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The rise of celebrity beauty brands: Why Millie Bobby Brown, Selena Gomez, Ciara are going into makeup and skincare

The rise of celebrity beauty brands: Why Millie Bobby Brown, Selena Gomez, Ciara are going into makeup and skincare

Star power

Text: Emily Heng

Editor: Jolene Khor


Image: Instagram | @milliebobbybrown

It's never been uncommon for celebrities to have some form of a side hustle to build onto their empire. Singers dabble in fragrances (see: 'Thank U, Next' by Ariana Grande and the many, many, many perfumes Britney Spears has dropped since 2004), while actresses go into everything from fashion (Kate Hudson has Fabletics), furniture (Reese Witherspoon call hers Draper James), to baby products (The Honest Company belongs to Jessica Alba). 2019 however, is shaping up to be the year of the celebrity beauty brand.

In a time not too long ago, celebrity-owned and celebrity-endorsed beauty products were a hit-or-miss affair. Many gained a rep for being nothing more than botched attempts at a cash grab, while the ones that earned relative success rose and dipped (and died) in tandem with the careers of their founders. (Remember Jessica Simpson's now defunct edible beauty brand, Dessert?)

But then Rihanna and Kylie Jenner's Fenty Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics came into the picture, transforming the landscape of the industry as we know it. Fenty's 40-shade foundation line, for instance, has re-established a new standard in the industry and serves as a litmus test of inclusivity for beauty brands. Kylie Cosmetics, on the other hand, (almost) single-handedly made bold, matte lip offerings relevant once more, becoming a mainstay in many a beauty bag since it was displaced in favour of shiny glosses in the 2000s. It's no wonder their peers — namely Millie Bobby Brown, Selena Gomez, Ciara, Lady Gaga, Hailey Bieber, and Cardi B — want to join in and do the conga.

Dessert, an edible beauty brand by Jessica Simpson suffered mounting negative reviews and lawsuits before closure.

While some celebs do demonstrate a genuine interest in the beauty industry, there's little to dispute the suspicion the rest are jumping onto the bandwagon at the prospect of profit. After all, the beauty industry has experienced explosive growth in recent years; a new report from retail analytics firm, Edited, revealed that it is estimated at US$532 billion this year alone as compared to US$446 billion in 2014. The beauty mammoth shows no signs of slowing either. Industry analysts claim that it will continue on a rapid upward trajectory as detailed by Fashionista... as long as brands remain committed to evolution both in terms of product and marketing.

It doesn't hurt that most celebrities have already established loyal, engaged, fan bases either. This makes promotional efforts a rather straightforward task, where a quick post on Instagram is all that is needed to get word out, guaranteeing some form of sales no matter the quality of the product. It does however, take a keen eye to distinguish the mediocre labels (umm, Bella Thorne's makeup line) from the stellar ones (Flower Beauty by Drew Barrymore).

Either way, establishing one's own beauty brand proves more sustainable in comparison to one-off brand collaborations. Take Kendall Jenner's joint effort with Estée Lauder. The brand launched a partnership with the model-turned-mogul in 2016, which featured an extensive 82-piece collection — two of which featured Kendall's input and (literal) signature. While the two items sold out in a matter of minutes, the other items weren't quite as well-received, leading to the eventual discontinuation of the line. This begs the question: when a celebrity's star power easily overpowers that of a big name corporation, is there really a need for a partnership in the first place? Striking out on one's own would be more lucrative and on brand in every sense of the word, especially that someone is of Kendall Jenner's calibre.

Social media and the change it has imparted on the beauty industry also play a part in the popularity of the celebrity beauty brand. Customers no longer trust old "figures of authority" to dictate stale and (often) toxic standards of beauty. The consumers of today are a new breed; a well-read, intelligent bunch seeking a community and role models who are "human" and "relatable." This is evident through cult beauty favourite, Glossier's success, which claims to produce products inspired by real life that harness a certain come-as-you-are acceptance. And who better to fit the bill than celebrities? While some aren't all that relatable (hey, Kardashians), they do lead aspirational lifestyles that help with sales, all the same.

While celebrity fashion lines might have proved a popular option in the 2000s (think Gwen Stefani's L.A.M.B. or Miley Cyrus x Walmart), their success rate is far more erratic than that of beauty brands. Fashion's profit turn is low and slow, even with luxury celeb offerings lauded by critics (The Row by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Victoria Beckham by Victoria Beckham). In comparison, beauty products are cost little to produce and thus, can be sold at much higher profit margins. Heck, there are companies out there — notable names include SOS Beauty and HipDot — that work to develop beauty lines for celebs and influencers specifically. They'd put in the grunt work (quietly) while stars serve as the face of the brand, as revealed in an exposé by Business of Fashion, making the beauty industry a sweeter a gateway to more riches.

If anything, beauty products have always held mass appeal, as compared to fashion and lifestyle labels. Charcy Evers, a retail trend analyst, elaborates in an interview with The Daily Beast. "If you can't afford a Gucci bag, you get Gucci perfume. And if you can't be Ariana Grande, you can always smell like her." It's a concept that applies to skincare and cosmetics as well, as most are priced reasonably, allowing for customers to get a taste of luxury without having to splash out enormous amounts of dough. Consider, for instance, how a Kylie Cosmetics matte lipstick only sets one back $23, while Fenty Beauty costs $28 for a lippie.

The beauty industry is a low-risk venture for celebrities with the possibility of high returns; it's no wonder every celeb out there is hankering for one of their own. Whether they should, on the other hand, is another story altogether.

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