being available or created. We want the same options as our non-black counterparts.
Openletr: Have you ever struggled with self-image issues? If so, how do you handle that and what advice would you give someone with similar struggles?
Lovette: There was a period in my life, a long time ago, when society and white being the norm led me to bleach my skin using high grade harmful and toxic products to achieve this sense of near proximity to whiteness… as if that would solve how society treated me as a black woman. Once I stopped many years ago, I took to my YouTube channel to speak on my reasons, my pain and finally my liberation, and finding my safe place in Black womanhood. It is a journey and a story that has led many black women into my path, as my pain is their pain and my liberation became theirs too.
Openletr: What do you think makes beauty such a huge part of people’s lives around the world
Lovette: I don’t think beauty is a huge part in all or even many people’s lives to be truthful. I think the emotion and ritual in those beauty routines is what makes people feel good. Whether they know it or not, the time they spend on those beauty aspects is time dedicated to themselves, and that is what makes it so enriching.
Photo courtesy of Lovette Jallow, Stockholm, Sweden