Thoughts on the Beauty Influencer Drama of Summer 2018
The summer of 2018 will be one for the books in the Beauty Creator Community.
Tea was spilt, (more like poured,) subscribers were lost, brands cut ties, and accusations were thrown left and right. No creator was safe from this hurricane of drama, and now, we are all reeling from the results.
Honestly, the beauty community is somewhat of a scary place to be a part of at the moment (and I’m not referring to the Halloween makeup tutorials coming right around the corner). Some of our favorite creators turned out to be major disappointments and no one is quite sure where to turn for the truth.
The truth. Honesty. Transparency. Being genuine.
These are traits that are talked about ad nauseam in beauty videos be it reviews or hauls or “truth” videos or Get Ready With Me chat videos. If these ideas are so revered and coveted then why is it so difficult to find these traits among our largest, most successful creators?
The “truth” has become a commodity.
In another realm of online content, this summer opened up with the appalling failure of “TanaCon”; a creator convention produced by creator, Tana Mongeau alongside what was once Good Times Entertainment, (now Good Times TV). Days following the event, creator, Shane Dawson teased his groundbreaking documentary series: “The Truth About TanaCon,” which has now amassed over 44 million views across the 3 episodes released to YouTube in the end of June. Almost immediately, the internet demanded more and Shane Dawson was ready with another unprecedented exposé of YouTube’s biggest beauty star.
Shane Dawson’s 5 Part Series: “The Secret Life of Jeffree Star” blew the doors off of expectations and is currently sitting at over 90 million views total. Released in early August, the series opened fans’ eyes to the world behind the lens of Jeffree Star’s videos and showed details about his daily life and more about the enormous amount of wealth he has amassed since his early music career and MySpace days. Jeffree Star and Shane Dawson took us on an emotional ride through Star’s past as a musician and creator, as well as dealing with serious mental health obstacles and hurdles that Star has overcome. Beauty fans were given an exclusive tour of Star’s life and both creators were admittedly shocked by the overwhelming response.
YouTube celebrated the success of this documentary across the internet and across the world. Shane Dawson was elated to have successful brand deals. Jeffree Star felt a weight lift off his shoulders with every confession and truth he uttered in the weeks following. Make no mistake however, both of these creators are reaping the benefits of this series.. Whatever monetary gains come their way may be deserved, but from now on, when Shane Dawson speaks the Truth, people listen.
That is unmistakeable power.
Following the enormous success of this series, some of Jeffree Stars’ not-so-biggest fans released statements of their own. The photo posted by creator, Gabriel Zamora featuring himself and creators, Laura Lee, Manny Gutierrez (a.k.a. Manny MUA,) and Nikita Dragun showing the middle finger to the camera created a huge backlash for showing the caption,”B— is bitter because without him we are doing better.” This was highly speculated to be about the success of Jeffree Star’s documentary and was further validated by Zamora’s tweet “Imagine stanning a rascist? I could never,” in response to one of Jeffree Star’s dedicated fanbase.
What quickly followed was a slew of tweets dredged up from the depths of 2012 written by Zamora and his friends featured in the photograph. Most detrimental were the nature of the racist tweets written by Laura Lee, which have since caused her to lose half a million subscribers and almost all of her brand partnerships including Ulta Beauty, Boxycharm, Morphe and Colourpop Cosmetics. Lee followed up with a tearful video that many labeled as being faked or disingenuous.
The effects of this development in the Beauty Community were felt for weeks. Hashtags like #LauraLeeCancelled and #CantRelate were seen everywhere. Mid-level influencers, smaller beauty creators, and beauty fans alike rushed to add their perspective and judgement to the scene and many reacted by unfollowing everyone altogether. Each of the four creators released further statements and “truths” and videos about their side of the story with Gabriel Zamora even admitting he would be cutting out certain individuals from his life due to the toxicity of their relationships. Zamora created a well-received apology video about the entire situation and saw his subscriber numbers rise as well as a “Jeffree Star Approved” rating of his apology.
Soon after, stirring the pot even further, a discussion around influencer honesty and brand sponsorships erupted and shifted the blame from the aforementioned creators to beauty influencer culture as whole. Owner of Makeup Geek Cosmetics, Marlena Stell released a video explaining why she, as a smaller brand was unable to keep up with influencer demands of over $60k in payment for a single sponsored video. Without naming names, Stell explained to beauty fans the hardships she faced in operating in an influencer market.
Swiftly, Stell was met with backlash from creators and makeup artists such as Emmy Award winning makeup artist, Kevin James Bennett who claimed:
“… 3) $75k-$85k - dedicated negative review of a competitors product (price determined by length of video… Yes, option #3 is legit - payment to damage the competition’s business. I told you it was mob - like behavior. The demands and threats of “influencers” and their management have GOT TO STOP…”
Additionally, beauty creator, James Charles responded by tweeting,
“I’ve NEVER heard of this happening and believe what you want, but most of us DO disclose sponsorships”.
The act of disclosing a sponsored video or post is required by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) although many, such as Bennett say that the FTC needs to take a heavier hand in punishment for those who do not disclose their sponsored content.
Once again, beauty influencers and creators have rushed to provide their perspective on the situation on their channels and some have resonated very strongly with the beauty community. Samantha Ravndahl, a beauty creator from British Columbia released a video titled, “The Problem with the Beauty Community,” which was particularly enlightening and well received by audiences and creators alike. Ravndahl urges her audience to vote with their dollars and to make informed decisions about the products they are buying, the influencers they are supporting, and the brands they invest their hard-earned money in.
At the end of the day, ALL of this revolves around money.
The cosmetic industry is a business. Each brand has to create revenue and influencers have to get paid for the work they do. Audiences demand the truth and a genuine experience from each creator they watch, but they are all too eager to spectate when the walls come crumbling down. Only then they realize that what lies behind the walls of perfect advertisements and glowing ring lights is a world that lacks any resemblance to beauty at all. They demand better, they pursue their witch hunts and the few at the top either explode from success or are executed publicly.
As a writer for Wheesearch Beauty, I do not claim to agree or disagree with any of the statements made in this article. My only wish is to examine each event and find the commonalities between us all. Each beauty fan has the right to make a decision based on the events that occurred that aligns with their values and their personal experience.
At Wheesearch Beauty, our goal is to promote a sense of trust and… forgive me for saying it again… truth. Personally, I believe that each person should make informed decisions about how they spend their money and who they support. Our dollars are so coveted by large corporations and brands and we have the power to change the industry.
As we move away from the events of this summer, I would hope that the beauty community is able to heal and open the doors a little wider to a more genuine and trustworthy experience that is not fueled by jealousy and greed but by the desire to truly make the world a more beautiful place.
Written by Carly Ann Worden
Marketing and Content Manager for Wheesearch Inc.