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How the beauty world became so obsessed with drama

With more scandals these days than product drops, it seems like we have reached the peak, but the industry’s history is equally tainted with controversies and feuds

Somewhere between all the self-expression and fun, the beauty industry became just as well-known for its toxic drama. Just take a look at the most recent iteration of the Jeffree Star x Shane Dawson x Tati scandal, any number of the Kylie Jenner dramas, or even Deciem’s messy public interactions. Scandals have become so rooted in the beauty industry that they’ve begun to overshadow all of the things we all love about beauty – namely creativity and inclusivity. 

But how did it get this way? “Beauty drama and beauty scandals are not new at all,” explains Doreen Bloch executive director of The Makeup Museum. “There is a fascinating and important history with beauty scandals, dating back at least 100 years. What has changed now is the level of exposure and the ability for fans to follow along with every detail.” Social media and platforms like YouTube have given more access than ever before to beauty industry founders, many of whom have come from social media (influencer) backgrounds, the result being there is no shortage of interaction on all platforms.

One reason why scandals are especially prominent in beauty culture may have to do with the competitiveness of the industry. Afterall, the Jeffree Star x Shane Dawson x Tati moment was all about competitiveness, specifically about products and star power. “It is fiercely competitive, with thousands of product launches each year. Even the largest, most professionally managed global companies find it hard to predict the success of product launches, and can stumble badly. One estimate is that 90 percent of new fragrance launches fail,” says Harvard Business School history professor Geoffrey Jones, author of Beauty Imagined: A History of the Global Beauty Industry. “Getting the word out to consumers, and getting product through the distribution channels to consumers, provide further major challenges for new ventures.” 

Interestingly, the beauty industry seems to have more drama-fueled scandals than many of the other industries surrounding it. Think about it: while the fashion industry is full of its own issues, from knock-offs to racism, rarely do we see brand founders, creative directors, or higher-ups, such as Gucci’s Alessandro Michele or Burberry’s Riccardo Tisci interacting directly with fans. One example where that has happened – which is rare, obviously – is Dolce & Gabbana. 

“Beauty lends itself easily to drama because beauty in itself is about performance,” says Bloch. “Self-expression is inherent to make-up, so it makes sense that the beauty industry itself would have a strong set of characters who want to express themselves boldly and unapologetically in their quest to be at the top of the beauty business. Make-up gives people confidence, and it can embolden them to be a b

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