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The Trouble With Beauty Vloggers

Full Disclosure: They own my soul (and a lot of my free time).

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Ingrid Nilsen / Via youtube.com

For a long time, the YouTube beauty community was, to me, one of the most pure places on the Internet. I got my first taste of this magical abyss when Tumblr user owlb0nes (shouts out, wherever you are) shared a video made by missglamorazzi - otherwise known as Ingrid Nilsen. I knew virtually nothing about makeup - I was still only lining my lower waterline - but I was immediately hooked. I loved watching tutorials and listening to reviews of products I knew my mom would never buy for me. What I loved more than the lip glosses, though, were the little tidbits of personal information I learned about these vloggers. Blair Fowler was from Tennessee - I had family there! These content creators fellow somewhere between celebrity and "ordinary person." I had never met them, but somehow I felt like they were accessible to me, like maybe one day I'd visit the city they lived in and see them at Sephora swatching eyeshadows.

Over the last four or five years, YouTube has become a powerhouse of media influencers, and these personalities have shifted from pseudo-celebrity status to being on par with "traditional" celebrities. As they have achieved this status, many of them have chosen to disclose more personal details of their lives - Desi Perkins bravely discussed her miscarriage in a Q&A with her husband, and Ingrid publicly came out two years ago. I still love to hear about their personal lives, the way I love to hear about what is going on with Beyoncé, Carly Rae Jepsen and the Obamas. But a lot has changed since Nars Orgasm was the hottest item on the market, and now I have greater expectations for these gurus.

In a time where bigotry, racism and sexism have polarized our nation, I want these influencers to speak out. In fact, I need them to, and so do many of their subscribers, who are scared and anxious and need their role models to speak up for them and elevate their voices. We expect comedians, directors and designers to take a stance during these dark times - but what about vloggers?

Jenn Im / Via youtube.com

It is especially interesting to note how many beauty vloggers use slang and lingo from the black community, yet will not speak up and defend black lives - a cause that has been at the forefront of American politics since the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown. Katy DeGroot uses AAVE in nearly every video, but we haven't heard a peep from her about the Black Lives Matter movement. The same goes for Jeffree Star, who has been openly racist while continuing to appropriate AAVE.

Some beauty vloggers have been outspoken about social issues. Since coming out, Ingrid has made LGBT issues a priority on her channel, including trans issues, which are often overlooked. She also openly endorsed of Hillary Clinton and offered her thoughts before, during and after the election. Chinese/Spanish beauty vlogger Stephanie Villa has spoken about her thoughts on the election and its effects on both her and her loved ones.

But even those who do touch on social issues still have a lot of work to do. Estée Lalonde comes to mind; although she often calls herself a feminist, she has yet to engage in any public discussion of intersectionality, or make any effort to expand beyond the readings of Lena Dunham for her girl power. Although Estée is Canadian and currently resides in London, many of her subscribers are American, and deserve to feel support and compassion from someone they have supported for years.

Estée Lalonde / Via youtube.com

The goal is not for every beauty channel needs to turn into CNN Junior - even politically active viewers would more than likely hate that. We like knowing when Benefit's new brow products are coming out and how to properly contour our noses. But these people are part of our pop culture, and pop culture in 2017 is about much more than movies, TV shows and memes. It is no longer a separate entity from global affairs and current events. Both shape our attitudes, our mental health and our quality of life. Because of this, We can no longer be asked to fully look up to and support individuals who have a platform and neglect to use it responsibly.

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