Trans Day of Visibility is approaching (31st March) and, so, we decided to celebrate this special day with Jessica Blackler, the 25-year old behind the unisex make-up brand inspired by the transgender community.
Jecca Blac is a vegan friendly, cruelty free makeup brand that creates products for ALL makeup wearers, focusing on transgender consumers as well as those who identify as gender-fluid. Since launching Jecca Blac has provided a wider support for the community by supporting trans prisoners, collaborating with LGBTQ+ charities, and developing an entire range of user friendly, cruelty free products – always factoring in the needs of the trans community. Jecca Blac also launched Trans Festival last year.
Jecca was founded by female founder, Jessica Blackler. With a background in makeup artistry in film and television, Jessica began Jecca Blac as a safe space studio for those who wished to learn about makeup in a judgement free setting. Additionally, Jecca’s Marketing Manager, Maxine Heron, who as a trans woman has relished in the opportunity of working for a brand that truly cares about uplifting and celebrating the LGBT+ community.
How do you identify and what are your pronouns?
I’m a cisgender woman and my pronouns are she/her.
How important is it to have a Trans Day of Visibility?
We can’t move forward with the liberation of trans people without trans visibility – it is essential for trans people to know that they are seen, celebrated and respected. Trans Day Of Visibility is a time for us to remind ourselves of a community which so often is overlooked – is is one of the few days of the year the community comes together to proudly state that they are visible and deserve to be heard.
Do you think there is enough visibility and awareness towards trans people nowadays?
There is always room for improvement on this! There certainly needs to be more representation of trans people of colour, disabled trans people, and trans people from any other marginalised groups. Far too often, representation and awareness of the community is taken out of the hands of trans people and is shared through the cis gaze – trans people are constantly shortchanged and disadvantaged when their stories are taken out of their own hands. There needs to be more visibility and awareness of ALL trans people, and it needs to come from opportunities which must be given to trans people so that they can tell their own stories and curate a much more accurate narrative in the media.
Do you think there is enough representation of trans people in the beauty industry?
We’re seeing more representation, but often it comes from a place of tokenism. Trans people are here year round, and deserve to be spotlighted and celebrated during every season – not just pride season. Where so many companies get this wrong is by not diversifying their brand from within. They forget to give opportunities to trans people who can offer a wealth of experience in getting messaging right with regard to resonating with trans consumers. That’s why it was so important for me to recruit trans people within my team, and to give modelling opportunities to trans people for our campaigns and shoots year round. We’d certainly love to see more brands doing the same.
How did you come up with the idea of Jecca Blac, a gender-free vegan brand and how did everything start?
I started out as a makeup artist in film and TV. My experience in this helped me discover a range of skills which focused on transforming an individual’s features, which I realised was knowledge that shouldn’t be limited to the makeup world or behind the scenes of film and television. I started offering makeup lessons in a judgement free, one-to-one setting. Word quickly spread about my safe space makeup studio within the community of trans women and those first experimenting with their gender expression, and I grew a customer base of people who had always felt overlooked by the beauty world, and hadn’t had the opportunity to express themselves or experiment with makeup until later in life. I decided to elevate Jecca Blac from being just a safe space studio by turning my business into a makeup retailer which still has a strong community focus and an educational safe space feel. Our first ever product to launch was our Correct & Conceal Palette – a simple and effective concealer solution which I developed with makeup wearers in mind who seek beard shadow coverage (but as a buildable, versatile product is not limited only to beard shadow coverage). This Palette went on to win ‘Best Concealer of 2020’ at the Beauty Bible Awards last year! We also started London’s first ever annual Trans Festival, a community safe space event for trans people and allies to come together, meet, learn, and celebrate our community.
Why did you choose this name?
My name is Jessica Blackler, but when we were younger my brother used to say ‘Jecca Blac’ instead. Jecca has always sort of stuck as a nickname, and it felt only right to bring this name into my brand as well – so we’re Jecca Blac!
How important is it to have a safe space studio for those who wish to learn about makeup in a judgement free setting?
Minority groups have long been overlooked by the beauty world – this can be seen in the limits in shade range throughout history by bigger brands, and the way products haven’t considered the needs of ALL makeup wearers before this point. To make progress, we have to give people the confidence to be themselves and we feel that with this will come a much wider acceptance!
How do you uplift and elevate the LGBTQ+ community and how important is it to work with trans people?
Our alliance to the community can be seen in our trans inclusive team and our campaigns which show accurate representation and diversity among all LGBT+ genders, identities and expressions. This passion is also reflected in our gender free approach to our products, branding and packaging and in our partnerships with LGBT+ charities including Mermaids, AKT Charity and Switchboard. At the start of 2020 (pre lockdowns!) we held our first ever Trans Festival – the first event of its kind to unite the Trans community, allies and the businesses who support the community in a day of education, activism and celebration in a safe space environment. We look forward to hosting the second Trans Festival once restrictions have eased and it is possible to do so! Jecca Blac wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for our community, so it is essential for us to uplift and give back in every way that we can.
How easy or difficult is to have an inclusive brand?
It’s something that comes naturally to us because of how long standing our ties to the community have always been – even for myself, before Jecca Blac I had a strong understanding of what the community faces and the support that was so clearly missing. Being consistent in our inclusivity does take work, and while it probably would have been simpler to build a brand that prioritises catering to the masses, our loyalty to our community takes precedence and a big part of consistently getting our inclusivity right is by listening for feedback and welcoming new knowledge. Where brands probably fall short is by making assumptions and, as mentioned, not diversifying from within. It’s impossible for us all to know it all from the beginning. I truly believe there’s no limit to how far a brand can take their inclusivity – it’s all part of the process to be open to learning and growing into the most inclusive version your brand can be.
Does the gender definition affect the beauty needs of every individual?
We’re big believers that gender is a totally unnecessary construct – so it’s up to any individual to set their own rules on how (or if) they want to wear makeup, regardless of gender, identity or expression.
What are the main issues that the beauty industry is facing at the moment?
Over the past year of lockdowns, makeup wearers have realised where their priorities are with makeup in a way they hadn’t previously. Whether lockdowns have made us realise we want to wear makeup more for ourselves at home, or more for the sake of upholding an appearance with other people when leaving the house (a rare occurrence for many of us since Covid) – some of us have adapted our makeup regimes for Zoom calls or given up makeup altogether. This time has been very eye opening for many makeup wearers, and beauty brands have had to adapt to these new regimes and mentalities when it comes to makeup at home. Opportunities to market makeup as an essential item for holidays or festivals have been off the cards, so I’d say the biggest challenge the industry has had to face is adapting. The biggest challenge for all brands at the moment is trying to figure out what’s next – we’ve realised how quickly things can change in a way they weren’t before.
Why is it important for make-up to be gender free? And why is it important to be vegan?
Gender norms are limiting for all of us! Makeup should be accessible to anyone who wants to wear makeup, whatever the reason, whatever the occasion, whatever the gender. People are becoming much more ethical with their purchases with many day to day essentials, including makeup. We believe makeup should not bring harm to any animals. It’s 2021 – let’s stop testing on animals!
How do you manage to have a cruelty-free brand?
We’ve always been vegan and cruelty free, it’s always been one of our core principles as well as being gender free and open to everybody. As we’ve always started with vegan, cruelty free products and processes, it’s been easier for us to be consistent with the continued growth of our brand as vegan and cruelty free.
How important is to have the support of L’Oreal?
L’Oreal have been brilliant with taking the time to provide mentoring and guidance. As such an established brand with a wealth of experience in this industry, we’ve always valued their support for us. Particularly when we were just starting out, L’Oreal took time to guide us to a point of establishing our own space in the beauty world and we’re very grateful for the relationship we’ve established with them and the wisdom they have imparted over time. We appreciate the values shared with L’Oreal and our connection with them has definitely been very positive for us.