At the end of 2019, I wrote a retrospective of the… best? worst? just kind of there? celebrity beauty brands of the year for Fashionista. I guess it wasn’t so much a retrospective as a critique of all the ways in which celebrity culture has infiltrated our lives. It started:
In 2019, Americans ceded all control to celebrities. “Dress me,” we screamed, and Rihanna gave us Fenty. “Make me smell good,” we demanded, and Michelle Pfeiffer, Lionel Richie, and J.Lo heeded the call. “Wait, would you… register me to vote?” we asked, and Ariana Grande actually did it. “Run for president!” we begged Oprah and Kanye and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. No luck there, which is fine, since we already have a reality TV star for president and it’s not going great for him.
Then there’s beauty — an area of our lives that’s always been dominated by celebrities, traditionally via endorsement deals. But “face of” situations don’t seem to satisfy celebs anymore. They want creative control, a bigger piece of the profit pie, a platform from which to pivot out of entertainment. (Remember when Victoria Beckham was most famous for being a Spice Girl? Me either.) They want to launch their own beauty brands.
Reader, it’s gotten worse.
As beauty journalist Courtney Rubin declared in The New York Times late last month, “It’s official: Every celeb now has a beauty line.” 2020 brought brand new launches from Lauren Conrad, Selena Gomez, Pharrell Williams, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Lopez (this time, skincare rather than fragrance), Anthony Hopkins (seriously), and so, so many more.
“Why is a beauty line now a necessary accessory of fame?,” Rubin asked. “Money, of course.”
But do these famous faces need the money?
Of course not.
Celebs, hear me out: What if you took the good intentions behind your brands — that is, if there are good intentions — and removed the products?
Take Selena Gomez, her makeup line Rare Beauty, and its Rare Impact Fund, a charity that exists to “reduce the stigma associated with mental health.” Just do that last part! Beauty culture can have such negative effects on mental health, anyway. We don’t need the accompanying foundation and concealer that subtly message, “You need to hide your skin/blemishes/all signs of human life.” Just give us the mental health services, thanks.
Or Pharrell’s new skincare line, which includes Braille on the packaging. That’s so needed! Why not launch a company that makes it easier for all beauty brands to create accessible packaging, instead? Why not use your influence to make the entire industry better, rather than polluting it with more products?
Anthony Hopkins, bless his soul, started a fragrance line in order to drum up donations for No Kid Hungry during the pandemic. He’s pledging $5 of every sale to the organization, with a minimum commitment of $50,000. SIR. You are Anthony Hopkins. Donate the $50,000 yourself! That equates to five hundred thousand meals and zero fragrance chemicals. (I honestly cannot believe that ANTHONY HOPKINS BEAUTY exists. It’s like a parody of celebrity culture. I will never get over this.)
Then there’s Lauren Conrad, creating yet another “sustainable” makeup line. If sustainability is the goal, don’t flood an already-saturated market with the same old stuff. Leverage your lifestyle site to teach followers how to live sustainably using what’s already out there. That’s so much more environmentally sound than mass-producing “recycled and recyclable” plastic packaging. (Most plastic does not get recycled, and plastic can only be recycled two to three times, tops, before it becomes useless. Even the most “eco-friendly” plastic turns into pollution pretty freakin’ quickly.)
Speaking of sustainability, JLo Beauty is about to launch with a sheet mask, or, as I like to call it, a pre-packaged pile of glorified garbage. Yes, a single-use sheet mask. In 2021. It’s soaked in an olive oil “complex” and costs $48 for a pack of three. (Although Lopez told Allure, “We should be charging $10,000 for these masks.” The celebrities are out of control, people!)
“[Olive oil] is nature’s secret ingredient we don’t use enough of,” the founder said, sharing that her mom and aunt slather their skin in plain olive oil. Amazing! Affordable! Accessible! Instead of pouring it into a golden bottle and upping the price, educate fans on the natural ingredient’s efficacy. Tell them that glowing skin doesn’t have to cost $18 per use. Lend kitchen DIYs some of your glamour. (They could use it.)
At the very least, celebrities, please stop pretending that you’re benevolently granting us access to your beauty secrets. You are not.
Consider: Pharrell’s ageless face has been the subject of speculation for at least six years. Humanrace has been out for a week. It has had little to no impact on the overall state of his skin. J.Lo’s glow isn’t a product of an olive oil sheet mask. J.Lo’s glow is all (speculation alert!) expensive facials, injectable fillers, strong genetics, and maybe some light surgery. Their skincare lines didn’t create their signature looks; their signature looks created the opportunity for their skincare lines.
I don’t really have a point, I guess, just a desperate plea: Can we stop buying (and buying into) celebrity beauty already?
Never miss a story from The Unpublishable. Sign up for the newsletter here.