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Lady Gaga Picks Amazon for Major Beauty Launch

Lady Gaga Picks Amazon for Major Beauty Launch

NEW YORK, United States — Lady Gaga’s been preparing for the role of beauty entrepreneur her whole career.

After all, it’s makeup that allowed her to invent “Lady Gaga” in the early 2000s, she said, after dropping out of college and moving to the Lower East Side, where she worked as a waitress-bartender-go-go dancer. But it took another 15 years for the Grammy, Academy, Golden Globe, Billboard and even CFDA Award winner to start her own beauty brand, Haus Laboratories.

Her timing — a campaign video went live Tuesday ahead of a planned September launch — is impeccable. The singer and actress has long positioned herself as the embodiment of authenticity and inclusivity, traits consumers have come to demand from new beauty brands, whether it’s Glossier’s connection to its community or Fenty Beauty’s 40 plus shades of foundation. It’s the opposite of the filtered, Facetuned brand of “authenticity” spawned by the Instagram era.

Perhaps more than what she’s selling, it’s where she’s selling that runs counter to the beauty mainstream. Haus Laboratories will be the first major beauty brand to be sold exclusively on Amazon. In going with the marketplace, Lady Gaga is taking a risk: Although cosmetics sales on Amazon are growing fast, it has yet to cement its status as a beauty destination. For Amazon, having an exclusive brand fronted by a celebrity of Gaga’s stature could shake up an industry where most high-profile beauty launches take place at Sephora or Ulta. But, instead of sharing shelf space with rivals at specialty retailers, Gaga will have the spotlight more or less to herself in front hundreds of millions of Amazon customers worldwide.

Plus, the e-commerce behemoth just gets her, she said.

No message of self-acceptance, no deal.

“There are companies that see me, what I stand for and the way that I view the world, and if it’s not perfectly in line with what they do and they’re worried about alienating consumers… They’ll be like, ‘Can you just change half of the equation?’ (which for me is the entire equation) so that we can ‘do a deal,’” Lady Gaga said in an interview at The Mark Hotel, addressing her long-rumoured beauty brand for the first time. “The answer is no. No deal. No message of self-acceptance, no deal. This [deal with Amazon] was so wonderful because this was like, ‘Let’s make a deal, let’s make a deal to change the world with their beauty.’”

It’s the end of June, but Lady Gaga’s dressed in all-black leather trousers and a leather blazer, matching Haus Laboratories’ sleek matte black packaging and the series of black mood boards lining the wall of her suite at The Mark. She has plans to go out later that night “incognito” in a brown wig, “A Star is Born” style, to visit her old stomping grounds in lower Manhattan.

It’s here, when she was still known as Stefani Germanotta, that she said she discovered herself through makeup. She credits vintage shopping and immersing herself in an “incredible sub-culture” of local artists — plus boatloads of drugstore and Mac cosmetics — for helping her morph into the multi-hyphenate she is today. Her new friends encouraged and praised her makeup; they called her “the female Freddie Mercury,” and soon “Gaga,” after the Queen song “Radio Gaga.”

Lady Gaga’s Haus Laboratories | Source: Courtesy

“Colour is completely transformative — it’s powerful, it’s beautiful, and it’s how I found my voice with makeup,” the singer said to explain why makeup, rather than skincare or haircare, is Haus Laboratories’ entry point into beauty. “I discovered myself, but also other people discovered me, for me, through the way that I was expressing myself.”

Haus Laboratories is designed to have broad appeal: multi-use colour items for cheeks, eyes and lips come in six shade families, with kits containing all three products priced at a relatively affordable $49. She hinted that a full colour collection is on the way.

Lady Gaga refers to her brand as a “start-up,” and it marks the first time she’s independently launching a product (her previous foray into beauty, the fragrance “Lady Gaga Fame,” was a licensing deal with Coty that has since ended). But it’s a start-up with some serious financial and logistical firepower out of the gate. Lightspeed Ventures, which backed Goop and Stitchfix, is an investor, and she employs a team of 15, including veterans of Milk Makeup and LVMH-owned Benefit Cosmetics.

And then there’s Amazon. The e-tailer plans to simultaneous launch in nine countries on three continents, including the US, France and Japan, instantly putting Haus Laboratories on similar footing to the latest creation from L’Oréal or Estée Lauder. The initial nine markets also don’t count customers in countries like China and Singapore who can order Amazon products through its global store.

“I do think from day one it should be pretty hard not to get our stuff,” said Ben Jones, chief executive of Haus Laboratories. He’s a former executive at The Honest Company, as well as Zynga, developer of wildly popular — and highly addictive — mobile games like Farmville and Words with Friends.

For Amazon, Lady Gaga puts an internationally famous face to its quest to become a serious player in the beauty industry. The retailer quickly captured a slice of the beauty market after stepping up investment in the sector last year. In the spring, it introduced Belei, a private label skincare for its US market, and in January, Find, a private label makeup brand, debuted in the UK. Last month, Amazon announced it was launching an online beauty store for makeup artists, stylists and other professionals. Shares in Ulta and Sally Beauty sank.

Colour is completely transformative… it’s how I found my voice with makeup.

What it lacked was a marquee brand to plant the idea of as a beauty destination in consumers’ minds.

Of course, for any of this to work, there has to be a product people want.

A video shot with photographer Daniel Sannwald went live Tuesday, both on her Instagram account and the line’s e-commerce destination, She played it twice, at the beginning and end of her interview with BoF, to underscore the message of self-love she hopes to rouse in fans. The cast includes a diverse group — in terms of both ethnicity and gender — who sport equally diverse beauty looks, from orange hair to black lips to barely-there makeup.

“When we made this film, I really wanted that feeling of self-discovery and self-acceptance and really loving who you are in a way that may be completely unconventional,” Lady Gaga said.

Amazon plays a similar role in “democratising” beauty, said Nicole Quinn, partner at Lightspeed.

“We’re making these beauty products available at the exact same time to everybody globally through the online channels,” she said. “It’s a really interesting way to think about how this is turning beauty on its head.”

The goal is not just to acquire customers; it’s about lifetime value and repeat purchasing — common threads in gaming and beauty consumption, said Jones.

Where a mobile game’s success might hinge on hyper-engaged players completing micro-transactions to advance, a thriving beauty brand relies on a healthy replenishment business from its most loyal consumers. To achieve this, Jones and Lady Gaga assembled a team that “looks different” than other beauty companies: it’s half beauty and half tech. Employees include former colleagues from Jones’ gaming days to Lady Gaga’s long-time makeup artist Sarah Tanno, the brand’s global artistry director.

You’re not going out-Amazon Amazon.

Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty also hit on themes of inclusivity to huge success. Thanks to a splashy launch with a 40-shade foundation range, Fenty has become the gold standard for the modern celebrity beauty brand, nearly reaching €500 million in sales in its first year, part-owner LVMH said earlier this year.

Lady Gaga is no doubt hoping for a similar reception, aided by Amazon’s unparalleled global reach and logistics network, which can put orders in consumers’ hands within one to two days in the nine countries where Haus is launching (or even the same day in certain cities).

“We have a great partner, we have great investors — but we are still a start-up,” Jones said. “At the end of the day… we’re not owned by LVMH.”

Amazon’s budget-conscious customers might still need to be convinced to spend on makeup as if they’re at Sephora.

Haus Labs’ price point, though lower than prestige labels like Too Faced or Tarte, is still higher than Amazon’s typical beauty offerings. The brand’s lip gloss will cost $16 when sold separately from the kit; all of Amazon’s 10 top-selling products in the category retail for under $8. However, the prices are in line with the marketplace’s own in-house beauty brand, Belei.

“I don’t think we’re concerned with the price point,” said Nico Le Bourgeois, head of Amazon Beauty. “The quality of the product is going to be absolutely outstanding so, from that perspective… it’s going to be a great deal for customers.”

Communicating a makeup product’s quality can be tricky online, even with a celebrity face attached. Unlike television or books, consumers want to try new makeup before they buy. And the internet is littered with celebrity cosmetics brands that failed to take the world by storm.

According to a Piper Jaffray survey from April, Amazon ranked as a top five beauty destination for female teens for the first time, with four percent identifying the marketplace as their favourite beauty retailer. Ulta and Sephora took the top two spots with over 30 percent each.

I’m sure as hell not going to put out a beauty brand that is going to drive insecurity and fear into people.

Much of Amazon’s gains came at the expense of Target and Walmart rather than the specialty retailers.

“If you look on Amazon, mostly it’s the mass brands,” Erinn Murphy, a senior research analyst at the bank, said in April. “You’re not getting the luxury offerings you’re getting at Sephora or Ulta.”

The brand will also use its own website to speak directly to Gaga’s fans or “little monsters.” Although the product on the site will mirror what’s sold at the e-tail giant, the experience will differ in terms of content.

“You’re not going out-Amazon Amazon,” said Jones. “What you can do is differentiate through unique storytelling… you can start the conversations on our site. Gaga obviously has several hundred million followers over the social media channels that she can have conversations with.”

It’s these conversations, led by an overarching message of self-acceptance and unabashed confidence, that will eclipse even the product, Lady Gaga said. She’s not denigrating the high quality of her makeup — she thoroughly swatched and tested product on her forearms and lips to show how liquid colour dries into a powder and that gloss doesn’t dry out her lips or move once applied.

It’s just that sometimes, the message is more important.

“Look, you might want to look like the DuPont twins. You might want to look like Erin or Kitty [who appear in her brand video]… Or you might want to, oh my gosh, look like you. And that’s the nut that I really want to crack,” Lady Gaga said. “I have a platform in the world. God gave me this voice for a reason, I don’t know why, I ask myself that question all the time, but I’m sure as hell not going to put out a beauty brand that is going to drive insecurity and fear into people. This is about liberation.”

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I Can’t Stop Watching This Video of Stormi Whacking Kylie Jenner in the Face With a Makeup Brush

I Can’t Stop Watching This Video of Stormi Whacking Kylie Jenner in the Face With a Makeup Brush

Kylie Jenner posts a lot of Instagram content featuring her one year old daughter, Stormi. And while photos and videos of Stormi toddling around with a Baby Birkin are, uh, charming, nothing has captured my heart quite like Jenner’s recent Instagram story of Stomi hitting her her mom with a makeup brush, a devious smile plastered on her face all the while.

Observe, preferably over and over again:

I stan.

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At Fashion Week, Reinventing Backstage Beauty

At Fashion Week, Reinventing Backstage Beauty

NEW YORK, United States — Veteran makeup artist Gucci Westman is basking in the newfound freedom of being her own boss.

After a dozen years creating runway looks and readying the faces of celebrities like Emma Stone and Drew Barrymore for campaigns as artistic director for some of the biggest global beauty brands — which also came with exclusive contracts — Westman said she is finally free. Free to partner with any designer or fashion label, free to use whatever makeup or skincare label she wants and free to talk about it — on social media, to the press or to whoever she pleases.

Last week, she was the lead makeup artist for the Brock Collection and Khaite shows during New York Fashion Week. Westman said she used Chanel eyeshadow and eyeliner alongside foundation from her own collection on models — facts she would have been in breach of contract for disclosing when she worked for competing makeup brands, which typically include strict exclusivity clauses.

“Everyone sees through it and no one wants to only hear about one brand. The professional loses their credibility,” Westman told BoF, calling the exclusivity clauses a “real mistake.” “The whole reason they’re professionals is because they use different formulations [and brands] and have this wealth of knowledge. They aren’t one trick ponies.”

The beauty industry’s role at fashion week is changing fast. Where once only an elite few editors and celebrities were allowed to witness an artists’ work before a show – the talent interviewed for this story identified the late 80’s and early 90’s as a heyday of backstage beauty – social media now gives anyone a virtual backstage pass. Cosmetics brands hire influencers to create content around the shows, while many of fashion’s favourite beauty artists, including Westman, Pat McGrath, Charlotte Tilbury and hairstylist Sam McKnight, have brands of their own to promote.

The explosion of real-time backstage content has forced brands to step up their fashion week activities, even as the returns are less certain. That shift has divided many in the industry – Westman calls the endless stream of behind-the-scene videos and photos “tired,” while McKnight says backstage beauty “means now more than ever before.” Ultimately the answer lies somewhere in between: Will the smudgy black eyelids at Jeremy Scott or crimped hair at PH5 really influence consumer habits? Probably not. But like the shows themselves, backstage beauty remains a key element in driving brand awareness and maintaining relevance, not to mention that beauty brands sponsoring shows is hugely important to offset designers’ costs.

Sam McKnight and Bella Hadid | Source: Courtesy

“If the show is sponsored by a big brand I’ll only use their product. Luckily most of my shows are not sponsored by a beauty brand so I’m free to use my own products,” said McKnight, who will sponsor (supply himself, products and a team) four shows during London Fashion Week: Roland Mouret, Michael Halpern, Ashish and Ryan Lo.

For Maybelline, it’s no longer enough to just sponsor a show; there needs to be corresponding activity that lives beyond the runway. The L’Oréal-owned company has sponsored a steady stream of, on average, 10 shows per Fashion Week season for the past decade, but the makeup giant realised the biggest bang for its buck is flying influencers in from all over the country to attend shows – and pray they chronicle their experiences on social media.

Additionally, through a Glam on Demand service that launched last September, Maybelline sends artists to the homes and hotels of influencers, celebrities and editors to help prep for shows. Again, the hope is that the recipients of these makeup services will talk about the experience on social media.

“They’re organically posting about Maybelline in a totally unpaid way,” said Amy Whang, Maybelline’s senior vice president of marketing.

But it was only through trial and error that Maybelline arrived at its current strategy. The brand learned an important lesson a few years ago: a runway isn’t the place to launch or sell new items. Maybelline introduced a mascara and eyeshadow at the Rebecca Minkoff show in September 2016. Despite an elaborate presentation – beauty influencer Amanda Steele conceptualised the makeup look, Minkoff used her social media prowess to promote it, top fashion influencers Arielle Charnas and Chriselle Lim walked the show and Amazon was a retail partner – it was a flop.

“We want to give our new items their moment in time so it doesn’t get caught up in the clutter,” Whang said.

Summer McKeen, a 19-year-old YouTuber with almost 2.2 million subscribers, attended her first show, Kate Spade, as a guest of Maybelline. All costs associated with McKeen’s trip were covered by the company, though she wasn’t paid an additional fee or obligated to post. While she was in town, though, McKeen worked on future projects with the brand that she was compensated for.

Influencer Summer McKeen at New York Fashion Week | Source: Courtesy

“I felt very high fashion and glam and special. It was really, really cool…I didn’t really know what to expect, but it hit the stereotype of what I thought it would be,” McKeen said. “Everyone looks like a freaking supermodel and there’s cameras everywhere.”

During her two-day trip, she posted on Snapchat and Instagram stories in real-time and plans to create a full-length YouTube video detailing her fashion week experience.

However, not everyone is as enthusiastic.

“Outside of this bubble no one cares really,” said Ashlee Glazer, a go-to makeup artist for fashion and beauty insiders. “The average person cares more about Joanna Gaines’ eyeliner than the crazy stuff that we see on the runway.” (Joanna Gaines stars on the HGTV show “Fixer Upper” with husband Chip Gaines, and has helped popularise a $3 Revlon eyeliner.)

Glazer, 33, said the bulk of her clients are the guests who attend shows and the corresponding parties during Fashion Week. She’s also popular on the bridal circuit and has made up over 500 brides for their big day. Glazer said just one bride, a fashion publicist, has ever shown her a photo from fashion week as beauty inspiration.

But for fashion brands, sponsorship from beauty companies is still critical; it offsets a meaningful part of the show budget.

“The best part of my show budgets was the $40,000 from MAC,” said a fashion publicist who requested anonymity.

This individual, who oversaw fashion week planning at a luxury fashion house, said it didn’t matter what brand sponsored the fashion show, prestige or mass – it was the artist affiliated with the brand that was the draw. They said that the brand worked with Revlon numerous times solely because of Westman’s affiliation – and Revlon footed the bill.

“The brands who do it well have artists that people are excited to work with,” this person added. “The designers care what key artist they get – and the budget piece. They don’t care about the ‘brand.’”

Another publicist said content became a bigger part of negotiations as social media gained critical mass. Bartering with beauty companies over the amount of press and photographers allowed backstage reflected sponsorship fees: the more content the beauty brand wanted the more money the designer could ask for.

For Westman, it’s the second season she’s using her own collection backstage, and she’s not paying for the placement. Nor is she getting paid for her services or product, which is okay for Westman so long as the “Westman Atelier” brand gets printed on the show bill as the designer’s official makeup partner.

The same goes for McKnight, a fashion week veteran who has been doing hair at fashion week for over 40 years. He, too, is having to learn new tricks now that he has a haircare line of his own, Hair by Sam McKnight. The stylist debuted his brand at Michael Halpern’s two years ago and uses fashion week as a platform to release new products.

“There’s no point to launch in a magazine anymore. When I say launch – they [products] kind of just appear. It’s not some big champagne reception. It’s, ‘Here they are, here’s what we’re using’ and we let it go from there,” McKnight said of the instantaneous dissemination of backstage content, which wasn’t as paramount before the stylist had his own line to sell.

“We’re still doing the same thing, but how it’s changed for me with a brand is that it’s out there two minutes later,” said McKnight.

McKnight uses social media to let it “seep in,” both on his personal Instagram and the Hair by Sam McKnight account. He said it’s mutually beneficial: he gets the word out and is able to help young, independent designers in the process.

This newfound freedom does involve tradeoffs.

“I’m really into where I am now,” Westman added. “I don’t have to pretend that I’m only using one thing. The difference is that I just don’t make any money now at shows.”

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A 13-year-old girl makes as much as $1,000 a day creating ASMR videos, as YouTube works to keep its child stars safe (GOOG, GOOGL)

A 13-year-old girl makes as much as $1,000 a day creating ASMR videos, as YouTube works to keep its child stars safe (GOOG, GOOGL)

Makenna Kelly, the star of the “Life with MaK” ASMR YouTube channel.

Life of Mak/YouTube

  • ASMR, short for autonomous sensory meridian response, is a phenomenon where certain soft whispering or tapping sounds cause a tingly sensation in some people. It’s become a whole YouTube trend.
  • A new report from Wired UK found an overlooked aspect of the ASMR movement: An increasing number of children are making their own ASMR videos.
  • The report highlights Makenna Kelly, a 13-year-old superstar on the ASMR scene with over 1.3 million subscribers — and who, YouTube tracking site SocialBlade projects, can make about $1,000 or more in advertising revenue in a single day from her channel.
  • YouTube said that keeping these child stars and their families safe is a priority.

ASMR, short for autonomous sensory meridian response, refers to a phenomenon where soft sounds such as whispering or soft tapping triggers a tingling or relaxation effect in the listener.

It’s become a whole subculture on YouTube, which hosts some 45 million ASMR videos. The rapper Cardi B has gotten in on the action with her own ASMR video, and even Michelob Light turned its Super Bowl ad into an ASMR sensation.

But, as Wired UK reported, there’s another side to the subculture: Kids as young as 5 years old are making their own ASMR videos — and making good money in the process. Wired spoke with 13-year-old Makenna Kelly, who makes ASMR videos for the 1.3 million subscribers to her “Life with MaK” channel. In some of her most viewed videos, Makenna eats instant ramen noodles and glides makeup brushes over a microphone.

Here’s one of her recent videos, in which she “eats” a Gucci shoe:

YouTube stat tracking service SocialBlade estimates that the “Life With MaK” channel can bring in about $1,000 in advertising revenue, or more, in a single day. That puts her on a par with ASMR Darling, also known as Taylor Darling, the biggest name in the ASMR space with 2.2 million subscribers. ASMR Darling now brings in about $1,000 a day, Wired reported, which roughly jibes with SocialBlade figures.

Apart from the YouTube revenue Wired reported that Makenna also makes money from her channel by letting viewers pay for special requests. For example, Makenna was paid $50 over PayPal for 10-minute ASMR videos in which she chewed whole pieces of honeycomb. The video brought in 12 million views.

This clearly raises some challenges in keeping the children safe from online predators and other bad actors — especially since finding these channels is a simple search for “child” and “ASMR” away. YouTube said that it’s prioritizing keeping these children safe and has even taken channels down while it talks with the families of young creators.

Claire Lilley, YouTube’s child-safety policy manager, told Wired in a statement:

“We believe technology presents great opportunities for young people to express themselves creatively and access useful information, but we also know we have a responsibility to protect young creators and families and consider the potential impact of emerging trends on them. We’ve been working with experts to update our enforcement guidelines for reviewers to remove ASMR videos featuring minors engaged in more intimate or inappropriate acts. We are working alongside experts to make sure we are protecting young creators while also allowing ASMR content that connects creators and viewers in positive ways.”

Spokespeople for Makenna and YouTube did not respond to a request for comment.

Read the full story at Wired.



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