From Glossier Play to Skinny Bitch Collective: Instagram Has No Mercy For Stupidity
If social media has taught us anything in the past 12 months, it’s that Instagram has a zero-tolerance policy for stupidity. Well, that, and the fact that no matter how quickly a celebrity or brand tries to cover their tracks, someone always has the receipts.
There is no place on Earth more humbling for a famous person than the home we have come to know as “Instagram”. Remember when Bow Wow was caught lying about flying in a private jet? What a day to be alive! In May 2017, the rapper posted a picture of his private jet captioned “Travel day. NYC press run for Growing Up Hip Hop. Lets goo”. The problem was, a fan spotted the rapper on their commercial flight that same day and quickly uploaded photos to their Twitter feed. A different fan then found Bow Wow’s private jet image on a Fort Lauderdale-based airport transportation website. In other words, the “Shortie like Mine” rapper screenshot the image from Google and ran it through the Amaro filter on Instagram. Gang$ta.
Today, Instagram continues to expose the embarrassing behaviour of the world’s most famous brands and influencers. Over the weekend, creepy-cardio fitness empire Skinny Bitch Collective was forced to apologise after it’s founder, Russell Bateman, hosted a retreat in Kenya where his students (read: thin, white models) worked out in and around the native Maasai people in a way that was exploitive, disrespectful and degrading. If that wasn’t problematic enough, Batemen literally describes his business as “a cave girl sorority”, adding, “You’re going to hold someone’s hand, smack someone’s ass whilst crawling like animals and be put through some of the most intense circuits you’ve ever done.” Good stuff Russ. The demise of Russell Bateman and SBC is in large part thanks to @Diet_Prada who have become famous for calling out injustices in the fashion industry as well as broader societal concerns like non-Eurocentric beauty representation, and accusations of sexual harassment. They’ve since inspired and empowered others to speak out on injustices that may have previously flown under the radar, from online fashion retailer Revolve who advertised a sweatshirt reading: “Being fat is not beautiful it’s an excuse” (yes, there was a anti-bullying context to the campaign but it was their own stupid fault for launching the sweatshirts without explanation), to Australian fashion label Shakuhachi, who’s comments section became a war zone filled with unhappy customers who hadn’t received orders from three months prior nor a refund. The backlash exposed lie after lie from the once-beloved label; claiming orders had been shipped that hadn’t, listing stock online that didn’t exist, and ultimately admitting that the business was in liquidation and owning $1 million to creditors.
And if you thought the beauty industry was immune to the call-out culture, think again. I remember when celebrity hairstylist and Ouai founder Jen Atkin learnt the hard way to stay out of drama that doesn’t concern her, when honesty beauty reviewer GelCream posted their thoughts on the KKW Beauty franchise, “Tiny companies with tiny budgets care more than KKW’s mega-brand. No returns, no exchanges, copy-paste designs, basic formulas, generic products.” Jen decided to insert herself in the narrative by dramatically defending the reality star (in aggressive caps locks) in the comments section: “YOU ARE A MISERABLE HUMAN BEING PLEASE STOP BEING SO NEGATIVE…YOU SHOULD BE THANKING @KIMKARDASHIAN.” And then another comment that said, “STFU YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW HARD SHE WORKS ON THIS BRAND. THEY EMPLOY HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE AND DON’T JUST SHIT OUT PRODUCTS LIKE LEGACY BRANDS.” I’m anxious just typing that. It’s always admirable when a woman defends a friend publicly – it’s not admirable to berate someone on Instagram for posting an honest, un-controversial, pretty accurate review. And while Jen went on to delete some of her more hostile comments, thanks to the receipts kept by vigilant Instagrammers her rage black-out will live on forever.
What’s most striking to me is how incapable these brands and influencers are at admitting their mistakes, acknowledging their shortcomings 0r – God forbid! – apologising. They’re quick to delete their indiscretions on Instagram, switch their accounts to private, or disable negative feedback, but struggle to swallow their pride. When Emily Weiss launched her second beauty label, Glossier Play, last week, she quickly drew criticism for the label’s use of non-biodegradable micro plastics in their Glitter Gelée. We all Stan Glossier. I Stan it more than the most. But that doesn’t mean we’re complacent, and for a millennial-backed company, one that was literally born out of the feedback (!!) on Into The Gloss, to not comply with millennial values is just bizarre. It should also be noted that Glossier Play had the option of using a biodegradable glitter option like mica or synthetic mica that doesn’t end up in waterways and landfills, but decided not to.
Emily Weiss has been (and continues to be) an inspiring, trail-blazing businesswomen who, at this very moment, has the opportunity to decide how graciously she handles this setback and whether or not she uses it as a catalyst for growth. The clock is ticking.