exclusive: beauty blogger responds to being cut from l’oreal shoot for having acne
As a highly visible figure on Instagram, 21-year-old beauty blogger Kadeeja Khan is used to receiving negative comments about her skin. Being shamed by a global beauty company is an entirely different ball game.
Image via Instagram
Last week, 21-year-old beauty blogger Kadeeja Khan was unceremoniously cut from a L’Oreal shoot, after being told the cosmetics brand “can't be involved with people with skin issues”. L’Oreal then apologised and blamed it on a simple misunderstanding with a casting agency. Naturally, it led to widespread outrage; news pieces were written, and comments came flooding in. At first the whole experience left Kadeeja humiliated and totally demoralised. But now she feels emboldened. “I woke up the next day and was like, “You know what? You’re not going to let this break you, you’re going to carry on doing what you do and move on from it.” Overwhelmed by all the support she’s received, here Kadeeja shares a message for anyone who has ever been made to feel less than perfect.
“I’ve had bad skin since the age of 12. I tried to cover it up with foundation, but I was bullied a lot for it at school. I couldn’t put make-up on to save my life, I would have it in my eyebrows, everywhere. You could tell I was wearing it; I hadn’t blended it in properly. It's really embarrassing but I was that desperate. I didn’t care.
I started blogging about beauty online when I was 19, posting pictures of myself wearing different looks and giving tutorials explaining how to recreate them. When I first started I would full-on Photoshop my photos. I had so much make-up on you couldn’t even tell it was me. It wasn’t me.
You know when you look at perfect people on the internet, and you’re like, “Oh my god” and you see all the things that are wrong with yourself? Well I was just tired of pretending to be this perfect person that I wasn’t. When I turned 21 I finally got the courage to ditch the Photoshop and began showing people what I really looked like without make-up.
The reaction was mixed; a lot of people were really supportive. But there were also a lot of negative comments. People were like, “How can you show your face?” and “How can you be a beauty blogger when you have acne -- that’s not beautiful!” I just couldn’t take it, so I started editing my pictures again. It was the first time I’d ever been attacked like that. But then others would comment saying, “Why are you editing again? You really inspired me, I finally felt happy and confident.” So I then I just went out there and showed my skin again.
Now when I wear make-up I do it because I want to, not because I feel I have to. It’s so refreshing to be able to go outside without wearing any make-up and feel fine. It sounds embarrassing now, but before I couldn’t go down the street without eyeshadow on.
It’s taken a while, but I finally feel beautiful, especially when I’m not wearing make-up and I can see my skin for what it is. I feel great, because at the end of the day make-up is something you take off. The main thing is to just be yourself.
I feel like I have a responsibility now. A lot of people do genuinely really look up to me. They look for guidance. Everyone is naturally beautiful; they just need to embrace that.
It's funny, looking back to when I was at school, I used to cut class all the time because I couldn’t take what people were saying to me about my skin, but if I could be the voice that I am now to the 14-year-old me, it would have helped me so much. So when I get people DM’ing me about how they’re being bullied because of their bad skin, I always reply to them telling them to just be themselves. I give them the positive feedback that I wish someone gave me growing up. I’m so happy that I can do that for other people now.
I think the beauty industry has a lot to answer for. If you look at any advert or billboard, they are only ever showing models with clear skin. No one is showing what’s underneath the make-up or behind the Photoshopping. It’s not real. Not all women have perfect skin; it’s hard for us, as we can’t relate to the women in those photos. It would be a lot easier if brands were more open to representing women with different skin.
The whole L’Oreal thing really broke me down. I felt like everything I worked towards vanished. I felt so bad about myself. Even though they apologised, I felt like they were just trying to brush it off and say that it was just a mistake and that they really were a good brand, which I can understand. But what they wrote to me can't be changed; they made me feel like shit. It’s just a bit sad: people with bad skin are being alienated, but we’re still human. Yes, I may have worse skin than you, but I shouldn’t be put in some category because of it. Beauty is for everyone, and when brands do something like this, when they say that only certain types of people can be in specific beauty campaigns, it puts a message out to the public that actually it isn’t for everyone.
Thankfully, I woke up the next day and was like, “You know what? You’re not going to let this break you, you’re going to carry on doing what you do and move on from it.” My advice to other people? Even if a brand tells you you’re not beautiful or you’re not good enough, remember that you are. Just let it go in one ear and out the other, that’s what I did anyway. I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing and keep spreading the positive message. Something like this is not going to get me down, it just makes me realise that you can’t let anything stand in the way of achieving your dreams.”
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.