This week, Cara Balen explores how Jeffree Star Cosmetics exemplifies the way that the online beauty community has led to a new generation of influencer makeup brands.

The beauty industry is now, more than ever, intertwined with the online world. Reviewers and lifestyle gurus on Instagram and YouTube play a huge role in the marketing and promotion of everything from clothes to cosmetics, and with each passing day it is harder to know where advertising ends and their opinion starts. Yet, with this merging together of two worlds, it is unsurprising that influencers are now taking on the beauty industry in order to establish their own unique brands. Many social media creators are putting their creative talents towards fabulous new products and glitzy campaigns.

One such influencer is Jeffree Star,the makeup brand mogul who has an estimated net worth of $70 million, according to His brand, Jeffree Star Cosmetics, is sold all across the globe by popular retailers such as Morphe and Beautylish (and Beauty Bay for British fans). His rise to makeup brand stardom started in November 2014, when his entire stock sold out within a few minutes of his launch.

A huge player in the makeup industry now, Star first specialised in liquid lipsticks but has branched out into all sorts of products, with his most recent release of the Magic Star Concealer and Setting Powder marking his first ever makeup base products. He is known for his crazy looks and experimental makeup, most notably his obsession for bubble-gum pink which used to be his go-to hair colour. It is probably this fresh take on fashion that gained Star recognition, injecting the makeup world with a new and innovative style; prompting makeup lovers everywhere to go wild with his weird and wonderful products, which include green and black highlighters and the ‘Alien Palette’, an eyeshadow palette shaped like an alien, which is literally the size of a human head! The beauty community have really taken to his brand, with Forbes naming him as one of the Top Ten Beauty Influencers of 2017.

However, Star wasn’t always known for his makeup. He rose to fame on MySpace in 2006, which he used to launch his lesserknown music career. His brand included a certain amount of shock-factor, with arched pink eyebrows and dark smudged eyeshadow – a perfect mix of grunge and glitter. His distinctive look, which flaunted the gender ‘rules’ about beauty, fed into his unique persona. But although he worked at MAC, it was only later that he began to steer his content towards makeup, with the introduction of his makeup brand and his promotional videos on YouTube. His channel, which now has over 14 million subscribers, quickly expanded to include tutorials, reviews, and lifestyle vlogs.

Star is paradigmatic of a shift in the way the makeup industry functions in a world guided by everything Internet. The traditional methods of creating and promoting a makeup business are now not the only way. Of course, many brands have and will continue to use
tried and tested methods to climb to the top of the beauty product ladder, but the amount of brands formed and marketed by and for social media users is on the rise. Just by looking at the many popular MUA influencers with their own products, you can see how widereaching this trend has become (think of Manny MUA or Nikkie de Jager, to name a few).

Star recognised that makeup promotion is now consumed via tutorials or online campaigns and built his brand from this fairly unique (at the time) angle. The fact that Star’s company is mainly an ecommerce brand, meaning most of his products are bought online, shows how reliant the brand is on the influence of the internet. But so far, it has shown to be a very powerful tool.

Becoming a public figure whilst being the face of a brand comes with some potentially negative consequences, however. Star said in 2017: “I can’t just say everything that I feel because, at the end of the day, I am a product.” He was referring to the many controversies that seem to constantly surround him, including the feuds he has had in the past with other makeup moguls such as Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, and Kat Von D. Not only that, but Star has previously been caught up in some racism scandals, for which he has since apologised.

Being so intimately tied up with a brand, so much so that Star legally changed his name from Jeffrey Lynn Steininger to the name now sported on every Star makeup box, has proved that consumers often do view the person behind the product as reflective of their brand. Public outcry against his old racist comments included people boycotting his brand, and saying they will never buy from him again. Similarly, Kim K fans came out in support of the reality TV star when Star criticised her makeup swatches, by saying they would not support his brand. It seems that Star is right to see himself as a kind of product, as what he says and does has the potential to heavily affect his brand.

On the flip side, Star fans often support Jeffree Star Cosmetics because of their love for him. He is praised for keeping his makeup reviews genuine, and has been vocal about refusing to accept money for promoting products. He has also collaborated on a lip topper with Jouer in 2017, with all of the proceeds going to Los Angeles LGBT Centre. And recently, his image has undergone a makeover of its own due to the series, ‘The Secret Life of Jeffree Star,’ released by fellow YouTuber Shane Dawson, which documents the side of Star that has been previously hidden to the public.

Star used this as an opportunity to show his vulnerabilities, taking the audience into his confidence about the difficulties in his childhood and his struggles with mental health. He expresses his wish to be authentic, and it is for that reason that many of his fans appear to support him – viewing him as a kind of influencer from the people, for the people (a credit to his marketing prowess, given that he walks around in Gucci tracksuits toting bags worth hundreds of thousands of dollars).

Love him or hate him, you cannot deny that Jeffree Star exemplifies a new generation of makeup brand, that intertwines social media popularity with influencer personality to create a product that blurs the line between commodity and celebrity. This new marketing style has exploded in popularity in the last few years, and it will be fascinating to see how the rise of social media will continue to alter the traditions of the makeup industry in the years to come. Star is also noteworthy for his longevity and resistance to controversy – defying those who suggest that social media influencers are just a flash in the pan.

You can find out more about Cara’s work by following @BalenCara on twitter.

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