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Rihanna reacts to singer SZA's complaints of Sephora's racial profiling

More than 400 locations in the States will remain closed on June 5, as employees are given diversity training following SZA's claim

Rihanna sent SZA a Fenty Beauty gift card, telling her shop "in peace". Getty Images 
Rihanna sent SZA a Fenty Beauty gift card, telling her shop "in peace". Getty Images 

Cosmetics giant Sephora is conducting a diversity workshop for its employees in the United States on June 5, a day when more than 400 of its US stores will remain shuttered.

The move comes less than two months after Grammy-nominated singer SZA called out an employee at a Sephora store in California for racial profiling.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 24, 2019 Best Original Song nominee for "All The Stars" from "Black Panther" SZA arrives for the 91st Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California. Cosmetics powerhouse Sephora has announced on June 3, 2019, it will close all its US stores, distribution centers and corporate office for an hour-long employee training session just weeks after a racial profiling incident involving Grammy-nominated singer SZA. / AFP / Mark RALSTON
Cosmetics powerhouse Sephora has announced on June 3, 2019, it will close all its US stores, distribution centers and corporate office for an hour-long employee training session just weeks after a racial profiling incident involving Grammy-nominated singer SZA. AFP

The staff member in question allegedly called security to ensure the African-American singer was not shoplifting, an exchange that SZA then detailed on Twitter, adding that all she was trying to do was "cop her Fenty in peace".

Both Sephora and Rihanna were quick to respond. The former via Twitter and a May 23 decision to shut shop for a day of inclusion training workshops, and the latter by sending SZA a Fenty Beauty gift card with a personalised message.

The spurned singer's original post also resulted in inevitable comparisons to a scene from the movie Pretty Woman, when Julia Roberts' character calls out a rude staff member's "big mistake" for not serving her the previous day.

The diversity training brigade

Sephora's initiative is part of its new slogan: We Belong to Something Beautiful, a campaign that the company says was not as a result of SZA's tweet, but in keeping with its inclusive beauty mission.

The beauty brand is not the only company to look to external guidance for its racial profiling issues. Starbucks closed 8,000 stores in the US in 2018 for diversity training after a Philadelphia store manager called the police because two African-American men were sitting in the cafe without placing an order.

In the fashion world, which is rife with both racial profiling and cultural appropriation, Gucci was criticised in February for promoting blackface, with a balaclava that sported cartoonish red lips. The backlash it triggered prompted Gucci to announce it would set up an external Changemakers Council to help guide the brand in matters of diversity.

In December 2018, Prada was forced to recall part of its key ring and figurine range, when a New York lawyer took to social media to accuse the brand of selling Dh2,019 figurines that bore an uncomfortable resemblance to the "golliwog"dolls of the 1930s. The brand apologised, saying it “abhors racist imagery", and vowed to establish a Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council to guide the brand.

Of the move, head designer Miuccia Prada said: "Prada is committed to cultivating, recruiting and retaining diverse talent to contribute to all departments of the company. We look forward to working with [the Council] to help us grow not only as a company but also as individuals."

Updated: June 4, 2019 05:32 PM

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