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Falvey Focuses on Scholarship: Chloe Benson Researches Race and Gender Issues in the Cosmetics Industry

Chloe Benson


Welcome to part 2 of a 7-part series featuring the 2021 Falvey Scholars. Read more about them every Monday and in the upcoming issue of Mosaic: the Library’s bi-annual publication.

Falvey Memorial Library is honored to announce the 2021 Falvey Scholar award winners. We will showcase the research of our eight young alumni on the blog and in the fall issue of Mosaic.

Sponsored by the Library and the Center for Research and Fellowships, the Falvey Scholars program recognizes outstanding undergraduate research at Villanova University. Award winners are selected from a pool of candidates generated by applications submitted by a senior Villanova University student or a group of students working on a senior project together with the recommendation of the advisor to the senior thesis or capstone project completed for academic credit.

View the 2021 Falvey Scholars Awards virtual booklet.

Researcher Brief

Falvey Scholar: Chloe Benson

Hometown: North Charleston, S.C.

Other Honors: Fulbright Alternate for Global Wales, Villanova Presidential Scholar, Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholar 

Project Title: “The (Dis)Invention of Black Womanhood: A Rhetorical Analysis of Intersectional Oppression within Cosmetics Practices”

Faculty Mentor: Billie Murray, PhD, Associate Professor, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Learn about Chloe’s research in her own words:


Tell me about your Falvey Scholar Award-winning research project.

My research focuses on the cosmetics industry, specifically examining foundation shade products to better understand how intersectionally raced and gendered discourses are deeply embedded within the products.

I utilize a Black feminist approach to analyze the rhetorical practices within six different artifacts. Through my research, I have found four key themes that speak to the intersectional oppression that Black and brown women experience. The most revealing theme analyzes how cosmetics brands reproduce the discourse of Black female unrapability. What I mean by this is that Black women have consistently been rendered exotic, hypersexual beings. The assumption that Black women are inherently sexual in nature implies that Black women are perpetually available to sexual partners—that they are always wanting. Making this assumption allows for violence against Black women to be taken less seriously.

Ultimately, my research challenges this flat characterization of Black women and looks to see where areas of subversion can occur within everyday aspects of our life, even seemingly ordinary activities like that of applying our foundation.

How did Falvey Memorial Library support your research?

Working with librarians like Jutta Seibert, Director of Research Services & Scholarly Engagement, helped me hone my key search terms that I may not have thought of on my own. She also helped me think outside of the box and capture some pieces of literature I wouldn’t have happened upon otherwise.

I could not have gotten a full understanding of the literature and academic scholarship surrounding my topic without the e-library and databases available at Falvey. I was able to look across disciplines to get a full picture of my topic. I used Falvey’s resources so much that for the first time in four years, I ran out of printing money!

What impact did this project have on you?

I’ve always had a love for cosmetics, and perhaps one day I will work within the cosmetics industry to improve upon the Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) practices and policies within this area of focus. For now, this project has challenged me to consider what is banal and seemingly “normalized” in our daily lives and to interrogate those unacknowledged aspects of life that work to harm marginalized groups.

What’s next for you?

I am moving to New York City to work full-time at Bloomberg LP in Human Resources where I will be building out early engagement D&I programming within the D&I Recruiting Team.


Shawn Proctor

Shawn Proctor, MFA, is Communications and Marketing Program Manager at Falvey Memorial Library.




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Last Modified: June 1, 2021

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