Beauty Behind the Scenes, An Interview with Sarita Nauth
Written by Felicia Gopi
Sunday August 6, 2023
Social media was ablaze on Tuesday May 2, 2023 - the day after the coveted Met Gala, where Social Media Manager, Sarita Nauth graced the red carpet to cover the event. For Indo-Caribbean, and Caribbean folks at large, this was monumental. I did not know Sarita, when her photo came across my feed, nor had I heard of her but at that moment, I was cheering for her.
"I started off in media and entertainment almost a decade ago, I had gone through several internships that focused on photography, art, media…but in high school I primarily focused on fashion design.” Sarita has had a lengthy career in social media and production and she describes to me that it all started with her interest in fashion and “passion for chasing celebrities around New York City”. She explained that she didn’t see anyone who looked like her working in the media and as a young Indo-Caribbean girl, it made her want to pursue her dreams that much more.
Born in Guyana, Sarita moved to Belize at the young age of three years old, and then later at eight to New York City. While she says she didn’t initially have a strong tie to her Caribbean heritage due to her moving around when she was younger, she continued to tell me “All I knew is, I wanted to go to school for fashion design, because of my grandmother, who was a seamstress in Guyana.”
She broke down her career journey with a quick and inspiring story about how she often saw celebrities like the Jonas Brothers going in and out of the 1515 Broadway building in Times Square. She would ask herself, “What is up those escalators?” She answered her own question by securing an internship at VH1 on the social media team despite initially wanting to work in the press and talent communications department. After 9 years, she is now a Senior Social Media Manager at VH1 and BET, while also previously working with MTV as well. “I now know what is above those escalators.”
Working on programs like America’s Next Top Model (ANTM), Love & Hip Hop, Black Ink Crew, Wild ‘N Out and red carpets like the VMAs Sarita says “I’ve gotten a full breadth of experience from this job [...] and along the way I found my love for being a producer.” She covered her love of fashion by working on ANTM and then decided to explore her interests in beauty. “That’s where the inception of VH1’s Black Girl Beauty came to be”. Black Girl Beauty is a project that Sarita created to pay homage to the Black women who have been pioneers in the beauty and media industry for women of colour everywhere.
She explains that this taught her a valuable lesson in using numbers and research when working to pitch programming that represents niche audiences, despite them not always making up mass audiences. A distinction that is critical to ensuring that diversity is represented in mainstream media.
In speaking about diversity and representation, I had to ask Sarita to tell me what it was like for her to work the red carpet on fashion’s biggest night at the Met Gala. “It was so beautiful to be able to attend the Met Gala as press coverage for VH1 and BET and then also be able to be there in the moment.” She went on to explain the feelings of surrealness that surmounted from her years spent covering the event in high school where she studied fashion all the way into college. For Sarita, this all started as a little girl who looked up to her grandmother.
“It wasn’t until after the fact that it really sunk in with me, how important it is - the work that I'm doing. How important it is for me to continue to proudly say that I'm Indo-Caribbean. That means so much to other people and I don't think that I really soaked it all in since then, to really understand that, it meant a lot more than just going to work that day. It meant that I was putting our people in spaces that you don’t traditionally see our people”
She was right, all across social media I saw girls like myself who grew up loving, studying and immersing ourselves in fashion awestruck by Sarita standing there on that red carpet. Sometimes you can’t put into words the impact you have on other people just by striving for personal greatness.
Working on red carpets as well as behind and in front of the camera, Sarita has always had a unique seat at the table and a glimpse into the beauty industry from a media standpoint. Among witnessing counteless interactions where Black women and women of colour have been told to bring their own foundations to set or do their own hair beforehand, Sarita emphasises the need to continue to have conversations around the subject.
She also points to our own upbringings, community and families as a point where we can change the conversation. Growing up in a West Indian home as she points out, involves a varied yet united experience across different families. She highlights colourism as a main underlying theme that shapes the way we see ourselves in relation to beauty. She lists examples like comparing darker-skinned folks to those with lighter skin, or the practices of skin-lightening and bleaching to folks who deal with melasma, dark spots and discoloration. All of these experiences encapsulate the multi-hyphenated story of our beauty education. According to Sarita, the work lies in sharing our stories.
She also mentions the topic of hair texture particularly in Caribbean homes where those who grew up with kinkier hair types were labelled as mixed. Those comments were particularly enthralled in racist ideals that put down Afro-Caribbeans and Black beauty as a whole.
Besides sharing stories, Sarita knows that the key to changing professional spaces is to show up authentically and represent yourself in every way that you can. When she shows up in different rooms and her peers can’t quite put a label on her, she proudly says “I’m Indo-Caribbean.”
As for how she views herself she answers “unique, but that’s not always how I felt.” She describes a familiar tale of developing an unhealthy relationship with makeup, using it as a mask at all hours of the morning just to avoid being seen without it. “I have always been curvier, I have had stretch marks, keratosis pilaris, I've had dark spots at one point in time, I never wanted to not wear makeup…” As a woman, sitting across from her, it was emotional to hear her talk about how she was unable to see the real beauty within herself for a long time.
“I’ve had people call me fat, when people have rejected me, and I assumed that that's because of how I looked, and [now] when I look at myself in the mirror, [...] I refuse to care about what someone thinks about me.”
Now she says, “Instead of working against myself, I'm going to work with myself.” She explains that, “I’m going to do everything that I can to make sure that Sarita remains Sarita, without compromising myself along the way.”
“It means so much more to me that I can wake up loving myself and knowing that I don't need the validation of other people, both on the internet and [in] real life, in order to say I feel beautiful, confident and strong enough to move forward in my day.” Her confidence is key, and it’s something she’s worked on, coming out of a sea of pressure from those who have likely projected their own insecurities onto her, “We’ve all been fat-shamed by the aunty who doesn't even know how to spell gym” she quips.
Her honesty and sense of humour brought a much needed sense of levity to the moment, but we quickly get back to the seriousness of the matter when she says “I have been bullied and harassed, and fat-shamed more by Caribbean people than I have by people in other races which is very sad.” Her sentiments ring true for many of us who, in part, due to proximity feel the hurt from these comments where the majority come from our own communities. It’s a stark reminder to Sarita, to empower other brown women to be unapologetically bold, a move that she hopes will ease the pain of feeling not good enough.
About the Author
Felicia is the editor in chief of Story, a newsletter by the Indo-Caribbean Canadian Association. She also works in digital marketing with a background in beauty and fashion. She began volunteering with the Indo-Caribbean Association to contribute directly to her community and to learn from other like-minded individuals.
For more information visit feliciagopi.ca