Black Simmers have often felt let down by The Sims. Whether it's the lack of kinky and curly hairstyles or a dearth of skin tones, making a Sim that's not white is much harder than it should be. In The Sims 4, one of the most egregious issues was makeup. I'll give it credit for being true to life; just like in the real world, in The Sims, it was difficult to find makeup that didn't look like a straight up clown on darker skin tones. The Sims 4's collaboration with MAC Cosmetics has gone a long way to fix this problem.
From the beginning, MAC is a cosmetics company that has focused on creating a diverse range of highly pigmented shades of makeup that fit every skin tone, even when it wasn't popular in the fashion industry. When I first started wearing makeup and couldn't find my foundation shade in any department store brands, MAC was the first place I turned to. Black women have always been able to rely on the brand for makeup that's pigmented enough to show up on their skin. As a champion of diversity and inclusion in the fashion industry, the collaboration with The Sims, which has strived to become more and more inclusive over its 20 year tenure.
"I know many companies are claiming diversity now," MAC director of makeup Romero Jennings said over the phone. "I've been with Mac now for 26 years. I can tell you every day I get up, I love what I do. I love my work because I really love people. So what's great and something that keeps me getting up and going to work every day is that fact, that diversity, that we're for everyone."
Jennings' enthusiasm is infectious. He worked closely with The Sims 4's development team for the makeup included in the free update. The looks range from subtle splashes of color to bold, editorial looks. After the update went live last week, I had to remove all my modded-in makeup. I have dozens of mods installed that already look better on dark skin tones than what comes in game, but after an update, it's safer to take all your mods out so they don't conflict with the update itself. The modded makeup, like the matte lipsticks from modder Kotcat or the vibrant, I-wish-these-were-real eyeshadow mods from Crypticsim, weren't necessarily made to solve The Sims 4's issue with makeup on dark skin tones, but they get the job done, and I'm sad every time I have to uninstall them. The MAC collaboration makes this pre-update ritual less of a heartbreaker, though. On all of the darker skin tones, there's at least one shade of blush, lipstick and eyeshadow that looks natural, or even pretty, on dark skin.
Jennings said that his intimate knowledge of MAC's product base, which is already inclusive of those darker skin tones, made teaching the development team how to be more inclusive with their makeup easy for him.
"What happened was, we're in this meeting and we have all the colors in front of us and I'm basically saying to them, 'this one blue eyeshadow is going to read the same on a light skin tone, a medium skin tone and a deep.' So we wanted to make sure that it translated that way in the game," Jennings said. "I was able to sit down at one of the technical stations and actually like, play with how they're building, I guess coding, which I knew nothing about. So I had a little taste of that and that experience in itself really helped me to push and design even more."
"Getting a [real life] eyeshadow to relate to light, medium and deep skin and work on all three, I mean, that's something that we're doing in product development," Jennings continued. In addition to being a makeup artist, Jennings is closely involved with product development at MAC as well. "Say, okay, so this is a sheer lipstick. How sheer do we want it? Do we want it to give enough coverage for someone who has just one color lip or someone who has two tones in their lips or someone that's lighter, medium, or dark. So there are similarities a hundred percent."
The magic of MAC has always been, for me, the idea that I can actually live out my fantasy. The first time I threw on the deep purple lipstick Cyber, at the tender age of 16, I was trying to live out my dreams of hanging at Cyberdelia, the grungy goth club in Hackers. At the time, most makeup couldn't make me look how I wanted. MAC always did, and I'll always be grateful that they exist. The Sims is also about living a fantasy, even if most of its fantasies are mundane. Still, when you don't see people who look like you in the world and in media, there's power in even enacting the most simple of fantasies.
"This is why I'm so in love with this brand and this game. You can create your own virtual, perfect world and live in it," Jennings said. "Even if it's just for an hour, I come out of the game feeling fresh."