This week, Soledad O'Brien announced that her O'Brien Raymond Starfish Foundation would be teaming up with CoverGirl cosmetics to produce a series of documentaries as part of their "Girls Can" movement. For O'Brien, Girls Can is an way to help empower young women. For CoverGirl, it's the perfect way to convince young women that buying beauty products does not make them a bad person.
O'Brien will be producing a series of videos for CoverGirl about young women who have had to overcome challenges to get an education, which is the focus of the work her foundation does. CoverGirl (owned by Procter & Gamble) will also be donating money to fund the scholarships and mentoring programs that the foundation supports. For this particular "empowerment movement," the cosmetics company has tapped their bevy of celebrity spokeswomen, including Katy Perry, Pink and Ellen Degeneres, to talk about what girls can do. They also want to hear young women talk about the times they have been told they can't do something and how they proved they can actually do that thing...or something:
COVERGIRL is about discovering, encouraging whatever it is that makes a girl take up the challenge; break those barriers and turn "can't" into "can." COVERGIRL knows that with every barrier she breaks, the world gets a little more easy breezy for the next girl. And a little more beautiful for all of us.
CoverGirl is hardly the first American company to publicize their philanthropy work as strategy to boost revenue and strengthen their brand. Within the beauty sector, however, these attempts become particularly pointed. Though Gillette has donated to prostate cancer research, Axe isn't trying to teach boys how to be better versions of themselves. (Though Axe has recently been trying to raise money to promote the spread of peace on earth...or something.) Men don't need as much of these sorts of things (or their products don't need as much help not appearing so evil). Since the 1990s – a decade which brought an increased focus on the power of advertising for good and bad – women's beauty brands have made sure that they're known for attempting to "empower" women and girls. This empowerment comes in a few different forms: supporting women with cancer or women in business or women who have this elusive "low self-esteem" we're always hearing about. Here are some of their efforts.
Estée Lauder executive Evelyn Lauder was a huge part of the breast cancer movement, and by proxy, her company became inextricably linked with the spread of pink too. In fact, Lauder helped co-create the pink ribbon symbol now splashed across yogurt cups and bath products around America. She also founded The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, through which she (and the company) have donated an extensive amount of money to breast cancer research. In 1993, Estée Lauder released a lipstick and blush called Pink Ribbon and in 1995, their sub-brand Clinique came out with Berry Kiss. The proceeds of both went to BCRF. Since then, the company has continued selling limited edition products to raise money for breast cancer produced by their many brands, including Bobbi Brown and Aveda, as part of their Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign.
Revlon has also pledged themselves to the breast cancer cause. There is a center at UCLA named after the company and they host an annual Revlon Run/Walk that raises money for breast and ovarian cancer. One of Revlon's partners is Look Good Feel Better, "an inspiring program helping cancer patients cope with the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment."
Not to be excluded, Avon is also on the breast cancer train, via their Avon Breast Cancer Crusade hosted by the Avon Foundation for Women (headed up by honorary co-chair Reese Witherspoon). Each year, they host an Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in New York City. According to Avon, these efforts cumulatively make them "the leading corporate supporter of the cause globally." They've also worked to raise money for domestic violence via their Speak Out Against Domestic Violence initiative, which includes a Avon Domestic Violence Survivor Empowerment Program.
In addition to empowering women who have breast cancer or have been victims of domestic violence, Avon is all about regular old-fashioned financial empowerment:
The legacy of Avon Founder David H. McConnell, and the core priority of the company today, is the empowerment of women. This mission is as relevant in the 21st century as it was in 1886 when the company was founded. Around the world, the Avon earnings opportunity is still a path to financial independence, self-reliance and the realization of dreams for women.
They cite their original "Avon Ladies" as the reason the company "is one of the world's largest engines of economic opportunity for women, with Sales Representative earnings totalling about $4 billion annually."
Pantene's ongoing Beautiful Lengths program with the American Cancer Society helps women donate hair to other women who have lost theirs because of (you guessed it) cancer. More recently, Pantene got a lot of attention for airing a commercial in the Philippines that purported to draw attention to a gender bias in the workforce as part of their Be Strong and Shine/Whip It campaign.