About two weeks ago, I cleared the floor, stepped onto my digital soap box, and asked the question in the back of everyone’s throats. Is it ever possible to make the leap from popstar to product developer? Are celebrity beauty lines actually good?
Discourse in the comments section followed, and the general consensus was...no! Most celebrity beauty is not worth its weight in gold. But it turns out, there are a few celebrity products you do love enough to recommend—it all comes down to how seriously you think the celeb is taking their line, and how authentic the new venture feels. Let’s dissect further, shall we?
The big winner in celebrity beauty seems to be Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty. It holds its own so well that many of you were reluctant to call Fenty a celebrity beauty line at all—and that’s not a totally unfounded opinion. Fenty was developed by Kendo, a brand incubator owned by LVMH and originally started by Sephora (which is why many Kendo brands are still exclusive to Sephora). Before Fenty, they built brands like Bite, Marc Jacobs, and Ole Henriksen. And in 2016, they offered an estimated $10 million and “the opportunity to play a key role in [brand] development” to bring a Rihanna makeup line to life. Rihanna herself was hesitant to branch into beauty, telling T Magazine last year that “[celebrity makeup] got to a place where they were so oversaturated in the market.” But she went for it anyway, and the line garnered instant respect among consumers and industry veterans alike. While it’s obvious that Fenty products were developed by Kendo chemists, Rihanna’s influence on the line seems undeniable. It launched with 40 foundation shades—a rarity just a few years ago. Fenty’s inclusive range is reminiscent of Iman Cosmetics, which the supermodel Iman founded in reaction to fashion industry makeup artists who failed to correctly match her skin tone.
You guys are pretty passionate about Fenty. Products recommended included highlighter, bronzer, blush, and Gloss Bomb lip gloss. Of course, complexion products received a gold star too. “Fenty foundation accurately captures my undertones when I am light in winter or have a tan in summer,” says commenter @lolanyc. And, regardless of Rihanna’s actual involvement in the line, the product range rings authentic to consumers. “You can see Rihanna applying a pom pom of body glitter, or casually throwing on a matte green lipstick,” adds @shelikesbacon.
Perceived authenticity seems to be the main difference between a passion project and a money grab. Known skincare fanatic Pharrell gets good marks on his skincare line Humanrace. But an even better example of a brand concept well-aligned with its celeb founder is Tracee Ellis Ross’ Pattern Beauty. In a blog post on the Pattern website, Ross writes that her expert training began at age 15, when she stopped perming her natural curls. “It was a steady, never-ending stream of products, self-education and experimentation. Even hairdressers didn’t have much to offer me as I tried to understand my natural hair texture.” The DIY narrative around caring for Black hair is one echoed by women across the world. As commenter @sashi writes, “I think [Tracee Ellis Ross] knows what she wants because she has a lifetime of experience trying to find what suits her hair.” The line reads as authentic, so you’re more likely to press buy. And you love this stuff—following Fenty, Pattern was the second most mentioned brand. If you’re going to start anywhere, start with the conditioner.
Finally, lots of folks voiced confusion over brands that were started by a celebrity, but kind of took on a life of their own. Did those count as celebrity beauty, too? One example is Kylie Cosmetics, the eponymous makeup line from the youngest of the Kar-Jenner clan. You might argue that most of her fame was built because of the line. Or take Gwyneth Paltrow, an A-list celebrity who managed to carve out space for Goop separate from her fame. You might even place former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham’s beauty range, a chicly packaged collection of shadows and lip colors, in with this bunch. And while you’re not sure which category they fall into, you know what you like: Kylie’s lipstick, Goop’s salt shampoo, Glow Peel pads, and scents, and VB’s lip tint. “Celebrities with well-defined styles and small, curated launch collections geared to their aesthetic are at least interesting,” says @sarahmayo.
Some stragglers that also got your stamp of approval include Selena Gomez’s Rare Beauty brush-tip eyeliner pen, Miranda Kerr’s Kora Organics Turmeric Mask and Noni Serum, Josie Maran’s argan oil, and Hayley Williams’ Good Dye Young hair dye.
But all in all, it seems like the celebrity beauty fatigue is real. If anyone with a Grammy is reading this, maybe don’t start your own beauty line. There are plenty of great ones already, and tons of self-starting entrepreneurs waiting for your support.
Photo via ITG