Makeup retailer Morphe has parted with YouTuber Jeffree Star, after weeks of public acrimony in the YouTube beauty community. Star has been accused of using racist and offensive language, as well as manipulating other creators and people close to him.
“Today we’ve made the decision to cease all commercial activity related to Jeffree Star and affiliated products,” a tweet from Morphe’s account reads. As of right now, Star’s products remain on the site, but a tweet from the Morphe account says that will change in “the coming weeks,” without giving a specific date. Star’s relationship with Morphe was once a major source of income for the creator, who’s launched several lines with the company and become a face for its brand.
Until now, Morphe hasn’t said anything publicly about the accusations against Star or resurfaced videos showing the creator using racist and other types of offensive language. But that’s only part of it. Star is in the middle of several controversies, some more severe than others. On one end is the aforementioned videos resurfacing, arriving at a time when several prominent YouTube personalities — including Star’s close-friend-turned-collaborator Shane Dawson — are grappling with past videos featuring racially insensitive or offensive content.
On the other end is a situation that feels more like high school drama: rumors being spread over Twitter DMs and text message threads. This is a little complex, so stay with me: YouTube creator Tati Westbrook made a video in 2019 suggesting fellow makeup YouTuber James Charles used his influence to make inappropriate advances with another man. As it happens, Charles also partnered with Morphe for a couple of his own palettes. After Westbrook’s accusation, fans of Charles who purchased his Morphe collection recorded videos of themselves destroying the palettes and posted them to TikTok and Instagram. The video resulted in Charles losing millions of subscribers, and he ultimately posted his own video on the subject. It reportedly garnered more than 30 million views before he deleted it.
Then, there were rumors about rumors: more specifically, that Star had been behind the Charles rumors, and intentionally spread them. Last week, Star and Dawson were accused by creator Tati Westbrook of gaslighting and manipulating her into a public feud with Charles through those rumors.
YouTube “drama” often plays out in the form of numerous videos and responses being published by creators to address whatever is happening in their corner of the internet. With the beauty community, the financial repercussions can be a little more extreme. Makeup lines, especially eye shadow palettes, are a serious source of revenue for the beauty community’s top creators — and for Morphe, who carries lines like Jeffree Star Cosmetics. Morphe has turned cosmetic line rollouts into star-studded events, with in-store appearances by influencers that are so popular malls shut down and extra security is needed.
Star and Dawson’s “Conspiracy” palette, for example, was expected to generate $17.5 million through in-store revenue sales and another $17.5 million on Star’s website, according to Morphe executives who spoke to Star and Dawson about the potential profit of the line in a seven-part documentary series, as well as Star’s own calculations. The first batch of 60,000 units Star and Dawson released sold out within 30 minutes. The YouTubers and Morphe released another 60,000 units as quickly as they could. Those, too, sold out fast. Prior to the Conspiracy palette, Star had worked with Morphe on carrying a number of his other lines, including one earlier this year.
As important as it is for Star to have his collections sold in malls across the country, it’s just as big a deal for Morphe to carry high-profile personalities in the community. Emine ErSelcuk, Morphe’s then vice president of global retail, said in a 2019 interview that teaming up with beauty creators, many of whom have millions of subscribers on YouTube, early in the company’s life played a part in its success.
“We do influencer collaborations that are true to the vision of that beauty influencer,” ErSelcuk told Retail Insider. “And we’ve been very, very successful with this formula.”
Star can continue to sell his products through his online store and other potential physical retail partners, but Morphe’s decision to publicly step back from the relationship is a distinct rebuke. It’s not clear whether Morphe will team up with Star again, either. The Verge has asked Morphe for more details on the extent of the company’s decision to “cease all commercial activity.”
“As we look to the future, we will continue to share updates on what lies ahead for the Morphe brand,” the company said in a tweet.
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