Pop culture crisis: How the beauty community is toxic
Once upon a time, if you were a makeup lover, you went to the store, bought what products appealed to you and went home. If you disliked it, you returned it and continued your day. The cycle then repeated itself.
It was a simpler time.
But since YouTube’s swift rise and the explosion of social media, rather than heading towards your local department store makeup counter, beauty lovers turn to YouTube.
However, there’s a problem.
The friendly online community where people turned to make friends and get makeup tips has become a place of colossal toxicity that’s festering with false friendships, controversy, fanbase fights and an unhealthy obsession for drama.
But how did the beauty community become this way?
The earliest issue that served as drama fodder was the nondisclosure of how affiliate links worked. YouTube beauty influencers, also known as beauty gurus, were approached by makeup brands to promote their products on their channels in return for affiliate codes.
When some became aware of the then undisclosed practice, YouTube drama channels were essentially “born,” speculating whether influencers were genuinely promoting products or were being bought by brands.
Influencer collaborations with beauty brands then came about. Companies like Becca, Morphe, BH Cosmetics, Makeup Geek, Colourpop and many others soon began profiting via their associations with influencers.
With the beauty industry being an over $500 billion industry and influencers wising-up to business, it wasn’t long before friendships and money began to clash. There have been numerous, very public falling outs between influencers.
Community members will sometimes christen the battles with names such as with the infamous “Dramageddon” situation of 2019. Feuds between influencers like Kat Von D vs. Jeffree Starr and Tati Westbrook and Jeffree Starr vs. James Charles became sleazy gossip obsessions.
Often distrust, accusations of lying and bad makeup launches fuel the flames of the drama fire such as with Jaclyn Hill’s disastrous makeup brand launch in which she sold contaminated lipsticks to consumers and denied doing so despite evidence to the contrary.
Other times it’s the makeup brands themselves against influencers or community members such as with the recent case of Juvia’s Place vs. Jackie Aina.
Both the CEO, Chichi Eburu, and Aina are women of color. Their heated Twitter exchanges over Aina’s accusations of Juvia’s Place catering to white influencers have upset many fans who are also disappointed that they can’t demonstrate solidarity.
Regardless of the individuals involved or the situation, it often gets ugly. Too ugly for a hobby that is supposed to bring makeup fans together.
The scandals feed the success of YouTube drama channels that piggyback off the controversy. Major outlets such as Vox.com, Cosmopolitan, and Insider.com have reported on the fuss, with Vox declaring YouTube drama channels to be the “TMZs of beauty YouTube”.
But the impact the dramas have on fans is troubling. The constant bickering and controversy compel followers of the online beauty community to choose sides, engage in bitter online debates and partake in the maligning of people.
In response to what she was witnessing in the beauty community, influencer RawBeautyKristie said, “When I first started on YouTube, it was about artistry and connecting with your audience. It was not about drama and who hates who. It’s changed so much.”
Ultimately, the reality is that whenever we hear about the beauty community these days, it’s hardly ever about some influencer’s re-creation of an amazing look or a must-buy product discovery. It’s almost always about drama.
For the beauty community to purge itself of the toxicity, there needs to be a collective change made by influencers, brands, drama channels and fans alike.
But when that change will come—and how—is anyone’s guess.
Photo courtesy of Rifemagazine.co.uk