I think the advent of social media has really put a spotlight on brands and has meant that every misstep is out there for all of us to see when we're deciding which brands we want to purchase from. That's a great thing in many ways! Then on the flip side, cancel culture has meant there are few 'unproblematic' brands that you're 'allowed' to buy from and the s*** list changes so rapidly that I've had many occasions when a scheduled post has gone out and between me writing it and publishing, it something has kicked off. Today I'm sharing my personal thoughts on some brands that are thought of as controversial. This is definitely something I could live to regret... But let's do it!
Where do we even start with Jeffree Star? If you've been living under a rock; Jeffree is a former MySpace star / musician turned beauty guru and brand owner who is known for his androgynous appearance and 'edgy' antics (such as showing guns and smoking weed in his YouTube videos, his ostentatious displays of wealth and even destroying eye-wateringly-expensive designer handbags for 'fun'). I have to admit that initially there's something very watchable about Jeffree; he has some sort of x factor or super-charisma that draws you in. However he's been embroiled in a number of racism controversies... He's apologised (check out the video here) and did seek redemption in the Shane Dawson docu-series on him (if you somehow haven't seen it, take a look here) but further accusations emerged after this. And not only that - he's somewhat notorious for 'clapping back' on Twitter in very harsh ways, even to his fans and customers (as well as other influencers), in full knowledge of the fact his hardcore stans are going to send these people hate.
The productsI get that a lot of people want to keep it just 'about the makeup' and that's probably why Jeffree's brand has not only continued to survive but has prospered throughout the drama. I've never tried his highlighters or eyeshadow palettes, because pre-controversy; his brand was just liquid lipsticks. I reviewed the shades I have here and the formula is great and overall Jeffree has brought some really unique colours to the market. The brand is also vegan and cruelty-free, plus Jeffree has his own factory, so retains a considerable level of control over his production.
My personal thoughtsI definitely think the Shane Dawson series gave me an understanding of who Jeffree is and why he does some of the things he does. I also 100% get that Jeffree has been a prominent person in the LGBTQ+ community for years and to see how popular and successful he is now and how he came out of the other side of his depression and other mental health issues can be a huge source of inspiration to people. As much as 'cancel culture' can create an environment where we have to be black and white about these things; this is such a grey area for me and I think it's important to acknowledge that. I don't begrudge anyone for supporting Jeffree Star; I can absolutely see his appeal and his products are widely regarded as excellent. For me, personally, I want to wait and see if in the long-term we see some real changes in him. I do have a soft spot for Jeffree and I'm rooting for him to change his ways, however at this time I'm not featuring his products on my blog. That could change in the future but at the moment it's my personal choice. I still use the products I own in my private life and I'm open to reconsidering things in the future but this is where I'm at right now!
- DECIEM -
The teaI think this has to be one of the most bizarre controversies of 2018... Deciem is the umbrella company behind skincare and haircare brands like Niod and the Ordinary (which kind of changed the game when they released active skincare products at crazy-low prices) so not exactly who you usually expect drama from! However earlier this year their CEO Brandon Truaxe took control over the brand's Instagram account and instead of news and updates on products and store openings, we started to get strange personal posts from Brandon (as he declared Deciem would no longer be doing traditional marketing) which became increasingly concerning. These posts ranged from dropping one of their brands via Instagram without telling the owner to some sort of strange incident where Brandon was seen running from presumably colleague, who seemed concerned for his welfare. People were seriously worried about his well-being and he was lashing out at people in the comment section of his posts. This went on for almost an entire year, whilst it seemed Brandon was firing anyone who tried to step in and halt the chaos (I'm really not sure how, given that most companies have checks and balances in place to prevent any one person having that level of control). Finally, as he declared he was going to be closing stores (and it turned from a PR nightmare to a total financial mess), minority stakeholder Estee Lauder took him to court and had him ousted as CEO and re-recruited many of his fatalities. It appears all is back to normal for now...
The productsBefore the entire saga began to unfold, Deciem was really well-respected; primarily for the Ordinary's innovation and their more premium skincare outfit - Niod. I was always a huge, huge fan and had a good relationship with their then-PR and just really believed in their mission prior to all of this. I thought the Ordinary was a genius concept and it gave me real happiness to be able to recommend their products to friends and family who aren't going to go out and spend £50 on a retinol product and have them see real results in their skin. I guess my genuine enthusiasm for the brand is why this controversy was so disappointing for me. You can see reviews of Deciem products I've tried here.
My personal thoughtsOk, I did actually get the impression that my reaction to all of the drama was a little different to maybe a lot of people's. Without speculating on strangers' mental health, my thoughts were largely along the lines of: 'something's not right here', 'why isn't anyone stopping this?', 'how do you get to a level where no one can be honest with you and get you help?' as opposed to any sort of anger. Brandon is gone now and I hope he's happy and healthy in his personal life, but I do still have a bit of a sour taste in my mouth over the whole thing. I haven't been part of any boycott but during 2018, I did refrain from featuring Deciem products like I had been prior to the drama. Hopefully things are back on the right track and the love story can recommence in 2019...
- KAT VON D BEAUTY -
The teaAs it turns out, controversy with Kat Von D (celebrity tattoo artist) goes waaaay back to the pre-'internet never forgets' days, though most people weren't really aware of it. Kat Von D pretty much sunk her brand in a single Instagram post, which is an impressive achievement! She essentially outed herself as an anti-vaxxer. If you aren't familiar with this movement; it essentially emerged in the 90s when a paper was published linking vaccines to an increase in the chance of autism. This has since been discredited over and over again and the doctor who wrote that paper was struck off. However, for whatever reason, the myth has persisted (for those who believe that nonsense; apparently they value disabled people so little that dead child > autistic child) and is the reason why here in 2018 we are getting outbreaks of illnesses like measles and whooping cough in affluent areas of California ... Not only that, but vaccination relies on herd immunity; meaning that when everyone who can be immunised has been immunised, it protects those who can't be vaccinated for medical reasons. So, if you think it's 'just a personal choice', you're very wrong... After this controversy blew up, it came to light Kat has been associated with suspected neo-Nazis in the past. Yikes...
The productsLike Jeffree, I definitely see that Kat has an appeal to a certain audience; her packaging is all based around her tattoo designs and when she first came through, there definitely weren't many brands creating this sort of 'edgy' makeup. I haven't tried a lot from her range but was impressed with what I've tried and appreciate that she has many 'classics'. At the same time, I think her brand hasn't really moved with the times and her products are no longer that unique, so you can probably find similar stuff elsewhere. My features of her products can be found here.
My personal thoughtsI definitely don't have that 'I want to like you' feeling towards Kat that I expressed with regards to Jeffree; I still have some of her products in my collection but they won't be featured on my blog or Instagram account any time soon (outside of my declutter series, as I want those posts to be a fair representation of my collection). I just think she's shown herself to be of poor moral standing. Her brand is named after her and she's the face of it, so I can't separate the brand from the owner enough to promote Kat Von D Beauty.
- HUDA BEAUTY -
The teaHuda Beauty is the brand created by OG beauty guru Huda Kattan. I wouldn't say there's really strong branding or a specific overarching aesthetic to her products, besides the odd desert-themed twist. However earlier this year she released an 'easy bake' baking powder and did a whole campaign around 50s housewives and baking. If you're familiar with the brand Beauty Bakerie, you'll know their entire concept, theme and cute packaging is all around baking / desserts and they already have a 'flour powder' product. The whole thing smacked of a larger brand taking an idea from an indie brand and hoping no one would notice... I don't think Huda's response video taking us through the 'creative process' behind the product and its marketing really helped either! As a side-controversy; I've heard whispers on the internet that people think Huda is homophobic. I haven't seen any receipts for this, other than that apparently anyone who is Muslim or in the Arab world must hate the LGBTQ+ community (to be perfectly honest; this is incredibly racist, narrow-minded, downright untrue in my own personal experience, not to mention it completely ignores intersectionality...) I've seen people say this is because she doesn't share male artists on her Instagram page and I've also seen the same said about non-Arab women of colour. I'm scrolling through her feed now and that's simply not the case! Perhaps it was an oversight that was pointed out and she's now more proactively trying to ensure artists she shares are diverse.
The productsI'm personally a big fan of Huda's eyeshadow palettes, liquid lipsticks and lip liners. Each palette has an interesting theme and beautiful colours and textures that get me excited about creating something new and exciting. Personally, the complexion products have never appealed to me much, so I've never felt the urge to pick them up. I own a good few of her products and you can read through some of my reviews here.
My personal thoughtsI do actually think that the Beauty Bakerie incident was pretty s****y and Huda was rightfully called out for it so hopefully won't be doing anything like that in the future. It's depressing to say but in this day and age, where every brand's every misstep is recorded on the internet forever; it does take a little more than a minor transgression for me to draw the line and say I won't buy their products or talk about the brand. I just hope Huda will do better going forwards!
- MORPHE -
The teaWhere do we even start with Morphe...?! Ok, so they've only been around a few years but in that time - with the help of influencer marketing - they've become HUGE! Back when they first launched, Morphe was really just a private-labelled brand, meaning they purchased low-cost generic products (primarily eyeshadow palettes and brushes) and whacked their name on the packaging then marked everything up for retail. This meant their products weren't unique and could be found on sites like eBay at lower prices. Meanwhile, most of the 'popular' YouTube beauty gurus had lucrative affiliate codes they were pushing on their viewers (often not disclosing that they were making money from them). Many consumers found that the quality wasn't what they'd been led to expect based on the rave reviews from influencers. Whilst Morphe has rebranded to make their products unique and their packaging more premium (and inflated their prices accordingly), the controversy has persisted. Namely Vaultgate. If you've been living under a rock: Jaclyn Hill released a palette with Morphe, which was very well-received, so they 'opened the vault' and created four themed palettes from shades that they didn't end up using in the palette. When these were sent out to influencers the reviews were... not good. The palettes were immediately pulled with the promise of full refunds to those who'd already purchased them and Morphe announced there had been an issue with how the shadows were pressed, so all of the stock would be destroyed and the palettes would be re-released. However the 'reformulated' palettes came out suspiciously quickly, the quality issues persisted and people weren't receiving their refunds. Draw your own conclusions!
The productsI've tried 'old Morphe' products and 'new Morphe' products and nothing has really wowed me. Some of their products are pretty decent but it's very much 'hit and miss' in terms of quality. I've had good brushes from them that I use on a daily basis, but I've also had them shed after one use and turn into a total mess after one wash... The eyeshadows just aren't anything to write home about for me, either. I just think you have to be careful when you're seeing these YouTubers with codes they're making money off push these products so hard. You can read my Morphe reviews here.
My personal thoughtsI don't like their business practices (Vaultgate was all so shady) and I just don't think their products are anything special. I won't not talk about the products I think are good from them but it's always going to have to be caveated with a paragraph-long disclaimer... But when there are a ton of other products that are better than theirs and just as affordable, if not cheaper, then I don't really need to!
How do you feel about these brands? Are there any I didn't mention that you have feelings about? Sound off in the comments...