Pretty Political: On Taraji P. Henson’s Black Girl Magic and MAC’s Failure to Recognize It

Pretty Political: On Taraji P. Henson’s Black Girl Magic and MAC’s Failure to Recognize It

So y’all know I’ve been buying lots of lipstick lately. While it began as a form of self-care to process police brutality, it turned into me discovering the fun of makeup. Like most things in the lives of Black girls and women, the notion of beauty is political. So rather than keep the beauty separate from the blog, I’ve decided to merge two worlds that already intersect for so many of us. This is the Pretty Political series. In the inaugural post it only made sense to talk about the pretty politics of a product i’ve been raving about on social media all week– The Taraji P. Henson collaboration with MAC cosmetics.

The Pretty 

Baby *in my adopted New Orleans accent* When I tell you Taraji put her foot in these colors. Listen. I had the pleasure of attending of the few launches in MAC’s brick and mortar locations. Since I’m a Sephora girl, this was my first experience. I was not ready for the #BlackGirlMagic unleashed by sisters supporting Taraji. We bonded in line waiting for the doors to open (I made a beeline for the Metro after work, detours and all). But just standing there with all of those beautiful Black women (and two white guys who apparently couldn’t resist coming to see what all the #BlackGirlMagic was about) was a sight to see. Since moving to the DMV I’ve noticed that relaxers were few and far between and it appears sisters brought out their crowns in all their glory. Twists. Locs. Afros. Braids. Blonde wash and gos. You name it, they were rocking it. We finally get inside and lo and behold, MAC serves alcohol at launch parties. Free happy hour? After a whole day at work? Don’t mind if I do. So I did. I immediately put my name on the list for the products I wanted (I was dismayed to find that they only allowed one SKU purchase per person because I intended to surprise my girl with the highlight but I guess I get why they do it). The line included a highlighter (Highlight the Truth), blush (Taraji Glow), lipstick (Strip Me Down), a brush, an eyeliner and mascara. I got the highlight, blush and lipstick. While I waited, I walked around watching sisters try the products. The look on women’s faces when they saw that blush and highlight on their cheeks— seriously, you could see them falling in love. The smiles. The camaraderie as we talked about Taraji’s line and makeup in general was amazing and reminded me of something I said to my daughter recently when she questioned why I was so comfortable talking to some people I didn’t know, “Black folks don’t gotta know Black folks in order to be family.” We kicked it in the MAC store.

Now back to the colors. One of the makeup associates at MAC said that Taraji was really hands on in the collaboration. I told her she didn’t have to tell me that, I could tell just by looking at the products. Plus we all know Taraji. She got a little real life Cookie in her and she ain’t bout them games. The blush is the most beautiful reddish brown and the highlight (described by MAC as a soft bronze coral with golden shimmer) is the perfect pairing. I. Fell. In Love. And if we’re Facebook or IG friends you know I made folks look at that blush and highlight all day. This set will most certainly be part of my go-to look. Work appropriate but stands out enough to have folks wondering what you’re wearing.  The lipstick was the one thing I didn’t love. Partly because it was a bit too light for my taste (some folks remedied that with a brown liner) but mostly the formulation. I love a matte lipstick but this one felt, and looked, like chalk. I didn’t buy the brush, eyeliner and mascara mostly because the packaging led me to believe I could find it anywhere (more on the packing later). The highlight and blush are the clear winners of this collection.


You couldn’t tell me that my Taraji Glow was not The Truth. See what I did there?

The Political 

While I’m not a MAC girl, I’ve seen the PR for lots of their launches and I MAC messed this one up. Bad. For starters, the products were mislabeled. Highlight the Truth and Taraji Glow were switched around which meant lots of folks had the wrong items shipped to them. The ones I bought directly from the store were also mislabeled. The products themselves were also in basic packaging. Taraji P. Henson is larger than life and deserved much better than basic black MAC packaging. No Taraji signature on the products. Nothing like we’ve seen with so many other collaborations. You wouldn’t even know it was a Taraji collaboration if you looked at the products except the one named Taraji Glow but you would still have to look at the sticker on the bottom. And then hope it wasn’t mislabeled. All shade. It gets worse. On the day(s) Taraji’s products launched, MAC’s website had Ariana Grande front and center. The first available link and largest picture was for Ariana’s products line which had already launched. You had work to find Taraji’s. Mind you, the products sold quick so time was of the essence for folks navigating the site. MAC’s Facebook page? Nary a mention of the launch. And they devoted negligible Instagram coverage. Which explains why so many people (My MAC faithful friends included) knew nothing about the Taraji collaboration. Add that to the fact they only launched in brick and mortar stores in 3 cities and it seemed like MAC wasn’t really interested in marketing Taraji’s line. Not with the same fervor they appear to have with Ariana’s line. Which is still front and center on their website.


See what I mean about the packaging? Nothing about it screams Taraji. Or even quietly states Taraji.

My family, friends and Facebook crew know that I’ve recently discovered the fun world of makeup and like most things I’ve already taken it to an extreme (reviews on all the stuff I’ve bought coming soon (my Pat McGrath Lust 004 kit is sitting in my local UPS station as I type this). The folks at Sephora thought I worked in the mall because I was there so much and the ULTA guy flat-out told me that I’m in there too much. He need to mind his business. And they clearly don’t work on commission. At any rate, MAC had a prime opportunity to make me a client instead of a one-time customer. They failed. And they only had one shot.

*Note:  If Taraji’s MAC collaboration sold out too fast for you to grab something, here’s an alternative for a fraction of the cost. Not necessarily an exact dupe but a great 2nd place! Both sets look amazing paired together. Pictured with and without flash.

Left: Taraji Highlight the Truth (highlighter) and Taraji Glow (blush) by MAC -$33 each

Right: Gingersnap (bronzer) and Toasted Almond (blush) by Black Radiance -$4.79 each


  • Sherella
    Posted at 10:46h, 18 September

    Hi Erica i am very upset about this launch I set my calendar as well as my watch and bought this product online (Taraji blush) once delivered it was the wrong item (highlighter) totally mislabeled. I called Mac and was told a different story every time but the when they continued to tell me “don’t worry you purchased it and you will receive your items” that didn’t happened in fact they didn’t contact me PayPal did with a reimbursement from Mac. I never got a call or n apology as promised. I’ve made up my mind I will not purchase from Mac ever again there are so many great brands so much less expensive and very good quality …I’ve felt this way for some time…but I wanted to support my girl Taraji. Good Luck?

    • Erica Thurman
      Posted at 23:45h, 26 September

      They handled it all wrong. Even the process of “fixing” it lacked consistency. Some people got refunds. Others were shipped correct products and allowed to keep the original products received. That was my first and last tie shopping there. Like you, I was only there to support Taraji.

  • Nena
    Posted at 14:02h, 19 September

    I came across this website because I was confused. I thought I purchased the wrong MAC lipstick online…I am so disappointed in the packaging. On launch day, I was also looking for “magic” and was disappointed that I would need to pass 7 malls to get to the one mall that carried the line.

    • Nena
      Posted at 14:04h, 19 September

      By the way…Hi and thanks for the awesome read. I am excited to try the recommended blush and bronzer.

      • Erica Thurman
        Posted at 23:46h, 26 September

        Let me know how you like it. I love the Black Radiance blushes.

    • Erica Thurman
      Posted at 23:46h, 26 September

      Mac either underestimated Taraji’s reach or they just didn’t care. To only release the products in 3 cities at a few stores didn’t make any sense.

  • Stephanie Haynes
    Posted at 09:10h, 23 February

    I too was disappointed with MAC x Taraji but what I’ve noticed with most of their collabs, the first time around Is the packaging is plain… however the 2nd time around the packaging is glammed up.. I can say this because the collections that I’ve followed Rhianna, Mariah and Taraji have been this way… even the one they have now with the Canadian artist is plain… the 2nd go round will be blinged out. I’m just glad that MAC rectified their wrong at their expense…. we were refunded our money, we kept the incorrect product and by January they sent out the correct items. So at the end of the day I got highlight the truth and taraji glow free with a $25 coupon…THAT’S GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE