love doesn't just sit there, like a stone.
hello again friend
Hello! I have been avoiding you, I apologize, and I hope you’ll forgive me. It’s just - I’ve taken a bit of a break from writing about beauty for the past few weeks, or a month or two, and it’s been quite lovely actually. And that feels bad to admit! Because it’s a thing I love, and I suspect I’ll love it forever, but the direction of the industry has been quite charmless lately.
There’s the endless tokenization of NFT beauty, which I’ve talked about before, but my question still remains: why is this future being prioritized with funding over corrective measures for real human people that are actually alive in our physical realm? I mean, I know the answer, I just don’t like it. Anyway, these are my feelings on NFTs:
I keep getting pinged in videos/Tiktoks about Lime Crime’s scheduled return, and this VOGUE Business piece on it, because of the explainer piece I wrote on the brand many years ago for Racked (RIP). A lot if the response has been welcoming of the brand revamp! To that I say, bless you for your patience if you’re excited for it, but there are so many other brands in the world - too many of them - that haven’t fucked up so consistently over the years that I do not see any particular reason to offer them another chance. Brand loyalty is a marketing strategy, it is not system of ethics.
There’s the entire Depp/Heard trial and the memification of abuse and how even beauty brands got invested in it. I have purposely avoided wading into those waters, mostly because I did it before - in 2014 - and don’t have much to add to it except to underscore how much people truly hate women. I’d probably write that piece differently now but I’m still thinking about exactly how. But anyway, it’s not even that people don’t believe women. The trial results acknowledged Heard’s truth, the truly brutal thing was that it punished her for speaking on it. You can be believed and discounted, which is to say that essentially you deserved it. And then brands and total strangers will use the opportunity to make content with your pain. If that doesn’t make you just want to lay down in traffic, well, we are different people.
A Face Search Anyone Can Use is Alarmingly Accurate - this, paired with the cultural wave of the trial above, is enough to make me want to disappear into fog. To be perceived is to be a target. Representation!
The wave of opinions and feeling surrounding the Jones Road Beauty Balm, a foundation balm from Bobbi Brown’s new beauty company, is enough for its own drunken PowerPoint presentation on how influencer culture is an ouroboros that may be reaching a new zombie form now. This is a good explainer in the shape of a review of the product. Basically, an influencer slathered a bunch of it on themselves, because it’s their thing, and it went viral while people chose a side - is it good or bad, and what does it mean if it just isn’t meant for everybody? Whose opinion is strongest and therefore, right? The short of it is no one trusts influencers to operate on good faith on how a product works anymore. Influencers have, generally, a lack of historicism about the products and cultures they participate in. Wanting to be popular at something is different than being good at it or honoring it. The long of it is that we’ll watch them anyway, because we want to be smarter for having a strong opinion either way. Recognizing this has compelled me to walk into the ocean a few times this week. It was good, I recommend it.
Trend brain, as I call it, encourages us to simplify everything online into something either buyable, understandable, or moral (and therefore worthy of consumption). We may tire of trend talk, but there is a devout certainty to the speed at which they’re cycled through. There are more choices than ever today, but seemingly less authority as to what constitutes a trend’s lasting legitimacy. Consumers are left to grasp at these dwindling markers of cool: fleeting fads to help us understand capital-C culture and ultimately, what’s on the horizon. How did we get here? And perhaps more importantly, will the trend churn ever stop?
My brain is burned out on trend brain and yet it is how the internet has sautéed my braincells. There have been stories I’ve been charmed by, thankfully:
Selma Blair Is Helping Redefine Makeup Design in Her New Job as Creative Director of Guide Beauty | Vogue - it’s great to see more brands that center accessibility not just in the sense of shade range and price point but disability. If a design isn’t inclusive, it isn’t revolutionary. Given how easy it is to just turn-key ghost-ride a brand into existence (you could honestly launch a brand in a pathetically quick amount of time, fast beauty is terrifying) I am only impressed now by brands that go out of their way to be experimental in a way that opens the space.
Excited for all the interviews my beloved friend Fariha is doing surrounding her forthcoming book, Who is Wellness For? - if you don’t already subscribe to her newsletter, it’s incredible, because she is.
Really thankful for this database of Trans Friendly Businesses across industries. Been trying to put together a list of queer affirming beauty providers I’ve personally tried across the country and it’s about as rough as you’d expect. A great deal of beauty services are just catered to the cis hetero white female prison of aesthetic experience. Most cosmetic procedures are gender affirming experiences for cis women, but to acknowledge it may be that for anyone outside of that space is mind-blowing when you present it. The realization is too scary for transphobes to acknowledge, too important to trans people and those who love them to not.
But mostly, what has been restorative to me is stepping back from writing about beauty and doing fiction instead! I can’t show you that, sorry. But also, not showing that has been helpful to unwinding my brain as a machine to churn out criticism and news to be consumed and responded to and make it into something that can build something I want to live in and love in and share. I’m having a good time participating in 1000 Words of Summer, I’m about 12,000 words into something and it is an immense pleasure to be able to just make the world I want. There’s a lot of beauty in it, it’s just very different than anything I’ve ever written. It is a welcome reprieve from my mind being an endless sieve of a bunch of beauty news that depresses me.
So that’s why I haven’t written to you. I’ve been trying to build a new version of what beauty and love can look like and mean. I have no idea what I’m doing, and it’s a joy, and I hope you’re finding ways to enjoy sentience right now too. I hope that even if you can’t find joy today you can celebrate curiosity. And that eventually the curiosity leads you some place where you can find joy, too.