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The Odd Fascination of the YouTube Beauty Wars

The Odd Fascination of the YouTube Beauty Wars

A spat involving the beauty vlogger James Charles shows that one shouldn’t underestimate the value that authenticity, or at least a performance of it, carries in the influencer marketplace.

Photograph by Ray Tamarra / Getty

On a recent Monday, the beauty influencer James Charles made his way up the pink-carpeted steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as a first-time attendee of the annual Costume Institute Gala. Charles, a nineteen-year-old who has become known in the past three and a half years for sharing makeup tutorials on his popular and lucrative YouTube channel, was wearing a diaphanous Alexander Wang top, custom-made of scores of safety pins, coupled with a pair of cinched and shiny black trousers. His face was painted and contoured, as it often is, to dramatic effect—his skin matte, his dark eyeliner winged, his lips a deep taupe. Compared with the other celebrities at the Met, like Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez, Charles was a relative nobody. But among beauty vloggers on YouTube whose followers number millions—many of them Gen Z-ers fluent in the medium—Charles is a superstar.

When he began his career, Charles was an unknown gay teen-ager who dabbled in makeup while living with his parents in a small town in upstate New York. And though his fortunes have risen exponentially since then—he served as the first male spokesmodel for CoverGirl, came out with his own makeup and athleisure collections, and reportedly made millions along the way—his persona, which captivated early fans, has remained unchanged. He refers to his followers as “Sisters” (an epithet that also conveniently serves as the brand name of his clothing line) and continues to affect the sassy, hyper-excitable manner of your ingratiatingly gossipy high-school B.F.F. In a video posted a day after the Met Gala, he breathlessly takes his subscribers, who then numbered over sixteen million, behind the scenes of his preparations for the ball, from the initial invitation (“I am so beyond excited and grateful to tell you that we have been invited to the 2019 Met Gala”) to the car ride to the museum (“I’m so nervous right now, my arm is literally shaking . . . This is a really amazing step forward for YouTubers and the community”) and the event’s aftermath, which he describes while whispering in what looks like a hotel bathroom (“That was so. Much. Fun. Oh, my God, you guys”).

But after the peak came the tumble. On Friday, another hugely popular YouTube influencer named Tati Westbrook (subscriber count: nine and a half million), who, at thirty-seven, is an elder of the community and a mentor to Charles, released a video titled “Bye sister. . . .” In it, Westbrook—an impeccably made-up brunette who, like Charles, streams makeup tutorials—expressed her intention to cut ties with her fellow-influencer. The video begins with an “in happier days”–style montage, showcasing moments in which Westbrook gave her friend support—wearing her Sisters-branded hoodie, shouting out Charles’s YouTube channel, promoting his eyeshadow palette. She then proceeds to give a forty-some-minute blow-by-blow of how Charles hurt her, most notably by refusing to promote Halo Beauty, her beauty-supplement brand (he had said that his followers were too young to be the target audience for a line of vitamins), and then doing a sponsored post for a competing supplement, named, delightfully, SugarBearHair. (In the video, Westbrook also expresses her discomfort at Charles’s alleged attempts to seduce straight men who she said were uninterested in his advances, a claim that Charles himself did not directly counter later in a response, saying only that, in his love life, he has been “involved in many unique and strange situations” and has “learned the hard way about ways I can interact with boys I’m interested in and also ones I should or shouldn’t be talking to.”)

Watching Westbrook’s video, I might have felt boredom (forty-three minutes?), but, instead, I felt the excitement that must overwhelm an anthropologist discovering a lost culture, obscure but oddly fascinating, with its own dramas, alliances, and enmities. Added to this effect was the comedy of the gaping chasm between the flimsiness of the conflict and its melodramatic presentation. Speaking directly to the camera, her hair and skin smooth and gleaming and her legs drawn up to her chest, Westbrook’s tone often seems more appropriate for a bereavement support group than a skirmish kindled by a supplement sponsorship. At one point, she claims that she feels betrayed because she and her husband helped Charles with business decisions for years, without expecting payment in return. “Life will never stop being painful,” she says. “No matter where in the world you are, no matter your circumstances, you are always going to experience heartbreak, and that’s part of being human.” Viewers responded enthusiastically. “Tati is no longer a beauty guru… she’s a freaking legendary life guru,” a fan wrote, in a comment that received a hundred and seventy-four thousand likes. In response, Charles came out with his own YouTube statement, in which he appears weepy and makeup-less, apologizes in vague terms to Westbrook and her husband for “everything I have put you through over the last few weeks,” and promises, in possibly even vaguer terms, to “continue to learn and grow every single day.” (He also said that he didn’t receive any payment for his SugarBearHair promotion and instead did it as a favor to the company; SugarBearHair, he said, had recently given him an artist pass when he felt “unsafe” in the less secure V.I.P. area at the Coachella music festival—the traditional ground zero for influencer drama.)

In an Instagram post from the Met Gala earlier in the week, Charles had written, “Being invited to such an important event like the ball is such an honor and a step forward in the right direction for influencer representation in the media and I am so excited to be a catalyst.” His suggestion that influencers are a marginalized group that deserves affirmative-action-style media attention was justifiably met with derision, but it did evoke the strange, liminal position that they occupy. On the one hand, people like Charles and Westbrook—so-called civilians who have amassed millions of followers through a combination of relentless vlogging and a savvily fashioned persona—now wield enormous financial power by using their accounts to promote brands. (One report predicts that the influencer economy will be worth ten billion dollars by 2020; Instagram recently partnered with several prominent influencers to test out a program that would enable direct sales on the social-media platform.) On the other hand, influencers’ power relies on their relatability. (“I want to show you guys that, no matter who you are, you can make it,” Westbrook says, feelingly, toward the end of her “Bye sister . . .” video. “I had freaking nothing, nothing, when I started out.”) Traditional celebrities serve as powerful marketing tools precisely because, though we are enticed by the fantasy that they offer, we understand that we could never really be like them. With influencers, conversely, it feels like, with a little help and a little of their product, we could be. Influencers: they’re just like us.

An influencer is, by definition, a creature of commerce. Unlike with a traditional celebrity, there is no creative project necessary to back up the shilling of products (say, a movie franchise used to promote merchandise)—the shilling is the project. But, paradoxically, the commercial sway that influencers hold over their fans depends on their distinctive authenticity: the sense that they are just ordinary people who happen to be recommending a product that they enjoy. Charles’s sin, according to Westbrook, was trading their friendship for lucre (or at least a Coachella pass). “My relationship with James Charles is not transactional,” Westbrook says in her video. “I have not asked him for a penny, I have never been on his Instagram.” Railing against Charles’s SugarBearHair sponsored post, she continues, “You say you don’t like the brand. You say that you’re the realest, that you can’t be bought. Well, you just were.” Later in the video, she takes on a Holden Caulfield-like tone: “You should have walked away. You should have held on to your integrity. You’re a phony.” She, herself, she claims, would never pay anyone to promote her beauty supplement in a sponsored post: “My product is good enough on its own. We’re selling like hot cakes.” Indeed, one shouldn’t underestimate the value that authenticity, or at least a performance of it, carries in the influencer marketplace. Since “Bye sister . . .” was posted, it has been viewed a staggering forty-three million times, and Westbrook has gained three million subscribers. Charles has lost roughly the same number.

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Kassi Ashton Challenges Notions of Beauty in ‘Pretty Shiny Things’ Video

Kassi Ashton Challenges Notions of Beauty in ‘Pretty Shiny Things’ Video

In her new video for “Pretty Shiny Things,” singer-songwriter Kassi Ashton literally faces her vanity — confronting expectations to maintain a perfect appearance on the outside while finding one’s own inner beauty as a source of resistance and power.

Penned by Ashton with Emily Landis, the tune’s unsettlingly wistful lyrics find the narrator relating her mother’s suggestion that a woman’s beautiful outward appearance has more significance than her intelligence. “Put your makeup on, girl, stand up straight,” Ashton sings, “You face will take you farther than your brain.” The video was filmed in Nashville by director Kristin Barlowe, who previously collaborated with Ashton on her clip for “Violins.”

“In our society, it feels like we’re forced to evaluate our reflection everywhere we turn, always waiting for a confirmation from someone else that we are enough,” says Ashton in a release. “Putting that, and something so personal for me, into a visual is a weird task. I wanted it to feel real, not forced.”

Ashton was one of three up-and-coming artists — along with Travis Denning and Jameson Rodgers — chosen by the Country Music Association as a recipient of their first-ever CMA KixStart Artist Scholarship. For the next year, the organization and its staff will provide support for the three artists, connecting them with professionals within the industry and providing unique opportunities to participate in special events including CMA Fest and the C2C: Country 2 Country festival in the U.K.

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Kylie Jenner shows off her slender waist wearing a crop top and sweats for mirrored kitchen selfie

Kylie Jenner shows off her slender waist wearing a crop top and sweats for mirrored kitchen selfie

Kylie Jenner shows off her impossibly slender waist wearing a crop top and sweat pants for mirrored kitchen selfie

By Tracy Wright For Dailymail.com

Published: 17:52 EDT, 11 March 2019 | Updated: 19:27 EDT, 11 March 2019

She was recently named the youngest person to become a billionaire.

But Kylie Jenner proved to be just like any average 21-year-old as she peered at her reflection in the mirror and shared a video to her Instagram on Monday afternoon.

The makeup mogul showed off her slender waistline in a white crop top and grey sweatpants before sharing a few photos of the latest shades of lipstick colors from her self-titled range of cosmetics.

Selfie! Kylie Jenner proved to be just like any average 21-year-old as she peered at her reflection in the mirror and shared a video to her Instagram on Monday afternoon

Kylie looked comfortable in a casual ensemble complete with a white cropped shirt and baggy grey sweat pants. 

She appeared to be relatively makeup-free while showing off her impressive form in front of the camera.

The mother-of-one rocked a fresh blowout with portions of her tousled brunette hair flipped to the side as she found the perfect angles.

Jenner boasted about her latest creations for Kylie Cosmetics with three posts dedicated to new matte colors. 

Fab: The makeup mogul showed off her slender waistline in a white crop top and grey sweatpants before sharing a few photos of the latest shades of lipstick colors from her self-titled range of cosmetics

Up close and personal: Kylie looked comfortable in a casual ensemble complete with a white cropped shirt and baggy grey sweat pants

Bold: Jenner boasted about her latest creations for Kylie Cosmetics with three posts dedicated to new matte colors

Available online and at Ulta Beauty stores, Kylie showed off the bright red Mary Jo, a subtle pink called Candy K and a vibrant fuchsia shade coined Sprinkle Velvet.

Each kit retails for $29 and includes one liquid lipstick and a matching pencil lip liner, while the lipstick on its own is available for $17.

The beauty connoisseur earned a new title last week as she was appointed the youngest self-made billionaire by Forbes.  

She was surprised by the success of her cosmetics company which was only founded in 2015 but is now worth an estimated $900million. 

Fresh: Available online and at Ulta Beauty stores, Kylie showed off the bright red Mary Jo, a subtle pink called Candy K and a vibrant fuchsia shade coined Sprinkle Velvet

Makeup: Each kit retails for $29 and includes one liquid lipstick and a matching pencil lip liner, while the lipstick on its own is available for $17

Jenner, who owns a 100 percent stake in it, has separate income from endorsements and her family’s reality TV show. She also owns an impressive portfolio of real estate.

‘I didn’t expect anything. I did not foresee the future. But [the recognition] feels really good,’ she told Forbes. ‘That’s a nice pat on the back.’

She credits her success to her enormous social media following which ensured her customer base before she made her first product.

‘It’s the power of social media. I had such a strong reach before I was able to start anything,’ she said. ‘I see [Kylie Cosmetics] going very far. I work really hard.’

Kylie kept her first pregnancy top-secret before announcing the Feb. 1 birth of her baby girl, Stormi Webster, with Travis Scott via Instagram.

The talented couple have been an item for nearly two years having first sparked interest in each other at Coachella in 2017.

Kylie kept her first pregnancy top-secret before announcing the Feb. 1 birth of her baby girl with Travis Scott via Instagram; seen at the Grammys in February

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Katy Perry’s controversial ‘blackface’ shoes are to be pulled from retailers

Katy Perry’s controversial ‘blackface’ shoes are to be pulled from retailers

Katy Perry‘s controversial ‘face’ shoes are reportedly going to be pulled from shelves over their resemblance to blackface.

Retailing for $129 per pair at Dillard’s and Walmart, the ‘Rue Face Slip On Loafers’ and ‘Ora Face Block Heel Sandal’ from Katy Perry Collections feature two eyes, a gold nose, and red lips. The slides come in black or beige while the sandals are available in either black or gold. 

It has been reported by TMZ that the shoes are about to be removed from retailers as the 34-year-old singer continues to face scrutiny for the design, which bears a likeness to blackface makeup. 

Courting controversy: Katy Perry has come under fire for designing shoes that resemble black face. The styles are reportedly going to be pulled from retailers 

Problematic: The ‘Rue Face Slip On Loafers’ come in black or beige and feature two eyes, a gold nose, and red lips

Double trouble: The ‘Ora Face Block Heel Sandal’ come in either black or gold and feature an identical design

Sources told the site the two shoe styles are part of an entire line that she had designed and released and ‘were never intended to be offensive.’  

‘In order to be respectful and sensitive the team is in the process of pulling the shoes,’ the sources added. 

Singer Masika Kalysha called Katy out for the offensive design on Sunday ahead of the Grammys, sharing a photo of a pair of the black ‘Rue Face Slip On Loafers’ on her Instagram Stories. 

‘So we just gonna let Katy Perry slide?’ she asked. 

Others took to Twitter to slam the pop star, with many pointing out that Katy’s shoe design is representative of the fashion world’s problematic relationship with blackface and cultural appropriation. 

Stores: Both shoe styles retail for $129 per pair at Dillard’s (pictured) and Walmart

For real? Singer Masika Kalysha called Katy out for the offensive shoe design on her Instagram Stories Sunday 

‘@katyperry are you actually serious right now?! blackface on a SHOE?? what is WRONG with you,’ one person tweeted. 

Someone else commented: ‘@katyperry so this what we doing now?!?! Blackface shoes to go with @gucci blackface sweater?!?!’

‘Now Katy Perry got blackface shoes,’ another Twitter user wrote. ‘All these different designs out here I have no other choice than to believe they doing this stuff on purpose.’ 

The ‘Roar’ singer received similar backlash when she shared a photo of the shoes on her Instagram in August 2018, writing: ‘Face it – it’s always a good time to put your best foot forward.’

‘Why do you have black face [?]’ one person commented, while another added: ‘Y’all better get some black people looking over these designs pre-production.’

‘What s WRONG with you?’ Other critics took to Twitter to slam the pop star

On going issue: Many pointed out that Katy’s shoe design is representative of the fashion world’s problematic relationship with blackface and cultural appropriation

Fed up: One Twitter user sarcastically suggested the shoes are to go with the ‘blackface’ sweater Gucci recently apologized for selling 

Outrage: Kieren Boyce stressed that ‘ignorance is never a fashion statement’ while sharing images of other offensive designs 

Over the years, Katy has also been called out for cultural appropriation on numerous occasions, most notably a 2013 AMAs performance in which she dressed as a geisha.

That same year, she was heavily criticized for wearing cornrows in her hair in her ‘This is How We Do’ video. 

Katy apologized for her history of cultural appropriation in a 2017 interview with Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson, saying she may ‘never understand’ the struggles of other cultures, but she will continue to ‘educate’ herself. 

DailyMail.com has reached out to Katy Perry’s team for comment.  

Less than a week ago, Gucci apologized for selling a sweater that many social media users said resembled blackface because of its design. 

Outrage: Katy received similar backlash when she shared a photo of the shoes on her Instagram in August 2018

Past behavior: Katy has also been called out for cultural appropriation after she dressed as a geisha for a performance (left) and wore cornrows in a music video (right)

Claims: Sources told TMZ that the shoes ‘were never intended to be offensive,’ but they are being pulled ‘in order to respectful’

The $890 black balaclava knit top from the label’s Fall/Winter 2018 season features a cut-out at the mouth that is outlined in red.

The controversial top has been discontinued after it sparked outrage on Twitter, with many claiming that it was a form of blackface.   

Searches on Gucci’s website revealed that the item is no longer listed, but archive searches indicate that the clothing item was last on the brand’s site in January.

Many speculated that the items were released for Black History Month, but all of the pieces had been showcased months prior in 2018.

A Twitter user named Rashida shared a screengrab of another mask-like item that Gucci showed off on the runway last year, writing: ‘They have a mask to match so you can have a chic classic black face moment without the mess of paint.’

Poor choice: Last week, Gucci was heavily criticized for its $890 balaclava knit top from the Fall/Winter 2018 season, which features a cut-out at the mouth that is outlined in red

Seriously? People slammed the brand for the sweater for the ‘blackface’ design 

Apology: Gucci took to Twitter to apologize for the sweater, insisting diversity was fundamental for the brand

The sentiment was shared by @stegotaurus, who added: ‘THIIIIIIIS is blackface guys. THIS. huge overdramatic red lips and a literal BLACK face. This is DISGUSTING. I don’t wanna see any of you with Gucci belts and slides after this.’

Gucci took to Twitter to apologize for the sweater, insisting that diversity was fundamental for the brand.

‘Gucci deeply apologizes for the offense caused by the wool balaclava jumper,’ the label tweeted last Wednesday, just hours after DailyMail.com asked the brand for comment.

‘We consider diversity to be a fundamental value to be fully upheld, respected, and at the forefront of every decision we make.’  

The controversy came just a week after images emerged showing a man in blackface and another man in Ku Klux Klan robes on Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook page. 

The Democrat politician apologized for the photo but then later claimed neither man is him. However, he did admit to having ‘darkened’ his face with shoe polish while dressing up as Michael Jackson around the same time. 

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Game of Thrones’ Lena Headey Claps Back at Criticism Over Not Wearing Makeup

Game of Thrones’ Lena Headey Claps Back at Criticism Over Not Wearing Makeup

Lena Headey, 2018 Golden Globes, Red Carpet Fashions

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Lena Headey is not interested in your makeup demands.

The Game of Thrones actress took to Instagram on Tuesday, sharing a screenshot of a comment from someone urging her to wear makeup on camera. 

“Don’t record yourself without makeup again please,” the person wrote, seemingly in reference to a recent video the star posted of herself promoting her upcoming film, Fighting with My Family.

Well, the Golden Globe nominee did not mince words with her public response. 

“I shall continue to not wear make up,” she captioned the screenshot. “Go f–k your self.”

Her response was met with applause from fellow actresses who have faced similar criticism. 

Co-star Carice van Houten wrote, “I get that too. F–K THAT.”

The Handmaids Tale‘s Ever Carradine commented, “”F–k that noise. You’re perfect.”

Meanwhile, fellow Game of Thrones actress Gwendoline Christie shared her support with a series of heart emojis.

Needless to say, don’t mess with Cersei.  

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