Beauty in a Box: Detangling the Roots of Canada’s Black Beauty Culture
by Cheryl Thompson (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2019)
With her recent publication Beauty in a Box: Detangling the Roots of Canada’s Black Beauty Culture, Dr. Cheryl Thompson provides an in-depth exploration of the history and evolution of the Canadian beauty industry, in particular focusing on hair products for black consumers, but within this analysis has also brought in relevant and timely discussions concerning: politics of representation, access to markets, and the machinations of capitalism within the beauty industry. She situates her research within cultural studies and her topics include advertising history, media studies, and histories of race and racism. Combining archival and anecdotal research she fills in a “gap in the historical record” to include the histories of pioneering black Canadian beauty entrepreneurs as well as the socio-cultural (and health) experiences of their customers. She also discusses the politics and implementation of marketing campaigns that created and advertised specific paradigms of beauty, with concomitant processes that required product-intensive regimes, and also criticized “natural” modes of personal care and presentation. By focusing on the economic and social practices of black Canadians engaging with the industrialized beauty economy—both local and multinational—Dr. Thompson has also provided valuable information around much larger normative societal practices regarding personal appearance and identity.
Full review from the Fashion Theory journal:
Keywords: politics of black hair; Canadian black entrepreneurship; black feminism; Canadian fashion history; transnational beauty culture
O’Connell, Mark. 2019. “Beauty in a Box: Detangling the Roots of Canada’s Black Beauty Culture: By Cheryl Thompson (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2019).” Fashion Theory: 1-6.