For me, the beautifully made up face of Jeffree Star has long stood for positive change. I have always seen his popularity as a move towards a more accepting, open and most importantly diverse society. However, backtrack a few years and you soon realise that on his ascent to a beauty empire he has climbed a staircase of racist and misogynistic comments which continue today. These include, but are not restricted to, his frequent use of the racist slurs and suggesting pouring battery acid on a girl`s face to whiten it!
A video he posted in June last year addressed his mistakes and Star admitted to saying “really disgusting, vile and nasty things”. Star also claimed that his brand now stands for “self-expression, self-worth, self-love”. He cites criticism towards his decision as a man to wear make-up as the source of his anger and lashing out with derogative comments. However, in this case the controversy was avoidable. His choice to make these comments in the past was conscious and having been a victim himself you might expect him to be more empathetic. His apology seems even less genuine when in one of his most recent videos he shamelessly asked “If I did a lipstick called c**t would everyone get mad at me?”, a reference to the brand boycott in 2016 following his decision to name a lipstick “p***y whipped”.
In response to this, Sheffield student Isabelle Webber points out, “as a black woman, I don`t need his videos and I have a strong feeling his products are not made for people like me”. She also comments “I feel like there are other products and companies and YouTube MUAs out there who are not naming their products awful names, who cater to all shades and eye shapes, who are doing more good than harm who deserve the focus more than JS”. Realistically the make-up market is so competitive that it is always possible to find alternatives.
Sadly, Star isn't the only MUA who has gotten into trouble for unethical conduct. Doe Deere, founder of make-up brand Lime Crime, is culpable of dressing up as Hitler and creating the China Doll Palette, which was accused of cultural appropriation for releasing a campaign with a white model in Japanese dress. Lime Crime even felt the need to address criticism towards it’s founder on it’s website, as people were so outraged at Deere’s comments.
So, the question we need to ask is should we boycott these brands and other controversial makes, or should we be exclusively supporting brands with more positive campaigns and images and sending a message that a good product and ethical publicity stunts is what the customer wants?
In order to answer this, we need to know if it is even possible to recognise these brands? There have been enough scandals to make you wonder if there are any totally innocent brands, it`s not like there`s a symbol on the packaging to indicate a nice ethical CEO. Furthermore, there is the dilemma of how far we take boycotting? Do we just avoid all products from racist or sexist producers, music, films, make-up, clothing etc. Or do we take it further and stop watching films with actors who have been exposed as paedophiles or listening to music by artists who are guilty of domestic abuse? It`s so easy to stay oblivious to the negative image behind the brand and just focus on the product in front of us- I`m as guilty as the next person. However, it is important not to take a passive role and to consider whether what we are buying is worth it or if there is a less morally questionable alternative.