black|Up Cosmetics Mystery: Is The Company Still Black-Owned Or Not?
Just as the much-buzzed about French beauty line black|Up Cosmetics for Black and multicultural women is about to hit 10 U.S. Sephora locations nationwide on Sept. 15th, some are questioning if the company is still Black owned as well as what happened to the company’s Black founder, Bernard Fabrice Mahabo.
Blaq Vixen Beauty recently did an investigation to see why the company is no longer being headed by its Black founder, and with Black consumers becoming increasingly eager to “buy Black,” this revelation could strike hard against black|Up Cosmetics sales stateside.
Mahabo created black|Up Cosmetics, which was also called Godo Black-Up Paris (named after his late father Godo Zoleba Guillame), in 1999 and he ran it until 2009.
So who is running the growing company now, and how did Mahabo lose control of his creation? Rumor has it the company was literally stolen from its original owner. In 2011, Fashionista.com named Lionel Durand as the founder in their interview on the brand, not Mahabo. MadameNoire looked up Durand’s current LinkedIn page and he lists his post at black|Up Cosmetics as the General Director, from 2008 to present.
According to Blaq Vixen Beauty, the about page on black|Up’s website on March 8, 2011 explained their origins as “Founded in 1999 black|Up Cosmetics is both the first makeup artist brand created and specialized for women of color, yet suitable for all women, as well as an upscale cosmetics line of unprecedented elegance and luxury, respecting the unique nature of ethnic skins and celebrating their intrinsic beauty.”
But on the company’s about page in 2014 there was merely a reference to black|Up‘s real creator and founder, Mahabo. The site said: “Founded in 1999 by an African makeup artist, black|Up Cosmetics is the first dedicated upscale beauty brand to magnify black and mixed beauties.”
Blaq Vixen Beauty found that Mahabo was wrongly ousted from his own company, an event that was recently covered in African Aroga on August 1, 2015. And Mahabo himself wrote about it in 2009 on his now defunct Canalblog.
Blaq Vixen Beauty also posted an interesting timeline of events at black|Up. Here’s a summary of it:
–Mahabo graduated from Paris’ elite makeup academy Christian Chauveau 1997, and came up with the brilliant idea to of Godo Black-Up (now black|Up) in 1999.
–He gets an unnamed business partner, but retains 60 percent of the shares. black|Up was starting with € 7,500 (today, $8,421 dollars).
–By 2009, the company was grossing grossed €3.77 million (today, $4.15 million dollars).
–In 2001, after opening a showroom in Paris Mahabo signs an exclusive, 3-year contract with Printemps department store, followed by Sephora Paris, Galeries Lafayette Haussmann and then, Macy’s, which became the first American chain to carry black|Up.
–In 2004 due to rapid expansion, the company needs to secure a loan to meet demand but Mahabo nor his partner are unable to come up with the funds. But without telling Mahabo, the partner brings in a private investor to “help” who becomes another partner.
–The new shareholder seems to take control, not inviting Mahabo to important meetings. Mahabo is demoted from General Manager to employee and then terminated from the company in 2007. He is banned from future black|Up sales and offices. And he claims someone is forging his signature on company documents. And apparently, Mahabo began legal proceedings against his “partners” though there has been no resolution.
Blaq Vixen Beauty reports that on Mahabo’s Facebook he wrote on September 1, 2010: “c est la verite je n ai jamis vendu black up c est une ruse pour mes associes et mon bureau c est la stricte verite merci pour tout vos soutients et bon ramadan a tous merci (The truth is I haven’t sold black|Up. [It] is a ruse to my associates and my office. [This] is strictly the truth.)”
black|Up and Sephora have stayed silent so far on the controversy.