It's super-important to me and all of us at Grazia to create a supportive, positive, inspirational environment for our growing Grazia Girl Gang of smart, sassy, successful women to be their best selves and achieve their dreams.
However, it doesn't seem to be a priority for everyone, as I discovered on a recent visit to a trusted pharmacy chain whose staff had appeared to have been given customer service training by Regina George from Mean Girls.
Full disclosure: I was on a make-up free errands run in an adidas tracksuit at the mall. After kindly helping me find my purchases, the sales assistant added, "How about some make-up, ma'am?" I was duly compelled to explain that despite appearances, I did actually own quite a bit of make-up, but just wasn't wearing any at that precise moment, before laughing at the absurdity of having to justify my life choices to a stranger trying to upsell me cosmetics.
I had got off lightly compared to an esteemed colleague who was asked by a sales assistant in the same store, totally unprompted, whether she needed anything for her acne.
Natasha Zaki, the Dubai-based founder of Glossy Make Up, is determined that her counters won't play on our insecurities or flaws. "Look at brands such as MAC, Bobbi Brown, and Make Up For Ever. They are not force-selling to anyone. They are a happy place, with a happy environment, and professional products. It’s the same for Glossy Make Up." Natasha suggests sales assistants should approach customers with an appropriate greeting, share information about current promotions, and only discuss sensitive matters if the customer raises them first, then offer their best advice accordingly.
For the record, I've written love letters to my favourite lipstick (it's MAC in Morange), carved a 20-year magazine career from bringing the latest beauty launches to life, and am also lucky enough to have the region's leading make-up artist on speed dial - Vimi Joshi, I'm looking at you! - so if I ever need a killer look for the red carpet or TV, I'm blessed with the back-up to make it happen.
Aside from my male model boyfriend telling me to ditch my blue eyeshadow in the '90s, I'd like to think I have a very healthy relationship with make-up because what motivates me is what I'm putting out into the world, not what I'm putting on my face.
So note to the big brands: show us some of the inclusivity and inspiration from your Instagram feeds IRL, and make sure your stores don't become a place that make us feel bad about ourselves.