Beauty Guru Drama

Have you been following the Youtube Beauty Community Drama? If you are a regular youtube watcher it’s inescapable. It’s hit mainstream webzine articles like vox and Seventeen and Cosmopolitan at this point with infographics showing a timeline and key players of who trashed who, and the fallout. There are massive Reddit and forum threads discussing this and it’s taken over the internet over the past two weeks. I don’t watch the key players that ignited this all, but many of the makeup artists I do follow have been talking about this and the greater picture of the beauty community and how it’s been affected.

One thing I’ve learned over the years as a blogger is that consumers of influencer content are predominantly influencers themselves, so this is why the ‘drama’ has turned into such a vacuum with story after story with titles such as ‘my truth’ being published, and why the minor curfuffle between personalities has turned into a huge industry reckoning. I think there is a sven diagram that shows if you own and collect multiple eyeshadow pallets, and have an internet connection then those two realities overlap with the reality that you know all about this youtube beauty community drama already. Most of you probably don’t care and I fully expect you to gloss over this silliness but some of you are avid followers of the beauty community so I wanted to bring it up and open up the discussion, especially since it brings up the concept  of contextual marketing campaigns which we are all exposed to, and in this case what I think is very clever gorilla marketing.

Youtube Beauty Community Drama Synopsis

I’ll get into the rundown of what started this dumpster fire of a situation but the consequences of it to the community is much more interesting to me as someone that dabbles in monetizing content. This has called into question the integrity of the influencer industry, including makeup brands PR teams and agencies representing influencers. It has undermined ALL Beauty sponsorships as a result. This was a kamikaze mission either accidentally, or by design from some greater powers that be. I am inclined to think this is some sort of stunt somewhere up the flagpole since I’ve become very cynical about brands and marketing. I think all these content creators are just unwittingly taking part in this Greek comedy, and some of them are biting it real hard in terms of lost viewers and their own brands being damaged. Just remember, these are very young people running very lucrative businesses in a NEW industry, liaising with very sophisticated brands. 

Beauty Influencer Drama

The Guru Falling Out That Started It All

Jeffree is the big honcho of the beauty guru world. If you think of the beauty guru world as the mafia, Jeffree is the godfather. He has the largest following of all the beauty gurus, owns his makeup brand and various subsidiaries (which some gurus depend on), is a multi-millionaire and he has the power to bless an up and coming influencer with his sway in the cosmetics industry or curse them. Jeffrey is forever in a feud with someone and his most notable ones have been with his former friend Kat Von D,  Too Faced Cosmetics and Jaclyn Hill. Jeffrey has had a ton of controversy surrounding him when he was exposed as a racist with racist tweets being resurfaced. Somehow he’s Teflon though and after his video apology, it was generally accepted in the community that he’s made amends and learned from his mistakes. It seems to be in the communities best interest to protect the grand pumba. This goes so deep that a makeup artist I do follow on youtube, Wayne Goss, posted a video alleging that he is being blackmailed for reviewing or promoting a Kat Von D eyeliner.

Jeffree Star had a clique of influencers he was friends with, including Laura Lee, Gabriel Zamora, Manny MUA, and Nikita Dragun. During this time, another YouTuber called Shane Dawson created a 3 part ‘documentary’ on the real Jeffree Star showing him as a real and likable person, at the same time as showing off his wealth and how he has gone from rags to riches. It’s a very inspiring story for anyone grasping for this kind of self-made celebrity. The perfect PR project!

 This clique that Jeffree was part of allegedly received great benefits from their friendship with him and as a result they all landed their own cosmetics and merch deals, which Jefree generously facilitated. Once these deals were all made, the group; Laura Lee, Gabriel Zamora, Many MUA and Nikita Dragun decided to theatrically ditch Jeffree, calling him out as a racist and putting out a series of shady tweets about him.  Tweets where deleted, sobbing apologies where made, and then old incriminating tweets from these influencers with their own racist’s pasts came to the surface imploding their careers.  These YouTubers hemorrhaged followers and lost brand deals and had their makeup brands pulled from Ulta and Sephora. The one that seems to have faired the absolute worst is Laura Lee who has lost 500, 000 subscribers which amounts to an alleged $60,000/year loss. 

The Unintended Consequences

These are all Youtubers I do not follow, but the funny thing is is that the few influencers I do follow and respect have thrown their hats into the ring turning this into an issue about the industry as a whole, how influencers get paid, how divas and personalities have ruined the gig and turned it into ‘all about the money’. Nobody is ‘naming names’ but it’s very clear that the community is siding with Jeffree and saying that a few bad apples spoil the bunch. The interesting angle to this story is that there are a few YouTubers that have agendas as their own makeup brands have created an income stream greater than their youtube channels, so they have started to throw shade on brand deals.

Another interesting thing to note is that a lot of these voices are represented by the same agencies, and get the same product sponsorships and trips (check out the NARS trip to Ibiza as an example). It’s all a very incestuous community once you start peeling back the layers to see who is represented by whom, and what friendships are actually brand alignments.  Marlena, founder of the brand Makeup Geek (and originally a YouTuber) threw an atomic bomb of a comment when she said in her video that some influencers demand $60,000 per video mentioning a product, and it was further divulged that some big beauty brands will pay influencers premium dollar for negative reviews to be made for competing brands.

What Do You Guys Think? 

A lot of insiders are talking about how this rift reflects so badly on the youtube beauty guru community and how the beauty community is dying. Those of you that are avid followers of any youtube makeup artist, personality, a follower of beauty groups, boards and forums, what do you think of it all?  Do you wonder about your own participation in this cycle of consumer/brand/personality? How much do Beauty Influencers really influence you to shop? 

As a blogger, I want to add that the biggest winners in all of this, drama or no drama, are the big brands. They make huge profits via the marketing efforts of influencers, and brands can easily undermine those influencers earnings and still reap the benefits of a hyped up product. The influencer market is saturated so when one career implodes, there is another influencer ready to take the place.  Make no mistake that the brands are always, always fully in control and they have sophisticated teams of people negotiating, playing and analyzing each and every partnership. It’s a perfect scenario because if you are an up and coming influence, you want to stay on the right side of those PR lists. 

Beauty Guru Brand Collabs + Beauty Guru Brands

In creating this list of Beauty Guru Brands and Brand Collabs I was really surprised at how many influencer brands there are here that have been around for years that we now view as a bonafide cosmetics brand and not some side hustle of a beauty guru. 



  1. Shadowy_lady
    August 31, 2018 / 4:25 pm

    I used to run a beauty blog in the early days of blogging (2007 to 2012). I was also very active in makeup communities like Specktra as well as YouTube (didn’t make videos though). I haven’t blogged in 6 years but still watch most of the oldies (like Marlena who I know from Specktra actually). I must say that i’ve been turned off by mist influencers in the recent years. It has really become all about money. I trust very few reviews. I have been even more turned off by everyone spilling beans but I can’t look away. It’s like a weird train wreck that is entertaining in a way.

    I will add that I’m losing respect to all Yter’s that are contributing to the drama, even just by mentioning it. Oh and I get Jefree Starr had a hard life and all, but that doesn’t excuse his racism. Also boycotted Kat Von D as I cannot with anti waxxer’s.

    One of the reasons Temptalia will always been my no.1 beauty blog is that she is professional and does not get involved in drama. I have followed her since day 1 of her site.

    • Cristina
      August 31, 2018 / 4:34 pm

      That’s so cool that you ran a beauty blog. I actually clicked on your site a few days ago and wondered why it wasn’t active. I’d totally follow you if you restarted it. Totally agree about it being ‘about the money’. I actually became aware of this story through some local Vancouver youtubers that got invited to that NARS PR trip to Ibiza (which was completely absurdly swanky) and one of the bloggers ended up getting dumped by NARS and her agency after the trip because of some drama. That agency she uses also has some affiliation with the huge UK bloggers so they’ve been pushing those friendships all summer long. That drama lead to finding out about the fact that there were actually two NARS PR trips to Ibiza, one for US influencers and one for the international (Canada and UK) and that it was a total embarrassment to NARS that there was drama on both trips which is why they where so touchy about this Vancouver youtubers minor incident. Nevermind that these events are often well stocked with open bars and plenty of opportunities to misbehave and become uninhibited and less careful. The NARS US trip being the one where the Jeffree Star Laura Lee Instagram photo drama happened.

      I agree I refuse to buy Kat V D Makeup or Jeffree Stars makeup. There is just too much amazing makeup out there to compromise my values for these two brands and what little they have to offer me anyway.

    • Nicole
      August 31, 2018 / 8:46 pm

      I agree, I have followed Temptalia for a long time. No drama.
      I just started following more influencers over the past year but now I’m getting tired of it. 90% of products can’t possibly be ‘amazing’…and I think they throw in 10% negative reviews to appear honest. Frustrating because I do want an honest opinion! There are some good people out there but I do realize they need to make money somehow … so I take reviews with a grain of salt.

  2. Ashleigh
    August 31, 2018 / 5:27 pm

    I’m not a fan of the Jeffree clique, Jaclyn Hill and all the mega influencers. To this day, I still don’t understand how Laura Lee amassed over 5million followers (before people jumped ship recently). There is nothing she can say to excuse or explain away those tweets. The social climbing is embarrassing. The gauche bragging and displays of wealth (ie. closet tours, cars, ‘look at how rich I am!’ videos) along with the diva attitude is a turn off.

    There are some influencers I adore. Samantha Ravndahl is my favourite. RawBeautyKristi, Jamie Paige, Alana Davison – that whole crew of down to earth beauties keep it real and treat their subscribers like equals rather than minions.

    Sometimes you just want to watch a makeup tutorial or hear honest product reviews. Lately the community, along with the gossip channels have turned the focus to highschool level drama, apologies and (fake) tears, and entitlement and affiliate codes. The trust is gone. The community needs to get back to its roots. Some of that probably does require brands either pulling back on crazy financial investments, or spreading the wealth and starting to reward the mid tier and micro influencers rather than allowing the same handful of has-beens to run the show.

    • Cristina
      August 31, 2018 / 5:36 pm

      I watch the same ones you do and enjoy their channels a lot but have to say that they have been problematic for me in a lot of ways. I chalk it up to their age though and am very fascinated by their lives and like how they interact.
      I think what would help as far as brands go is investing in more micro influencers vs. fewer mega influencers, or not demanding influencers step up to a certain standard that brands are dictating. It’s the same problem that the blogger community has with buying followers to reach that magical 10,000 number on Instagram which allows you to use the swipe up feature and monetize, using giveaway loops to leverage ‘friendships’ for follows (and essentially buying followers and engagement), using ‘tribes’ on other social platforms and buying engagement or social climbing by using cliques, or dropping friends that helped support your brand. Why do we do this as a community? because brands will not look at you if you have less than 100,000 followers. Brands won’t look at you if you don’t have a filter theme in place, and brands won’t look at you if you don’t filter your face to the point that you look like a barbie. I have felt that extreme pressure and I watch it every single day behind the scenes in the blogger community. When you are investing so much time, energy and resources on the back end for your brand, on the front end you need to start justifying that financially.

      • Cristina
        August 31, 2018 / 5:47 pm

        By the way, brands really love using instagram because it’s cheaper for them and they are able to undermine affiliate earnings.

      • Ashleigh
        September 1, 2018 / 2:59 pm

        The filters are a major issue for me as well. You can’t see how products blend if the filters are smoothing and blending everything for you. People start looking like poreless, celestially lit beings. There was one Jaclyn Hill video a month or two ago that had the filters and lighting turned up so high, she looked mostly like eyes, nostrils, lipstick and contour floating on a blank oval face.

        There’s one youtuber I watch that is ‘brutally’ honest (livloveshermakeup) – very much 50/50 as far as what she recommends, and doesn’t hesitate to criticize products sent to her for PR and will call out brands more than any other youtuber I’ve come across. I used to really enjoy her channel but because it’s not her full time job (and never will be), the videos over the last year have been a little hit or miss for me. But overall, she’s one of the few influencers I can actually trust for a real review.

        • Cristina
          September 1, 2018 / 3:24 pm

          Yup, the highly contrasted photos/videos blur out everything, and then when you add filters and facetune on top of that it’s even worse. I always knew things where edited but I didn’t KNOW it until I saw it with my own eyes at a blogger conference I went to this year. It so disappointed me. The other thing that conference experience taught me was how cutthroat and catty the general influencer community is while being friendly and smiley on the surface. Literally smiling and laughing with someone, and you see them snark about that same person they were just friendly with the second that person turns away. I saw this a few times at the conference as a wallflower just people watching and it made me want to pack up and go home. The people that are charismatic online and have engaging personalities and seem really friendly and outgoing are usually not, and the ones that get the worst roasting online (probably by their competition) and are maybe less smooth in their interactions are genuinely nice, but less polished.

          Thanks for that recommendation! I’m going to check outliveloveshermakeup.

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