Influencers. Beauty gurus. BeauTubers. Whatever you call them, and regardless of whether you even subscribe to their channels, you’ve probably seen them in news headlines this year. As the makeup industry booms, some of the influencers who push makeup and skin care products have earned near-celebrity status. They’re even launching their own cosmetics lines.
So, it’s no wonder beauty gurus now feud and fall from grace just like Hollywood A-listers. In 2019, the world watched plenty of drama unfold on the internet, and the reactions ranged from angry tweets to setting eyeshadow palettes ablaze. And while some scandals came and went, others served some serious tea. And you’ll see that if 2019 taught influencers anything, it’s that deleting a post won’t make the drama disappear.
Tepid: KathleenLights’ KL Polish Departure
YouTuber KathleenLights has been posting makeup reviews and tutorials since 2013. In 2016, she started her own nail polish line, KL Polish. But in early 2019, she and her investors parted ways, with Lights having to exit her namesake company seemingly against her will. Customers were left with questions due to the beauty guru’s inability to fully explain what happened (#legalproceedings) surrounding her leave. She even opened her video about the ordeal with a disclaimer about the legal distinction between defamation and protected opinion, “for anyone who may be watching,” a not-so-subtle reminder for said investors who may not like her version of events. KL Polish then posted and deleted a shady ’gram confirming the split.
However, 2019 closed on a happier note for Lights, who launched her solo venture, Lights Lacquer, in November. Her first collection is designed around the theme of being an empowered woman, with names like “Jefa” and “GRL PWR.” KL Polish has since closed.
Getting Warmer: Kat Von D Finally Responds To Anti-Vaxx Claims
In June 2018, tattoo artist-turned-brand owner Kat Von D entered the vaccination debate when she posted a (now-deleted) photo on Instagram about her pregnancy choices. In her caption, she mentioned her “intention of raising a vegan child, without vaccinations.” Public backlash and calls to boycott her makeup products ensued.
Finally, in March, Von D posted a video about the subject on YouTube, denying being an anti-vaxxer (and a Nazi, which was also a thing). She said she “experienced some hesitancy” about vaccinating her baby after researching the ingredients, and closed by saying that she will rely on her pediatrician’s guidance, but will no longer make her choices on the subject public.
Hotter Than Expected On First Sip: Tati Westbrook vs. James Charles
When Westbrook and Charles fell out publicly this year, it all started over gummy vitamins and Coachella, in true influencer fashion. Westbrook first posted a (now deleted) video accusing Charles of using another brand’s security team at Coachella ― a brand that’s Westbrook’s direct competitor in the vitamin industry.
She went on to say that Charles generally mistreats people around him and makes questionable advances toward men. As Forbes reported, this led some men to share their stories of Charles’ behavior online. Tati stans tweeted videos of themselves destroying their James Charles X Morphe palettes in response.
Charles responded with a video of his own. Ultimately both parties apologized for their statements while continuing to assert their positions. Shortly thereafter, things seemed to return to normal in the beauty community.
Piping Hot: Olivia Jade’s College Scandal
Twenty-year-old Olivia Jade Giannulli is a beauty and lifestyle YouTuber who made national headlines after her parents, Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli, were charged with participating in a multimillion-dollar college admissions scheme. Olivia Jade was allegedly admitted to the University of Southern California for $500,000, but left the school after the news.
In December, after a months-long hiatus, Jade posted an Instagram photo marking her return, along with a brief video to her YouTube. The comments were not kind, with many subscribers angered that she didn’t address the admissions drama in any detail. For now, her parents have pleaded not guilty and await trial.
Scalding: Jaclyn Hill’s Lipstick Launch
If you had internet access in 2019, you probably saw something about Jaclyn Hill’s lipstick launch under her new brand Jaclyn Cosmetics. As products were delivered in June, customers took to Twitter to complain they received lipsticks that were melted, covered in tiny hairs, holey and more. Hill explained on YouTube that her products were safe to use, but had imperfections due to poor quality control:
Other influencers joined the tea party. RawBeautyKristi posted a video examining her own Jaclyn lipsticks under a microscope, confirming hers were contaminated, too. Marlena Stell, a fellow influencer and owner of indie brand Makeup Geek, put the kettle back on the heat in her video, “Dear Influencers.” There, she laid out reasons she believed Hill used a cosmetic production lab that Stell passed over for what she said were unsanitary practices.
Newsweek reported Hill’s social media ghosting after the wave of backlash, amid the brand’s rush to issue refunds without recalling the product. This further enraged the internet. In November, Jaclyn Cosmetics launched a new highlight collection to a hesitant customer base, and has earned praise for the products.