The Internet loves piping hot tea, but this year, the tea was too hot.
A number of fiascos rocked the beauty influencer community in 2019. First, there was James Charles and Tati Westbrook, which started as backlash over vitamins and devolved into allegations of sexual harassment. Next up was Jaclyn Hill, whose cosmetic brand’s launch went awry. Manny Mua, who was collectively “canceled” by the Internet in 2018, returned to social media to announce his first product collaboration with Morphe. And finally, there was the YouTube docu-series on the most successful influencer launch of the year: Shane Dawson and Jeffree Star, whose warehouse was robbed in the spring.
Controversy is inevitable fodder for social media, where users are apt to sensationalize stories both true and false. At its worst, social media becomes a courthouse with an endless amount of judges and jurors. And, as the aforementioned YouTubers saw this year, the verdict has real-life ramifications: their businesses are at stake.
In the case of Charles vs. Westbrook, the Internet collectively took Westbrook’s unsubstantiated statements and ran with them, canceling Charles, who lost 3 million YouTube subscribers. Charles also canceled his tour, prices for which went as high as $336 on SeatGeek, and took down the web site for his Sisters Apparel merchandise in light of Star’s involvement in the drama. (Star owns Killer Merch, a distribution company for a variety of influencers’ apparel lines, formerly including Charles’.)
“Unfortunately, I had to sever ties with Killer Merch,” Charles explained in a YouTube video. “I just don’t see a role that exists where I could ever be in business with a team run by someone like Jeffree Star.”
Sisters Apparel is now back up and running. Charles, Westbrook and Star all vowed to put an end to the drama.
Hill learned the hard way that a history of successful collaborations with other brands does not equal a successful brand launch of one’s own. Jaclyn Hill Cosmetics sold through six months’ worth of inventory in three hours when it launched, Hill told WWD. But the line quickly came under fire, as disappointed customers shared images of the products, some of which appeared lumpy and spoiled, on social media. Hill announced that she would issue full refunds to customers in light of the faulty products.
Months later, she relaunched the brand with a holiday collection, products from which are not affiliated with the laboratories with which she was previously working. Hill also expanded her team, adding more than 20 new people “to make sure that we do not have any more issues going forward,” she said.
A year after getting caught up in the YouTube “Dramageddon” of 2018 (that’s for another article), Manny Gutierrez, aka Manny Mua, returned to YouTube and announced his first product collaboration with Morphe. In a YouTube video from September, Gutierrez revealed that the 2018 drama cost him “hundreds of thousands of followers,” which, on YouTube, translates to revenue.
“I took a long break from my socials last year [and] the platforms I took a break from don’t really like that,” Gutierrez told WWD. “Of course, you have to pay for it in a way. You lose followers, you lose engagement, all these things if you’re not consistently posting. That’s just how it works.”
After sustaining a robbery that cleaned his warehouse of $2.5 million worth of product, Jeffree Star teamed with fellow YouTuber Shane Dawson on a product collaboration through Star’s eponymous cosmetics company. The duo documented the collaboration process, including phone conversations with Morphe, in a docu-series on Dawson’s YouTube channel.
In that series, Star revealed that his palette launches typically rake in about $18 million each. The Conspiracy Collection, estimated Star and his team, was projected to bring in as much as $35 million at retail combined with Morphe’s orders. Star estimated that Dawson could walk home with as much as $5 million from the collaboration.
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