Can you remember what you wanted to be in life when you were child? Was it the Disney-like clichés of being an Astronaut, President of something, or an Olympic Athlete that came to mind? Were you one those early lucrative kids with a strange clairvoyance that you were just going to end up in Finance or Law like your Mom or Dad? The answer is probably none of these.
Whoever asked you a question like that, probably expected an interesting to generic answer, and for the most part you would oblige them. Then after you finished that conversation with that annoyingly inquisitive adult person, you forgot what you said and continued messing with your friends or playing some video game, whatever thing that was really occupying your time.
Some people know very early on what they want to do with their lives, and some will go through 4 years of an undergrad, 2-4 years of a master’s degree, work in various jobs and still not have any clue what they truly want to do or be.
Addison Rae dreamed of becoming a beauty icon when she was younger, though unlike the rest of us, she became one, and much more than just that, she became a mainstream Influencer. Addison’s up-bringing in Louisiana was tough, her mother was only 21 years old when she was born, and her father left them soon after only to come in and out of their lives.
Despite this certainly impressionable up-bringing, and through the process of making short videos of cheerleader-like dancing to hip-hop, Rae had amassed 3 million followers on Tiktok by the time she was 20. Then she met Marcelo Camberos the CEO of Ipsy, the largest beauty subscription service in America, and with that within a year she had 73 million followers.
Before Ipsy scooped up Addison and her fan-base, she had been making her money through selling t-shirts with her name on them, lines like “I need a bad bleep” which alluded to a song by the rapper The Kid Laroi. Selling t-shirts was not going to really change Rae’s life and certainly was not going to revolutionise some new pop-culture commercial craze, so Addison did what most modern socialites do and what she always wanted, to own and be a beauty brand.
The beauty industry had been using social media before, but with the onset of individuals like Addison, individuals with influence they never knew they had, the industry had found a medium that had yet to be properly exploited. The cosmetics business is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the modern economy, because of this trying to make a product different from another product is, production wise, very hard. Oils and extracts add very little to a new product, except probably at the very least an interesting smell.
It is all down to the marketing and packaging, that is what sells, everything else is completely substitutable. So, when Marcelo Camberos met with Addison and showed her samples of what was going to be her brand, later known as ‘Item’, it was Addison in her brand that was going to sell, did not matter what was ‘different’ about Item as a product one bit at all.
The narrative goes much deeper than just make-up and influence, it explores a serious problem that society as whole is only recently able to approach correctly with, that being mental health. Addison has always been very open about her mental health on her social media platform, in fact its not just her that has become a representation of the openness around the issues of mental health, most stars with a heavy media presence have begun to address their own vulnerabilities.
People of that position in society without a doubt have blemishes of all forms both physically and mentally, I would not doubt that for a second, but nonetheless, their imperfections sell, vulnerability sells. This is where the relationship between influencer and the influenceable becomes somewhat unintentionally bad intentioned.
When beauty icons like Addison and people of that calibre show their flaws from their platforms, such acts of vulnerability are always somewhat intertwined with a plug of one the various products, for example a product of Addison’s is a mirror with the words ‘I Love you say it back’ around the edges of the mirror. Again, some of Addison’s tweets further this narrative of positivity with posts like “YOUR BODY IS PERFECT. YOU ARE PERFECT”.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with projecting these sentiments, they are good sentiments to project to people, the issue is, by projecting this vulnerability along with your beauty products, you get people associating ‘feeling good’ with those icons’ products. The ability to feel good about yourself has become a complementary good of beauty products, you do not feel the same with one or the other as you bundle the 2 with each other.
It has always been with us, pressures on women to bend to certain trends like that. The 90s had the Kate Moss ‘heroin chic’ or that extremely misogynistic Seltzer add which associated drinking Seltzer with having a skinny attractive waist in the 70s. As people rightly demand for more diversity in all aspects of life, we are creating a new commercial trend for industries to pick up on, to tap into and ultimately to make filthy amounts of money.
People should be allowed to express themselves on the issues of mental health without being subtly nudged by product placement especially young people. It is an important issue mental health, and it should not be used as a market tool to optimize profits on people’s psychological health and decisions. So, wear whatever make-up you want, the economy is going to do its thing, so you should do YOUR thing too, but do it with a conscious effort that other people have their issues like yours or not, so stay beautiful in that regard.