I was recently at a Sephora where I was treated in a disrespectful manner and ignored because I am a visible hijabi Muslim. (This happened to me the last time that I was at the store as well but I did not say anything.) I live in the Deep South and I am used to being treated like this on the regular. But last week, I didn’t want to stay silent anymore, I just had enough and was shocked that a place like Sephora would have employees that would treat me like that. No one wanted to help me. I am a Muslim and I wear a scarf, so you can imagine why they were discriminating against me.
Granted I am in Florida, I am in the northern part, right under Alabama. This is where being racist is embedded in the minds of many. Though from the outside looking in, the state of Florida may look like all sunshine and happiness but in reality, Florida has had the largest number of hate crimes against Muslims in the whole United States, which has risen by 500% since the last election cycle. Sadly, we are in a time in America when minorities getting treated badly and disrespected seems to be the norm.
The sephora store I went to was in the JCPenney section of the mall in my town. I was there on June 8th, 2018 and left around 5 pm. While I was there for 15 minutes without anyone assisting me, with one item already in my basket, I went up to one of the consultants and kindly asked her to help me choose a make up. She had a disgusted look on her face and acted like she was scared of me. (This is the girl who treated me the same way when I was there a week earlier.) She told me to wait for 15 minutes so someone else could help me. (By someone, she meant someone who wasn’t white, like she did the last time I went in there. Last time I asked her for help, she made a minority employee assist me because she didn’t want to. Though I don’t mind a minority helping me, It was not nice how she treated me or the African American employee.)
After waiting again this last time for 15 minutes, no one came to me to help me. They saw other women come in, and quickly ran to them to help them. I was in shock. When everyone left the store, I and two other African Americans were the only customers in there. I could hear the employees and manager whispering things about me and about how none of them wanted to help me.
I was not mean, I was quiet. I felt like I didn’t exist.
After taking this experience to my instagram, many others have told me that similar things have happened to them while they were at sephora but never had the courage to say anything. One other person, a hijabi Muslim who I will refer to as M to keep her name private, had previously worked for a Sephora in Northeast Florida, had reached out to me as well. She shed light on why I was treated the way I was. She told me that, “They [Sephora Employees] think anyone with a scarf is a refugee and doesn’t have money. I know it’s really sad. And the way they train you is so messed up like it’s all about looks, ‘if they look rich keep adding to the basket.’”
A word of advice to Sephora, you should never judge a book by it’s cover. I did not look rich or poor, though I don’t even know what that is to be honest. I had on a polo shirt and a name brand purse. Though what I was wearing should not even matter. In addition, I was there already to buy something and had something in my basket to purchase. I was an easy sell for them. But the way they treated me made me not want to buy anything from there. The item that I had in my basket, I put away and left.
I did not want to blame the whole brand of Sephora for what has happened. But what the former Sephora employee, M, mentioned to me, I believe the root of the problem doesn’t just stem from the employees, it stems from the foundation. Mikayla said, “I used to love Sephora before I was behind the counter and realized how messed up they all are. Not to mention the way I was treated at work by co-workers. And, when customers were rude to me or discriminated against, me (her manager and corporate) they did nothing about it. But the way they treat black clients is even worse, they watch them like hawks and always think they’re stealing just off of their appearance.”
As soon as I left the store, I filed a complaint with the customer service section on their website. Though I was not sure if they would ever respond, I posted what happened to me on my Instagram. One of my friends saw what I had posted, then tweeted out to Sephora about what happened. They immediately responded by telling me to message them but I already did that and they ignored my emails. My friend told them to message me because of what had happened to me and they did. I responded and gave them my information for the Panama City manager to talk to me. It has been over a week since the incident happened and I am yet to talk to the manager of the store or any real person from their customer service line.
So to Muslims and Minorities, I would start reconsidering where you buy your beauty products from.
Written By: Kaya Gravitter
The above photo in the article is originally from shutterstock.com