They're great teaching us how to do our makeup, but are they models in terms of values and virtues?
Makeup is one of the most profitable industries nowadays, and beauty influencers have both taken advantage of its success and also helped it grow. If you like makeup, you’re probably familiar with at least one of them, or most likely you’ve watched and followed their makeup tutorials. Before I first encountered these types of videos, I had no idea of the impact and popularity of these characters. It just takes one video to get dragged into this wide world of beauty influencers. But what happens when these people show their true colors? Should we forgive them and continue “learning” from them, or should we show them our anger by clicking on the unsubscribe button? Does it make a difference?
Before writing this, I was going through the internet and found a video in Jen Luvs Reviews’ channel, where she explained how these people have gotten where they are right now. She mentioned charisma and personality, money, makeup skills, and time. The thing is that for the media they are like celebrities, in terms of their fame and controversy, which we’re going to deal with in a moment. They have millions of followers on every social media you can imagine; they upload stuff every single day and “open” their lives to their audience. So, is that really the key to success in a media, where basically everybody can do the same as you? Well, I kind of agree with Jen. Yes, you need time to be on social media all day and remain relevant to your audience; you also need money for equipment and beauty products (at least at first when you’re not on the PR list), and of course, charisma and personality. However, I’d go beyond that and also add sympathy to the list.
I truly believe that the key to their success lies in sympathy and trust. The blog format, unlike television or film, is all about connecting with the viewer in a more obvious and direct way. How do you do that? By creating an emotional bond in each of your videos. I’ve seen makeup tutorials where there’s no talking at all, just the instructions and the person doing it, and let me tell you, no matter how great the makeup is, you don’t even finish it because it becomes boring. You want them talking to you, so it truly feels as if you were just getting ready with a friend at your home. They joke, they give you some advice, they even open up about personal things, giving you the impression that they’re confiding something to you, even when millions are watching the same thing. So, naturally, once this bond gets stronger after watching about five of their videos, it’s even harder to break that close connection, which takes us to the core of the issue.
We learn about our favorite celebrities lives through tabloids, interviews, and the selected bits they want to show on their social media. That distance creates just the perfect amount of approachability, making them figures to look up to passionately. Their channels aren’t precisely a hundred percent focused on makeup; they use the platform to talk about the most intimate parts of their lives, or at least that’s what they claim. So, you can find like one out of three videos about their holidays in whatever part of the world they went or about their current love situation; sometimes they go further and narrate the most difficult moments of their lives, and sometimes just talk about random stuff. This, of course, is when you end up strengthening that bond we were talking about, and that’s probably why there's a lot of hatred and backlash coming from the followers, because once someone dares to speak bad about their gurus, they take it so personally that it’s scary. However, they remain silent when their idols show their true colors.
Not so long ago, Jeffree Star, one of the top beauty influencers at the moment, made terrible racist and sexist comments that I won’t even retell again, and besides that, there are more videos and written evidence exposing him as a pretentious person. However, for many it was easy to rant and insult all those dared to speak about him. Naturally, people started asking others to unfollow him, and they even asked for his beauty company and image to be banned. He uploaded a video accepting his horrible behavior and asking his audience to forgive him, claiming that the Jeffree at the time was a depressed and angry young man who thought acting like a jerk was a cool way to cope with what he was going through. Needless to say, his devoted followers forgave him, and he’s still one of the most influential and profitable figures of the media.
So, basically, it seems that racism taints the beauty media and is the most controversial subject. Around the same time, young James Charles, who jumped to fame for being the first male face for the brand Covergirl, tweeted right before getting on a plane to South Africa, hoping not to get Ebola. When he landed, he had become one of the most hated people online. Later on, he accepted his statement was filled with ignorance and that he wanted to make the most of his trip to learn about Africa, "that beautiful country," (yes, he believed Africa is a country). Then again he’s still working, and his fame keeps growing.
I could seriously stay all day telling you stories like these, which in my opinion are filled with ignorance and ingrained social behaviors that are quite hard to fight. But why should these people be conceived as characters to look up to or as gurus we can learn from? I mean, yes, they’re great at what they do, but does that make them as virtuous as they claim to be? If you ask me, the problem is that, with all the tools they use to create their image, we tend to forget that these are random people who developed a profession but, in most of the cases, are uneducated people who suddenly got famous, not precisely for their skills, but for their personalities. And we, being inspired by these stories of success, don’t even care about seeing who we’re giving all our support (and money) to.
For me the answer to the questions I posted earlier is simple. Should we forgive them for their horrible behavior? No. I do believe that people can learn from their mistakes and they can even change their behavior and beliefs. However, I don’t really buy that regret they pretend they’re showing on camera. We're talking about people who are even followed by young kids who aspire to become like them. Now, I don’t want to sound conservative, because I really hate that position in life, but if you think about it, even those posts of them asking for forgiveness are quite profitable for them, so there are no real consequences for their acts. Does an apology make a difference? I don’t think so, and that’s the sad part of it. Sadly, we’re quite a forgetful generation, so as soon as something else happens, we just move to the other thing and forget what we were angry about. Even when we show our discontent, there are millions who either think like them or don’t think their actions are something to worry about (which is something quite scary, if you ask me). So, these influencers don't really lose anything. My advice here would be to really see who we’re devoting our time to and who we choose to admire and support.
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