“What? What’d I do?”
This is Megan Thee Stallion’s immediate response when she is congratulated on her new role as a Revlon brand ambassador, in a phone interview with WWD a few days before revealing the news on her Instagram.
It’s understandable that the 25-year-old rapper, known for hits such as “Savage” and “Hot Girl Summer” may have momentarily forgotten about her recent appointment. Last month was challenging for Stallion, who on July 12 was shot in both feet during an early-morning incident in the Hollywood Hills.
Stallion took to Instagram a few days later to describe the experience, revealing that she had “suffered gunshot wounds, as a result of a crime that was committed against me and done with the intention to physically harm me,” and had to undergo surgery for her injuries. A news release issued by the LAPD revealed that the artist Tory Lanez was arrested at the scene in connection with the shooting, and released on bond later that day.
Surgery to remove the bullets was “super scary, the worst experience of my life,” she said. Stallion said little in the way of specific details regarding the incident, but expressed anguish and frustration over rumors and jokes about that night spreading on the Internet. She later took to Twitter to elaborate, stating: “Black women are so unprotected and we hold so many things in to protect the feelings of others w/o considering our own. It might be funny to y’all on the Internet and just another messy topic for you to talk about but this is my real life and I’m real life hurt and traumatized.”
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Stallion either isn’t allowed to or doesn’t want to talk about the shooting with WWD. Though she clearly has other things going on in her life — not to mention recording a new album and training a new Frenchie puppy while in quarantine — Stallion readily acknowledges the significance of her new role as a brand ambassador for a makeup label that has been an American drugstore staple for decades.
“I’m probably not the typical cookie-cutter artist or person,” Stallion said. “I do what I want to do when I want to do it and how I want to do it, and collaborating with Revlon makes me feel good because I know there are girls out there who are looking at me like, ‘Oh my gosh, Megan is doing so many big things and she didn’t have to change herself or compromise her brand to be successful.’”
Beauty brands — especially the big national ones sold at drugstores — have historically leaned on famous white actresses to sell products. Think Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Garner, Jennifer Connelly and Andie MacDowell. But as drugstore brands struggle to appear relevant to a new generation of young consumers, the pool of women who are offered brand contracts has become increasingly diverse, and being unabashedly outspoken about social justice issues is seen as a beneficial quality for brands to align with. For instance, Munroe Bergdorf, a Black transgender model, was recently reinstated as a L’Oréal ambassador after the brand severed ties with her following comments she made in 2017 speaking out against racism.
Stallion’s appointment to Revlon is being revealed as a new era of the civil rights movement in the U.S. emerges and support for Black Lives Matter flourishes. Brands are being forced to reckon with the whitewashed standard of beauty they have long championed.
Stallion has been using Revlon for as long as she has been wearing makeup. Her grandmother bought her her first eye shadow palette — Revlon, of course — when she was young. “Shout out to my grandma — otherwise I wouldn’t know what I’m doing,” Stallion said.
She does see a synergy with herself and the brand.
“Their [Revlon] whole slogan, to live bold — that’s me,” Stallion said. “I get to bring my flavor to Revlon’s existing flavor.”
If Revlon has a flavor, it’s not a very good one right now. Revlon, like other legacy drugstore makeup brands such as Cover Girl and Revlon-owned Almay, has been ailing for some time as it struggles to stay relevant in a market now saturated with digital-first and influencer-backed brands. Sales in the second quarter for the Revlon brand were down 45 percent from last year.
The brand’s parent company Revlon Inc. reported a 39 percent decline in net sales for the second quarter, most of which was attributed to impact from the coronavirus. Despite that, Revlon was struggling prior to the global pandemic. Last year, the company hired Goldman Sachs to explore a sale process, though that process has not been completed yet. Meanwhile, the company’s owner Ronald Perelman and his daughter Debra, Revlon’s chief executive officer, have been trying to restructure its roughly $3 billion in debt.