Why Trans Beauty DEI pioneer Joseph Harwood is speaking out
Syco’s talent shows are one of the world’s most recognizable breeding grounds for stardom.
Over the years, they’ve turned One Direction, Little Mix, Fifth Harmony and more into household names. Notably, Pudsey the dog, who earned himself the lead role in a £2.5million ($3.3million) film after winning Britain’s Got Talent in 2012.
So why don’t we know the name of Syco’s first trans talent show winner, Joseph Harwood?
In 2014, Harwood participated in “The You Generation”, an online Syco talent show in partnership with YouTube, seeking to share her talents as a makeup artist.
She had been sharing transformational beauty tutorials on YouTube since 2007 and, although she never imagined she would win the grand prize of $75,000, she thought the show would be a great opportunity to reach new audiences. .
“They brought in loads of pop stars and musicians and artists and set it up so that judges from different specialties were the decision makers,” says Harwood.
For her entry, Harwood used makeup to transition from one gender expression to another, and the judges (Sam and Nicola Chapman of beauty empires Pixiwoo and Real Techniques) quickly crowned the winner of her category.
With seven categories remaining before the grand prize was announced, Harwood accepted the $2,000 category prize and held on.
“Then, even before the last category was finished, they emailed me saying I won,” she says. “I don’t know if the last category was considered fairly, but it did.”
Now $75,000 richer, Harwood was eager to see what doors the official announcement might open for her. Only he never came.
“I became the very first trans person to win a reality-based talent show, but they didn’t even post me as a winner on the YouTube channel after I won.”
The following weeks were incredibly frustrating for Harwood.
On the back of her YouTube channel, she had not only become a successful makeup artist, but one of the biggest openly trans creatives in the world. And yet, support from his chosen industry seemed non-existent.
“I got a huge cash prize – bigger than winning most of these TV show contests – but instead of getting a press release and being promoted in the typical news outlets, they deleted all content.”
To the career-chilling effect of over 100 million lost views.
Outside of the competition, things seemed to be improving. “I had booked a makeover segment in a weekly magazine with great mainstream exposure,” she says. “I did two songs; an article about my work and a piece where I transformed the beauty team by announcing that I would be doing celebrity makeovers every week.
Only, at the last minute, they emailed Harwood to say they were unable to continue and would replace her with the Pixiwoo sisters.
“Then it got even worse. I got an email and a tweet from a production company about a TV beauty pilot that implied they wanted me to be their makeup artist, like 10 years younger has a resident hairdresser or a judge, and I thought that would be phenomenal,” she says.
After talking to producers and the network, however, she found out they weren’t interested in her becoming a judge. They just wanted a makeover candidate.
“They literally thought I was a ‘Snog Marry Avoid‘-type competitor, not a beauty expert,’ she says.
“They didn’t respect my talent or my worth and saw me as some kind of freak with an alternate outfit that needed a conservative makeover, which was the nail in the coffin of this whole situation.”
Looking for a talent manager who would not only respect but champion her trans identity, things haven’t improved much. She was regularly asked how often she could “present as a boy” to appeal to a larger, more comfortable market.
“It didn’t matter if I got the views, the endorsements, or the merchandise I was promoting ran out. I never had any support and it made me feel small.
“I came home and cried because until then I thought I was treated like everyone else, but that wasn’t the case.”
Deciding to step back from the seemingly impossible world of social influence, Harwood retrained as an MSc in Cosmetic Sciences and began partnering with brands behind the scenes.
“I developed and co-designed a product line under L’Oréal Innovations that crossed borders and was launched in 2018,” she says proudly. “It reached number one in Elle UK’s Pride list and a huge amount of other publications like Vogue and Marie Claire.”
Still, Harwood feels like she’s only on the first page of this new chapter.
“I really wanted to raise awareness that we’ve been focusing on DEI in the beauty industry for the past five years, but in plain sight, we’ve lost all of our key trans creative players because of the infrastructure. prior media,” she said. “I really don’t think people are aware of what happened and I think it’s time to start talking about it.”
Recently, Harwood has worked as a DEI consultant for a number of major beauty brands. Notably PUIG, for whom she facilitated ten workshops with brand VPs to create new contours to include gender non-conforming people in their marketing.
And it doesn’t stop there. Given the slow but sure evolution of values in the industry, she plans to launch her own line of products.
“I’m a successful businesswoman,” she says, “and I want to create more media exposure so people see trans people as ordinary human beings fighting for a better quality of life for everyone.”