For Trans Women, Sephora Is So Much More Than A Store

In the early hours of the morning, Dominique rose to prepare for her 8 a.m. shift at Sephora. After styling her platinum blonde bob, she swept on her lilac eyeshadow, glued on a pair of falsies, and filled in her brows to tutorial-worthy perfection. Then came her uniform: a stark black shift dress with a red stripe down each sleeve. It’s the same uniform Sephora employees have always worn — with one additional small detail: a white pin that reads “She.” It’s not just an accessory for Dominique; the pin serves as a way to indicate her gender identity. And, for the trans customers frequenting her location, it also provides an invitation to connect.

Before YouTubers like Gigi Gorgeous and Nikita Dragun, many trans people sought out retailers like M.A.C. and Sephora as a place to discover makeup and application tips — a very necessary part of their gender presentation. Jayde, a Cast Member in Burlingame, California, says some of her trans and gender non-conforming clients know her by name. “There's even this little boy, he's 12. I first met him when he was nine. I've been following along with his journey. I even know his parents,” she says. “I've had conversations with his mom… At first, she wasn't comfortable with him wearing makeup. This last Christmas, she came to my store with a list of things that he wanted and I helped her pick everything out — from eye shadow palettes to brushes.”

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After being color matched, a class member uses a Sephora Collection brush to sweep on her foundation. PHOTO: COURTESY OF JOSLYN BLAIR PHOTOGRAPHY.

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For trans people, Sephora’s black-and-white walls also serve as a safe haven — where they can be themselves and ask for advice that goes beyond the best bronzer or foundation for their skin tone. “In New York, there are a couple of shelters that provide housing for LGBT people. When they’re not there, they come here,” Dominique says. “Those trans customers gravitate toward me because they feel like they have someone to relate to without being judged. It’s the same sense of community I looked for.”

Trans customers gravitate toward me because they feel like they have someone to relate to without being judged. It’s the same sense of community I looked for.

But it’s not just customers who find shelter in Sephora — it’s also a sanctuary for its trans employees. Ubi, who's based in Palo Alto, California, has been with the company for a year and a half; Dominique and Jade are approaching three. And each of them started their transitions shortly before, or during, their time at Sephora. “I’ve had jobs before Sephora where I wasn’t transitioning, but I did identify as gay. It wasn't always the most pleasant experience, or the most gracious reception from fellow employees,” Dominique says. “Once I started working here, it was pretty much, This is who you are, we love you. You're a part of us. We respect you, we support you, we are here for you.

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Isis King (right) acted as a demo model for the first Bold Beauty class. Photo: Courtesy of Joslyn Blair Photography.

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That community is what inspired the employees to launch Sephora’s new Bold Beauty For The Transgender Community, a series of intimate workshops that will take place at Sephora locations across the country. The curated lessons are designed specifically for trans people to feel even more comfortable with their look, including personalized skin care, color-correcting, and foundation and blush application techniques. The curriculum is spot on, because the brand was sure to ask its trans Cast Members what should be included. “I was definitely able to give my contribution as to what I thought we should do and what I thought we should talk about. They listened to us. If I had to plan it out [myself], I would've done it the same way,” Dominique says.

The first class was held yesterday, May 22, at Sephora’s flagship location on 34th street in Manhttan. A small group filed in the doors at 8 a.m. (before opening hours) with very specific goals in mind: One wanted brows just like a Cast Member present. Another wanted to master their contour. Others wanted to learn how to hide discoloration from laser hair removal and electrolysis, or to cover up stubble. The Cast Members addressed them all in the 90 minute course, taking their time to answer specific questions and to be a source of support.

Afterward, the participants and teachers — of all ages, races, and backgrounds — exchanged phone numbers to connect with any additional questions and took dozens upon dozens of selfies together. They gazed at their faces with pride and blissfully floated around the store — not in any rush to leave. Because regardless of what was waiting for them outside those doors, in that moment, Sephora felt like home."I've stayed at the company so long because I can come here for safety and to not be judged," Dominique says. "I don't have to put on a façade or act a certain way. I can just be myself. "

Starting the week of June 4, Sephora Stands Bold Beauty For The Transgender Community classes will be available throughout the country at select stores. You can also find tutorials on on Sephora Stands' YouTube channel.

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