Beauty industry

Beauty brands can’t fight racism and work with problematic influencers

  • Not all beauty brands that claim to fight racism have stopped working with controversial influencers.
  • In 2021, some worked with YouTubers whose backgrounds include racism and moonlighting.
  • Some beauty experts and fans say these brands shouldn’t have a pass.
  • Visit the Insider home page for more stories.

The beauty industry has collectively worked to become more inclusive in recent years.

Companies have started to move away from the idea that makeup is exclusively a female hobby, and wide ranges of shades are becoming the norm. Big industry players have also said they will take action against bullying, racism and other forms of discrimination in 2019 and 2020.

But this year, some of those activist-inspired promises seem not to be enough. Brands like Elf Cosmetics, Sephora and Morphe made such promises, yet they continued to work with controversial influencers who made racist remarks and spread dangerous conspiracy theories throughout their careers.

Now beauty fans say they are heartbroken to see their favorite companies seemingly choose sales and advertising over the alliance. And experts argue that brands should sever ties with problematic influencers – regardless of their fame – to back their words with action.

Beauty brands continue to partner with problematic influencers

In early 2021, Sephora came under heavy criticism for sponsoring a YouTube video made by conservative influencer Amanda Ensing. Beauty fans were quick to quote Ensing’s story of spreading QAnon plots, apparently supporting the Capitol insurgency in January, and “black fishing.” Some even wrote #BoycottSephora on social media.

The retailer then cut ties with the influencer, telling Insider it did so as soon as the company was “made aware of Ensing’s worrying behavior” on social media – and not because of his opinions. political or religious.

A similar scandal occurred a few weeks later, this time involving makeup mogul Jeffree Star. On February 12, the influencer shared a photo of Elf Cosmetics’ new Mint Melt collection on Twitter and said he would try the line, to which the brand responded, “I can’t wait!”

Shortly after, Star posted a glowing review of the collection to her YouTube channel.

In the past, Star has been recorded making racist remarks, photographed with hate symbols, caught insulting minors and accused of being a tyrant on numerous occasions. And in 2020, several people accused Star of sexual assault, physical violence and offers of hidden money while speaking with Kat Tenbarge of Insider.

Beauty companies teaming up with problematic influencers have also been a problem in the past.

Sephora continued to work with Kat Von D after she was criticized for apparently mocking disabilities and sexualizing young girls with her makeup shade names, and accused of being anti-vaxxer and anti-Semitic. However, the brand stopped working with the tattoo artist in 2020, when they quit their makeup brand, which has since been renamed KVD Beauty.

Makeup retailer Morphe continued to work with Star throughout his controversial career, not severing ties with him until the summer of 2020. Around this time, Morphe also worked with Nikita Dragun – and suffered backlash for this – after the influencer has been accused of moonlighting on numerous occasions and partying throughout the pandemic.

Representatives for Elf Cosmetics and Morphe did not immediately respond to Insider’s request to comment on this story.

The same cosmetics companies have vowed to fight racism

In the summer of 2020, many beauty brands took action against racial injustice after the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and others.

Elf Cosmetics said they donated $ 25,000 to the Color of Change organization, Morphe said they donated to Black Lives Matter and Sephora created an option for its Beauty Insider members to redeem their points for donations. to the National Black Justice Coalition.

More recently, brands like Elf Cosmetics and Sephora have spoken out against the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes via Instagram.

A post shared by Morphe (@morphebrushes)

Morphe, Elf Cosmetics and Sephora – along with many others – also participated in the #PullUpOrShutUp challenge, created by Uoma Beauty founder Sharon Chuter for her organization Pull Up For Change, in 2020. Through the challenge, Chuter aimed to raise awareness of the “under-representation of blacks in corporate America, particularly in leadership roles”.

To do this, she asked people to avoid buying from their favorite brands for 72 hours to demand that companies, especially those that have issued statements in favor of Black Lives Matter, publish the number of employees. blacks that they have at their head.

The three brands mentioned above all published breakdown percentages of their staff at the time, with Morphe reporting that black employees made up 3% of his leadership and non-black people of color 51%; Sephora reports that black employees made up 6% of its leadership and that non-black POCs made up 45%; and Elf reporting that 14% of its leadership is made up of black employees, while other POCs made up 45% of the entire company.

After participating, Morphe said on Instagram that he had “more work to do” and was committed to “making incremental progress in black representation in all areas” of his business, among other plans.

Sephora also shared a variety of her goals online and noted that she was “ready to do the work” necessary to “create meaningful and lasting change” across all of her businesses.

Sephora declined to comment on the percentage of black and non-black POC employees in management when contacted by Insider for up-to-date numbers. Representatives for Morphe and Elf Cosmetics did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on the same topic.

Experts say beauty brands need to listen to their fans and make the necessary changes

Maude Okrah and Simone Tetteh co-founded the online beauty platform Black beauty list.

The group strives to create opportunities for black beauty designers in the television, film and publishing industries, while providing the public with training in textured hair and makeup for all skin tones. .

Speaking to Insider via email, Okrah said the community is “very important to BIPOC beauty fans.” She said community members “seek authenticity” and often decide whether they will be long-term supporters of brands and influencers based on their authenticity.

“Brands are measured by the actions of their partners as much as theirs,” Okrah said.

A post shared by Diversity in Beauty (@blackbeautyroster)

England-based Adrian Beautee and Alabama-based Adriana H. are two of those fans.

Beautee told Insider that he finds Elf Cosmetics’ recent support for Star hypocritical. He also said that Sephora’s sponsorship of Ensing was, in his view, the result of a lack of “research” and “due diligence”.

Adriana H., who asked to use her last initial for privacy reasons, agreed.

“A brand cannot take a stand for discrimination, racism and other prevalent issues if it collaborates with influencers who embody the very things they are campaigning against,” she said. “It is not to be an ally. It is to be a fraud.”

That’s why Okrah says beauty brands “must keep their promises to fight racism” – because “shareholders, employees and consumers demand it.”

And according to the co-founders of Black Beauty Roster, it goes beyond just building a diversity, equity and inclusion team. Instead, Tetteh says brands “need to move from declarations and donations to measurable and sustainable actions.”

Some of these involve looking within their organizations, determining what they are doing “to actively tackle racism and prejudice internally”, and committing to working with more people of color, for example. she declared.

“We won’t see change without action,” Okrah added.

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