Browse Category by Beauty

It’s Blinding: RiRi and Kim K’s Beauty Marketing

Newly crowned queen of fashion week, Robyn “Rihanna” Fenty, recently launched her own line of beauty products, two years in the making. Since the announcement of the launch, gurus and enthusiasts have been shaking with anticipation and I can safely say the megastar delivered.

rihanna doing someone's makeup at launch

And while Rihanna is insanely popular, her line’s popularity comes at least in part from its inclusivity. Fenty Beauty boasts a whopping 40 foundation shades with varying undertones for multitudes of skin tones. They retail for $34, along with other mid-priced items like a foundation brush, sponge, blotting papers, and a newly designed highlighter brush.

If you’re new to the beauty community or someone who doesn’t concern themselves with it (though it’s big enough that you might as well be aware of it) the lack of representation for women of color has long been an unwon battle.

40 foundation shades

This meticulously developed project in collaboration with Kendo (makers of Bite Beauty, Kat Von D, and Marc Jacobs; owned by LVMH) has been lauded by many for its diverse product. What’s more, the website boasts a widget for discovering your shade and the issue of selling out of products has been shockingly avoided due to back stock preparation.

Fenty Beauty launched duo-highlighters retailing for $34 and a single highlighter with a drooling social media adoration called “Trophy Wife”, as well as a universal gloss entitled “Gloss Bomb” retailing for $18.

celebrity beauty, killawatt highlighter
Trophy Wife, killawatt highlighter.

Are you sensing a theme here? If not, Rihanna’s philosophy towards her line might shed some light on it.

“She launched a makeup line “so that women everywhere would be included,” focusing on a wide range of traditionally hard-to-match skin tones, creating formulas that work for all skin types, and pinpointing universal shades.”

The cherry on top? It’s cruelty-free, paraben-free, mostly vegan (minus some beeswax, carmine, etc), and manufactured without ingredients that contain gluten though they can’t guarantee there aren’t any traces of gluten throughout manufacturing.

It’s the millennial’s dream marketing campaign: eco-friendly practices, lack of toxic materials, inclusive shades, mid-price point, and headed by a fiercely independent mogul. And it comes at the perfect time to be juxtaposed with another colossal launch that took an effective approach deeply different than Fenty Beauty’s.

KKW Beauty | Millennial Pink without the Kumbaya

Ah, the Kardashians. Since their foray into the beauty industry with Kim, Kourtney, and Khloé heading a family line for drugstores, they’ve slowly ascended to mid-range to luxury prices for their products. Their drugstore attempt wasn’t received well, as well as their rebranding of it years past its launch. Their real boost to makeup relevance came from Kim’s famed contouring and Kylie’s liquid lips that matched her newly filled lips.

Piggybacking off of Kylie’s line of liquid lips, highlighters, and shadows (though look no further than Colourpop for similar shades and formulas; their mother company makes her lip kits) and her famed makeup look, Kim released liquid lips, contour/highlighter sticks, and contour palettes under KKW Beauty.

kkw stick swatches
Swatches for the contour sticks.

One major difference between Fenty Beauty and KKW is the shade range. Obviously contour kits don’t require 40 shades, but surely they require more than fair, medium, dark, and deep dark, many beauty gurus and buyers have reasoned. This was the main complaint along with the travel-size like packaging and the retail price for the sticks: $48. Not to mention the price of the powder palettes: $52.

kkw powder contour
Powder contour swatches for KKW Beauty.

As for the liquid lips, many reviewers complained that they were nearly all the same variation of one shade and hardly encompassed the needs of most skin types. These retailed for $45 and were “made by Kylie Cosmetics” but all of this really means that the makeup is all produced under Seed Beauty, who makes Colourpop famously, though their brands tab mentions two “confidential” brands, of which I can only assume one is KKW.

Despite all of these issues, of course KKW products sold out in little to no time. What’s fascinating to me, however, is why.

Bringing it to the People

So how do you market your celebrity-backed makeup successfully? Your name creates some considerable hype, certainly, but that isn’t the only thing that floats a product.

These ladies have chosen different avenues and they’re effective in their own ways.

Kim K chose her typical means of creating hype—exclusivity. It’s a mainstream strain of exclusivity, if you can understand the sentiment. She wants to appeal to a large swath of people, but she wants to draw back that appeal with an urgency.

Her product wasn’t stocked enough to make it through a launch and subsequently, sold out very quickly, creating a frantic demand for her contour kits and also justifying her price: “you want them? pay for this exclusive product hand-designed by Kim K” and of course the fans and reviewers will pay.

However, not all reviewers paid, full press kits of all of KKW products were sent to the largest influencers on YouTube and on beauty blogs, ensuring that she got a wide volume of reviews (reviews which would be unable to be objective due to the free product and who knows if they got a payout.)

What’s more, Kim K invited the biggest and brightest YouTube stars with hundreds of thousands of followers to an exclusive launch party, where she took many photo ops and posted nearly all of them on social media. Try making a bad review after that.

celebrity beauty, kkw and influencers at launch party
Kim, Influencers Jeffree Star, James Charles, and Amanda Ensing.

These influencers all got their own tag and post on instagram on both Kim K’s page and her new beauty line’s page. There was a slight scandal when Kim K forgot (under debate) to tag Jackie Aina, a prominent black YouTuber famous for her blazing honesty and critique of brands who don’t represent women of color, in her photo. Aina had given an honest review that wasn’t quite shining, but not totally negative towards KKW Beauty. Eyebrows around the internet raised.

celebrity beauty, jackie aina and kim k
Jackie Aina and Kim K, the famed untagged picture.

On top of this brilliant hype creation and the inclusion of advertising new age influencers (much like fashion embracing fashion bloggers with front row seating and clothing brand deals), Kim K went as far as to show up on YouTube’s biggest beauty bloggers’ channels and show them with her product how she contoured.

I have to applaud her for her brilliance. Or at least her PR/Marketing team’s brilliance.

celebrity beauty, kim k and jaclyn hill
Jaclyn Hill, with Kim K on her channel. The video was largely regarded as awkward.

That’s not all, she uploaded to her own YouTube channel with a video entitled “Kim Does Her Own Makeup” and the third-person referential in the title, along with it being a remotely interesting video despite such a banal activity, is what makes all of it so effective. We’re held at a distance with a beautifully false “look” into her life. It makes viewers hungry to be like her and to get closer to her.

celebrity beauty, kim k youtube video

Again, it’s smart, very smart, but it isn’t immune to consequences and it certainly omits some ethical precarity. Besides Kim Kardashian being a hot topic for both supporters of her and those who disdain her, she has opened the floodgates for celebrity YouTube appearance, which could overshadow the already tapering “average Joe” presence on the platform (see networks like NBC, who are whittling away such views and revenue) and give way to more merciless advertising.

Second, a simple look on her website versus Fenty’s gives us the kind of view into customer satisfaction that we will (or won’t) be getting: all sales are final, don’t expect quick confirmation of orders because of the volume of orders, you can’t reserve product, and you can only buy online.

Questions are telling, because it’s either what they’ve heard the most or expected to hear.

Giving it to the People

There are plenty of marked differences between Rihanna’s strategy and Kim K’s; I certainly don’t have the time and space to cover it all and I’m sure if you’re brave enough to read this far you’re not looking to be here all day.

The main difference here is hyping with exclusivity and inclusivity. Rihanna announced her beauty line on Twitter in May, promising the launch in the fall. Her website was a black screen with a simple email sign-up to notify those interested when it was time to launch.

We heard nearly nothing until days before and then we had another smart move, but this time in the way of Rihanna:

It’s such a good move and the way a lot of consumers want to see the industry turn. A model with an hijab? Multiple women of color? Natural, but empowered?

The hype rose and at last, a launch party as well as a Sephora meetup took place and the products launched with social media tapping away.

People were blown away by the sheer amount of shades and the careful explanation Rihanna gave whenever questioned: wanted everyone to feel pretty, wanted shades anyone could use.

A glance at her Fenty Beauty website will tell you instantly: the line is about you. She’s not the feature, plenty of multicolored models dot the pages of product and information—you nearly forget you’re on a celebrity’s beauty site. At the bottom we’re treated with a social media widget asking us to share our “Fenty Faces” where you can see girls already sharing.

When we head to KKW, it’s Kim, Kim, and Kim with not a model in sight. Even her lip products are variations of her name: Kim, Kiki, Kimmie, Kimberly.

Fenty Beauty claims boldly that it’s the “New Generation of Beauty”, but it’s to be seen which of these marketing ploys plays out to be the winner.

Even if you aren’t fascinated with this as I am, it’s best to be aware of how, as consumers, we’re poked, prodded, and moved to purchase some things over others. So score the websites, read as much as you can, and discover where it is these items come from.

Because like Trophy Wife and KKW’s highlighters, the hype is blinding.




Green Faces: The Eco Beauty Wave


By green faces, I refer not to the hue, but to the environmentally conscious products that keep showing up in stores, on advertisements, and in the hands of beauty influencers.

What’s with the sudden desire for green beauty? Just a few years ago, while working for an organic-focused magazine, I began to discover how important the products you consume, use, and subsequently throw away truly are to the environment and your body.

Surely this is the kind of rhetoric that has diluted public discourse for decades, but I recall excitedly telling my friends about all the gluten-free, organic, and vegan products I was discovering (especially owing to the fact that many of those companies also tend to be charitable, transparent, and equitable.) They expressed their skepticism toward a beauty product that one could, say, eat. To them there was no point of gluten-free, vegan, organic, or environmental beauty?

One forgets the landscape of pores on our skin, the same skin one would hesitate to coat in chemicals normally. When it comes to lipsticks, blushes, and foundations, the importance of the careful screening of materials escapes many people. How many people can confidently say they know what their lipstick is composed of? Much less the lotion they use?

And yet these are the things people spread around their eyes, on their mouths, on their skin, and on their heads. Why not be careful?



The good news is that customers are actually being more conscious of these choices, according to a beauty trend forecast by Transparency Market Research; North Americans consumed the biggest portion of organic beauty products in 2013, taking up 34.9% of global consumption that year.

In fact, due to the increased awareness of these products (likely due to publications that support them and emphasis on climate change recently), the market has grown remarkably in a recession economy. According to the Organic Trade Association’s report on Organic Industry in 2016, millennials are driving this change. And it’s a large change at that: 2015 added 4.2 billion dollars in sales and a 10.8 percent rate of growth to the market, which has been steadily growing since the 1990s.

The question remains, however, as to why in a mere twenty years and a handful of generations do millennials feel obligated to live organic and eco-conscious lives? Certainly the environmental crusades of the recent past and the increased scientific study on ecological effects of human beings contributed. Not to mention that the very recent and very public UN Climate Change Conference in Paris underlined global concern for the environment.

One forgets the landscape of pores on our skin, the same skin one would hesitate to coat in chemicals normally.


Outside of the health benefits of green beauty, the waste that mainstream beauty products create remains a concern for consumers, driving them to independent brands with creative and less wasteful packaging. Glass, biodegradable, and recyclable/recycled containers are popular in the independent vein of the beauty industry. Lush, the UK based cosmetics company, encourages customers to return the containers they bought to be used again. Customers who do so five times get a free face mask.

Such incentive programs are common for companies who emphasize environmental concern. Seeing as such products are more expensive with or without the added incentive of free gifts, one wonders why the industry does so well. Nielsen’s 2015 global survey measured a pool of global respondents’ willingness to pay more for green products. 66 percent of global respondents would pay more for eco products in 2015, up ten percent from 2014, due to a varied group of reasons.

Respondents consider their trust in the company valuable with a global average of 62 percent saying they would purchase a green product for that reason and 72 percent willing to pay more for those products than they usually pay. As for environmental friendliness, 45 percent of the global average considers it an important factor with 58 percent willing to pay more.

The green beauty industry is carving an impressive and influential niche against economic odds, showing the globe that they’re here to stay.

I intend to ride the green wave as much as possible and, if you’re wanting to come along but don’t know where to start, a couple of good resources can be found here and here. It’s best to decide what’s important to you: cruelty-free, certified organic, etc. to whittle down the list of options.

Stay green, my friends.