If that’s not proof enough of clout she’s earned herself, there’s this: at a recent editor-only event for Pat McGrath, one of the industry’s most influential makeup artists, Aina was the sole influencer to appear, looking right at home as she caught up with McGrath one-on-one.
There are few individuals that brands both deeply adore and are afraid to be called out by—a review from Aina carries enough weight to make or break a launch, and she says she often consults with brands for free. It’s a task she’s more than willing to undertake, knowing that there’s often a disconnect between what companies discuss at the table and what consumers of color need. “These things that happen probably could’ve been avoided if you had somebody from that community at the table actually saying, ‘This isn’t a good idea.’”
Not only is Aina calling on brands to do better, she also weaves necessary discussions of cultural appropriation and representation into her videos. Her viral “colorblind” makeup tutorial is evidence that viewers watch—and appreciate—content that directly addresses these issues. Aina recalls how early on in her career, a subscriber approached her and told her she had previously hesitated to wear red lipstick because she was too dark. Through her channel, Aina showed her she could feel beautiful. “It’s always the ‘thank you for teaching me that dark skin isn’t punishment and isn’t ugly’ moments that tell me I’m doing something worthy,” she says.
There’s been plenty of chatter about 2019 being the end of influencers, but Aina isn’t worried one bit. She thinks people are turning to accounts that make them feel seen now more than ever. “You can go online and find someone who looks like you, thinks the same way you do, had the same struggle, but got out of that,” she says. “There are so many great things about that. People really want to know you holistically; especially what else you stand for.”
For Aina, the message has always been clear—and it’s always been bigger than her. “What is this going to do for my community?” says Aina. “If I don’t say anything, will it harm my community?” With that in mind, she keeps speaking up.
Bella Cacciatore is the beauty associate at Glamour. Follow her on Instagram @bellacacciatore_.
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