By Izzy Utterson
Since Maybelline decided to feature silent-movie starlets in their makeup campaigns in the 1920s, the culture of celebrity has penetrated the beauty industry. In more recent times, celebrities allow their name and likeness to appear on perfumes - picture yourself getting ready for the school disco with Britney Spears’ Fantasy as your trustee accessory, or maybe glow by J-Lo was your poison of choice. Got a big day at school? Power by 50 cent with its peppery top notes was sure to give you the confidence you needed, and if you were trying to impress your crush then Heat by Beyonce was sure to do the trick. The cult of celebrity scents exploded in the noughties and I was even able to find a review of Paris Hilton’s ‘Paris Hilton’ from August2021 that claims “I’ve been wearing this scent since the mid 2000s...Wanna get the boys ladies? This draws them in!”I'll have to bear this in mind the next time I leave the house on a mission to find a partner. This kind of collaboration has long been used as a means by which to allow customers a perceived insight into the private lives of the rich and famous. The beauty and wellness industry, perhaps even more so than the fashion industry, has historically relied pretty heavily on celebrity endorsement. I grew up with Kate Moss’s ‘Get the London look’ as the soundtrack tagline to my early teens. But I recently found myself questioning why? Why do celebrities feel the need to create these beauty brands, and do they really know anything about the industry at all? In a world where we can buy a candle that smells like Gwyneth Paltrow’s vagina, and body makeup to cover psoriasis courtesy of Kim Kardashian West, I'm forced to ask if these collaborations and celebrity lead brands have gone too far?
"This kind of collaboration has long been used as a means by which to allow customers a perceived insight into the private lives of the rich and famous"
Since the 2000s success in this space began with the likes of Britney and Paris Hilton, whose fragrances made millions. Harnessing success in the beauty industry allows these people to display not only the consumer driven reach their talent inspires, but their popularity and stature. It provides longevity in a way that a career as a singer or actor may not always be able to, allowing them to climb further to, and remain at, the “top”. But is all that glitters really gold? In 2015 Kylie Jenner launched her revolutionary Lip Kits, a way in which fans could recreate Jenner’s puckered pout without harming themselves (TW who remembers the #KylieJennerLip Challenge ?) Indeed, when I google ‘Kylie Lip Kit’ I am met with 15 million results. When interest from the younger generation turned towards Kylie Jenner, in particular her lips, a new wave of beauty was born. Tweens around the world went into a frenzy, begging their parents or indeed swiping their parents' credit cards for a chance to get their hands on these life-changing lip kits. Kylie Jenner ushered a new wave of celebrity beauty offerings, moving away from perfume to makeup (and latterly, skincare). Kylie Cosmetics was the catalyst for what was to come, pioneering a wave of change across the beauty industry as well as a blueprint on how to market yourself and sell. One Instagram post or Snapchat story was enough to sell out an entire collection within minutes. Suddenly traditional marketing and advertising in the beauty industry was thrown off, people were beginning to no longer use skincare or makeup based on what their mother or friends used, but based on the recommendations of and collaborations with their favourite celebrities. Stephanie Saltzman, beauty editor at Fashionista, says “it cannot be overstated how significant influencers and online marketing have been.”(https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-44805888)
"...people were beginning to no longer use skincare or makeup based on what their mother or friends used, but based on the recommendations of and collaborations with their favourite celebrities."
In 2017 Rihanna launched Fenty Beauty. Having previously collaborated with brands such as MAC, Rihanna created Fenty Beauty to provide for the inclusion of all skin tones in cosmetics offerings, including extensive shade offerings for people with deeper skin tone. More recently we have seen Harry Styles launch Pleasing, a skin and nail-care brand, Selena Gomez in 2020 founded Rare Beauty, a brand that focuses on dismantling the unrealistic standards of beauty that we have been presented with for so long. Then of course we have Pharrell Williams who launched Human Race in 2020, an all inclusive skincare line, suitable for all genders, races and skin types.(Even as I write this I have just received an email notifying me that Nikkie de Jager (@nikkietutorials) has launched a range of multi-tasking skincare and makeup products- all of which promise an enviable glow.) I can’t write this article without mentioning Gwyneth Paltrow launching a candle in 2020 that apparently smelt like an orgasm, and even one boasting the smell of Paltrow’s vagina– i am fascinated by Goop and think their USP is quite genius, however even for me this was a stretch. We must at this point ask ourselves why is this industry so saturated?
Two decades since the launch of Spear’s Fantasy fragrance, and with the beauty industry now cashing in at $603 Billion, high fashion brands such as Chanel and Gucci whose beauty products have hugely expanded their customer bases, largely accounting for keeping their brands afloat. Beauty is an incredibly lucrative industry, the demand for beauty products and services is ever increasing and will continue to do so in the future. Since the pandemic we are more concerned than ever about taking care of ourselves, be this with a hydrating mask, beauty treatment or makeup endorsed by your favourite influencer. However, a question I ask myself each time a celebrity develops a makeup or skincare brand, is there any efficacy behind it? Are they a dermatologist or industry expert? 9 times out of 10 the answer is no. However, in 2021 it takes more than just a celebrity's face to sell a product - people are desperate for “realness”. In 2020 Humanrace was launched by singer songwriter Pharell Williams, who decided to include braille labels on the products. In similar inclusive fashion Selena Gomez launched her brand Rare in a bid to fight against the unrealistic standards of beauty we have for so long been presented with by big beauty corporations who have presented us with a cookie cutter perfect skin, thin, blonde hair and blue eyed model selling us a face cream or mascara. Whilst these are both impressive strides (amongst many other examples), I'm forced to question whether any of this is truly necessary, of course the strides towards inclusivity are fantastic and wholly necessary, but would these celebrities not be better suited to leave their mark on an existing brand if this is truly something they feel so passionately about? The beauty industry accounts for 120 billion units of plastic waste per year , most of which is sadly not recyclable. Are these brands really making a difference, or is it just fluff to sell products and boost their profile? There is no doubt that these brands and collaborations have seen huge monetary success (with the beauty industry generating around $500 billion in 2021 alone), but at what cost? The New York Times published an article in December entitled ‘Dear Celebrities: Please Stop Churning Out Beauty Brands’, noting that new celebrity lines are being launched at a fleeting rate, with the promise of plumper lips, glowing skin and more recently a boosted sex drive (with the increasing launch of beauty adjescent vibrators from a number of celebrities).
"The beauty industry accounts for 120 billion units of plastic waste per year , most of which is sadly not recyclable. Are these brands really making a difference, or is it just fluff to sell products and boost their profile?"
As I mentioned previously, this cult of celebrity is nothing new to the beauty industry, but there certainly seems to have been an explosion of late. It seems to me that, excluding a couple of genuine examples, (Fenty Beauty and Human Race which have seen genuine longevity and success) these celebrities and their partners are capitalising on their moment in the spotlight and squeezing every last drop out of it. But how long can this last? Given the growing TikTok and Instagram community, I wonder if what was once a sickly sweet perfume industry for tweens, which is now a dense market of thousands of perfumes, supplements, skincare, makeup, etc. can last? Or will 2022 bring us a wave of new collaborations with aforementioned TikTok stars. We will have to wait and see. All I know is, as someone who has done extensive trial and error with skincare and makeup, it is important to find what’s right for you, and not just something that Kylie Jenner has told you is a life-changing cleanser, we all saw the claims that it was a replica of that good old Apricot scrub which i won't mention, but you know the one.
With self expression being such an important part of the younger generations identity, I question whether this trend can successfully carry on. Will people continue to invest in product lines from carefully curated celebrity lines? We are moving away from an era where we want to replicate celebrities' beauty looks, towards an era of self-expression and freedom in the beauty industry. Gone are the days when contour sticks were drawn on with painstaking accuracy and lips overlined to the high heavens, as we welcome the TikTok generation to the stage with all of their innovative and wonderful ideas– I’m excited as anyone as to what is next to come!