The first high-end makeup product I ever purchased was the Kat von D tattoo liner. I had never heard a whisper of controversy about Kat von D at the time. Years later, I came to learn of von D’s alleged history of anti-Semitism and I was horrified that I’d ever given her a dime. In spite of these allegations, von D’s makeup brand flourished until she said she wasn’t planning on vaccinating her child. It was only then that she was bought out of her makeup company.
I’m certainly not saying that von D shouldn’t have been condemned for her anti-vaxx stance, nor am I saying that anti-Semitism is worse than anti-vaxxer propaganda; they’re both bad and there’s no reason to debate which is worse. My question is: why were people willing to give her a pass on her anti-Semitic views? Why wasn’t that information splattered across the tabloids like her anti-vaxxer stance was? Why did so few people stop purchasing her products after learning of her anti-Semitism?
Okay, maybe the lack of concrete evidence of her anti-Semitism is the reason people didn’t boycott her right away. I’d be willing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, except we’re seeing the exact same dynamic play out with Jeffree Star. Jeffree has a well documented history of racism and misogyny, yet his brand is thriving. I see people everywhere going nuts for his palettes and lip glosses. Why are people so willing to give money to a man who joked about throwing battery acid on a black woman to lighten her skin tone? Why is that not enough for him to be cancelled?
Again, people could object to this and say that those comments happened years ago and everyone deserves a second chance. Do I think Jeffree deserves the benefit of the doubt? Not really, but let’s say he does, for argument’s sake. Now let’s talk about Laura Lee. Lee came under fire for her 2012 racist tweets. As a result, she lost thousands upon thousands of Youtube subscribers. She’s still on Youtube, but her channel hasn’t recovered.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel bad for Lee and I’m not defending her. Even in my “edgiest” teen years, I never dropped the n-word or made a joke out of racial stereotyping. I don’t think anyone is entitled to an online platform and I think Lee is seeing the just repercussions of her actions and her lack of accountability. That said, why did Lee take such a hit for her racist comments, while Star continues to rake in the cash from his loyal fanbase, despite his much longer history of racism?
Personally, I think a lot of it comes down to misogyny. Despite the fact that the makeup market is predominantly female, women are still held to a higher standard than men. We give men in the industry a pass for repulsive behavior while cancelling women who do the same thing (for the record, I think both men and women should be cancelled for racism, anti-semitism etc). Shane Dawson, a long time Youtuber but relatively new beauty guru, donned blackface and used the n-word in 2008, yet his collab with Jeffree Star sold out. Why was Laura Lee held to a higher standard than Shane Dawson for past racist comments? Why does Shane get to sweep his controversy under the rug (and cheekily name his collab “Controversy”) while Lee is left with a crumbling beauty channel?
If there’s one thing that Jeffree Star and Shane Dawson show, it’s that people are willing to look the other way and excuse reprehensible behavior for overpriced eye shadows and purple lip gloss. Hell, Kat von D demonstrated the same principle until her anti-vaxxer comments (probably because anti-vaxxing is much more sensationalized and talked about nowadays than boring old anti-Semitism and racism).
We shouldn’t be giving money and attention to anyone who expresses hateful bigotry, especially those who refuse to take responsibility for their actions. There is no eyeshadow, no eyeliner, no lipstick that is worth condoning hateful words against marginalized groups. I don’t care how good the products are! Don’t give money or clout to bigots or those who tolerate them (looking at you, Kat von D’s co owners, who didn’t have a problem with all her bullshit until they started to lose money). It’s just not worth it. Part of standing in solidarity with marginalized groups is making sacrifices, and passing on an eyeshadow palette is a small price to pay for supporting groups that are systematically disempowered. People’s dignity will always be more important than makeup.