The new black

The gorgeous black model Liya Kebede, has joined Elizabeth Hurley and Carolyn Murphy on the books of Estée Lauder. As well as appearing on the covers of French and Italian Vogue, Kebede has modelled for Marc Jacobs, Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent.

It can only ever be a good thing when a cosmetics giant such as Estée Lauder signs up a black model, but it does beg the question: isn't it about time? Estée Lauder has been around for more than 50 years, and it has only just got around to signing a black model. Next you'll be telling me most of the other cosmetics companies have yet to sign a black model, or to use one to front a major advertising campaign.

Oh, hang on. Most such companies are still under the misapprehension that black models alienate the white client base, rather than bring a company into the 21st century. Well, it may have taken Estée Lauder a while, but at least it got there in the end.

The interesting thing now will be to see not just how extensively Kebede is used, but whether the company will improve its range to include more products suitable for black skin - frankly, it's not the first line I think of when it comes to make-up. A quick call to Estée Lauder Towers and it sounds promising. First comes the predictable party line - "Estée Lauder foundations offer a broad range of shades, textures and formulas to address the multicultural landscape of skin tones across the globe" - from Anne Carullo, senior vice-president, global product innovation. Then comes the welcome news that the company has spent the past couple of years "rebalancing the entire colour collection, diluting the blueness out of shades and making them less pink. Most recently, Estée Lauder introduced new colours to the So Ingenious range, which features more golden tones with deeper hues in shade levels 3, 4, 5 and 6."

If the signing of Kebede is supposed to make me see Estée Lauder in a new light, it has certainly worked. So that's one down, ooh, at least a hundred to go.

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