Pretty Girl Rock: the ethics of your favorite makeup
In June, Katherine von Drachenberg, known widely as Kat Von D—tattoo artist and CEO of Kat Von D Beauty—announced on Instagram she would not vaccinate her soon-to-be-born son.
“My own Father flipped out on me when I told him we decided to ditch our doctor and go with a midwife instead,” she wrote in the caption. “If you don’t know what it’s like have people around you think you are ridiculous, try being openly vegan.”
The internet responded with fierce criticism—many protested the brand, and certain beauty influencers publicly denounced Kat Von D Beauty.
For example, last month, YouTuber Chloe Morello tweeted to her 145,000 Twitter followers and 2.6 million YouTube subscribers, “I would like to make it known that I denounce anyone that doesn’t vaccinate their children.”
Later, she commented on a Kat Von D Beauty Instagram post, “does polio come as a gift of purchase.”
Other commenters on Von D’s post responded just as negatively. “I’ve thought about this for a while but I’ve finally decided I can no longer support the brand of someone who would endanger the lives of others just because they haven’t done ACTUAL research,” Instagram user @missesbun said.
When it comes to makeup, nobody looks for an ethical dilemma. When the consumer questions their purchases and researches the actions of a brand, they should support a business whose ethics mirror their own. We must merge our ethics with our purchases and use our money to fund better businesses and people.
Aside from Von D’s personal choices, her brand recently released a questionable bundle of liquid lipsticks from their “Fetish” collection, including “Underage Red,” “Lolita,” and “Ophelia.” Not only does the bundle validate the fetishization of young girls, but it actively shapes it as appealing. Each item a company produces acts as an extension of their brand—it should mark what they represent.
We each operate as one consumer, but together we can spur changes. It may feel like a simple tweet or comment, but when we put action behind those words and make the decision to no longer support certain brands, actual change can and will follow.
In August, Twitter user @saiesaie searched YouTuber Laura Lee’s old tweets and discovered racist comments from 2012, such as, “tip for all black people, if you pull ur pants up you can run from the police faster #yourwelcome.”
Since the controversy, Lee’s subscriber count dropped by 600,000, bringing it down to 4.4 million. Both Ulta Beauty and Morphe Cosmetics stores removed her beauty brand, Laura Lee Los Angeles, and Lee’s apology video ranked in the top 50 most disliked videos on YouTube prior to its removal.
As referenced in the @saiesaie tweet, videos resurfaced of Jeffree Star, owner and CEO of Jeffree Star Cosmetics, using racial slurs and allegedly referring to a black makeup artist as a “gorilla.” Several other questionable videos of Star show him screaming at fans and threatening to lighten someone’s skin with acid in a sketch.
Currently, Star has 10 million subscribers on YouTube. Although he received backlash from fans and makeup artists of color, he continues to receive 4 million average views per video and his makeup line still thrives.
Sometimes it’s easier to buy the lipstick or the mascara when there’s no direct connection to the owner. The work comes in now. By doing research before makeup purchases, you can decide where you’d like to put your money. A simple follow on Instagram can keep you in the know and aid in your decision of whom to support.
We need real consequences for the morally and ethically wrong actions of companies and owners. While everybody maintains their own guidelines for what does or does not match their ethics and morals, becoming aware of this can help you make better-informed purchases of makeup and beyond.
In general, supporting small businesses makes a positive impact. According to Forbes, local businesses give back to the community more than chains. These businesses create less of an environmental impact and one can more comfortably with them than a large corporation, according to the Institute for Self-Reliance.
Instead of Kat Von D Beauty’s Everlasting Liquid Lipstick, go to Ulta in Braintree or Dorchester for a Dose of Colors liquid lipstick. The brand sold primarily online until it gained enough recognition and support for Ulta to stick it in-store.
Makeup is no longer just makeup. Look past the label and research where the money you spend goes. When we become informed consumers, we create an atmosphere where no brand or person who makes unethical or immoral decisions can thrive.