Anyone who sees me un-madeup and flustered on the daily school run may be surprised to learn that I am something of a beauty product enthusiast. Though I don’t bother to slap it on for the benefit of the kids and fellow parents at the school gates, I love make-up and its ability to make a weary mummy feel moderately glamorous for a rare night out, to enhance and show off one’s favourite features (cheekbones and eyes in my case), and purely for the artistic pleasure of creating and experimenting. During my three years at The Body Shop HQ, I learned an awful lot about skincare and make-up, and was lucky enough to work with some of the industry’s leading make-up artists, beauty bloggers and vloggers, not to mention the talented store staff with whom I collaborated to create inspiring beauty video content.
Since departing from that world professionally, I have continued to take an interest from afar. I regularly watch YouTube videos, though very rarely comment and interact. One of the reasons for my silence is that I cannot bear to associate myself with the frankly horrifying level of vitriol that pervades the YouTube comment boxes of beauty vloggers (and no doubt in other areas, too). Many of these young people face a daily onslaught of hateful words, criticising their looks, views, personalities, sexual orientation and anything else the perpetrators can think of to slam. Thankfully there are usually plenty of positive comments to balance out the hate, and most of the vloggers try to focus on these and ignore the haters. But sometimes it goes too far, and they are compelled to speak out. I was terribly saddened to see this recent video from make-up artist Wayne Goss, in response to the highly personal attacks to which he has been subjected online.
I’m a big fan of Wayne’s for many reasons, and having seen this video, felt the need to throw some positive vibes his way. He is a brilliant make-up artist, and in my view, the best source of practical, useable make-up tips and hacks on YouTube. Though I really enjoy watching other artists like the Chapmans and Lisa Eldridge creating amazing make-up looks for all occasions on their channels, really what I am after is little everyday tricks to boost my usual regime. As a 40 year old who's been using cosmetics since my teens, I have experimented plenty, and am not about to drastically change the way I do my make-up, but I do appreciate the expert knowledge that allows me to keep improving techniques and adapting to the challenges of a face that is growing older. I love watching Wayne’s videos precisely because he is not a flawless 20-something woman to whom I will inevitably compare myself. I take his advice on face value (no pun intended), and if I were to comment on his (or anyone else’s) videos it would be to ask a follow-up question, leave an appreciative remark, or to add to the conversation in some other productive fashion. When the comment box starts being used as a forum to criticise and attack the individual, we have a problem.
I cannot understand what makes people think it is OK to abuse others online, when I doubt they would ever dream of doing the same in a real word context. Imagine sitting in the hairdresser’s and saying everything negative that came to mind about the person cutting your hair. You just wouldn’t. Even if you dislike their choice of clothes, or think their laugh is too screechy, you keep it to yourself; it’s called internal dialogue. Of course there is a place for constructive criticism, but there is a big difference between saying you didn’t like the make-up look someone created, and attacking them personally for being too thin. These are human beings with feelings, and such behaviour is directly damaging to their self esteem and mental health.
Perhaps it’s because so much of the hatred goes unchecked that this toxic culture continues to seep across the web. I admire Wayne, and others like Becky, for having the courage to stand up to the bullies, and I hope that the rest of the beauty industry will do more in future to take a proactive stance against the dark side of this otherwise glitzy world. The Body Shop’s history of ‘activating self-esteem’ makes it the ideal brand to take the lead, so I call to my former colleagues to support the victims of this online abuse. How will you educate the offenders, highlight this culture of hate and help beautify the very culture of the beauty vlogosphere? Because clearly ignoring it is not making it go away.