Beauty Guru Taj Reed Talks Fatphobia, Calling Out Privilege and Understanding Your Unique Beauty
Taj Reed (also known online as @donidarkowitz) is a makeup master and beauty content creator who's constantly making our jaws drop with her stunning makeup looks and creative transformations.
She's also a bi-pan woman of color on a mission. She aims to create a safe space for people of all kinds to thrive in the beauty space by calling out hypocrisy when she sees it and tearing down the parts of the industry that hold people back.
She'll also be part of The BodCon TALKS: Beauty & Body Confidence, running Aug. 31 at 7 p.m. ET. The virtual chat will feature incredible influencers including Taj, as well as Tess Holliday, Boa the Drag Queen, Aysha Harun, Alex Light, Chenese Lewis, Clarissa Thompson, Lilith Fury and Darius McKiver, where they'll discuss beauty, body confidence and the way those two ideas converge, as well as conflict, with each other. Tickets are currently selling for just $20, but we got the chance to chat with Taj ahead of the conference to find out more about her opinions of beauty, and what she's doing to make the beauty sphere a more diverse and inclusive place, one step at a time.
Sweety High: How long have you been passionate about creative makeup looks? What inspired you to start sharing your talents on social media?
Taj Reed: I've always liked makeup. I didn't start using it until I was in my 20s, but I became passionate about it when I realized I had a talent for picking up techniques pretty easily, which was about four years ago.
(Photo credit: Bonnie Nichoalds)
SH: What type of audience do you hope to reach with your content, and what do you hope they learn from it?
TR: I hope to reach a little of everyone. I used makeup as a catalyst—a foot in the door. I've always wanted to be an actress and used makeup content as an unconventional gateway into the world of entertainment. Now that most people know me for my makeup and I have their attention, I can branch out to things that are important to me—including my acting and activism. I want people to learn how to develop a new skill, and also in general that you can have more than one purpose in life.
SH: How do you defy the pressure to look a certain way, and define beauty in your own terms? Why is it so important for you to be able to help others understand that beauty isn't just defined one way?
TR: Excuse my French, but I simply don't give a s*** about public opinion. Not as much as I used to. I am my worst critic and my own biggest obstacle. I am constantly actively unlearning fatphobic behavior—thoughts, words, expectations toward myself especially but with others as well. I know I am attractive. My parents are beautiful inside and out, so I was never going to be "ugly," but they're also straight-sized and I am not. My sisters are straight-sized and I am not. I had to learn to carve my own path to what it means to feel "attractive," "worthy" or "beautiful." And that's why it's important to me. Everyone is literally unique. No two people are the same, so why lump us together as if we are?
SH: How do you think we can all hold brands accountable for being more diverse and intersectional?
TR: Being open about it. Literally, calling brands out by name, their transgressions and how to mitigate them. There's too much mystery shrouding the nitty-gritty of this industry. Pull the covers back, expose the bed bugs. Being open about how much you get paid forces brands to reevaluate how they value their creators. It also lowers the shield that white creators have by removing their white privilege (because that's exactly what it is whether they recognize it or not) to level the playing field.
SH: How excited are you to be invited to speak at The BodCon TALKS: Beauty & Body Confidence? What perspective do you hope to bring to the table?
TR: I'm super stoked! I feel honored to even be asked, it makes me feel like my voice is being heard above the fray and I love it. I hope to be the blunt yet funny voice of truth and authenticity. I hope to show people my passion for this subject and to have important if somewhat uncomfortable conversations surrounding body positivity and all its facets.
Want to learn more about calling out fatphobia? Click HERE to read our interview with body-positive influencer Nicole Zajac.