We’re all about keeping you updated with the world of the #AntiMLMmovement here. In the last few hours, Younique Corporate’s social media team have found themselves in a bit of hot water. This tale involves shameless Corporate endorsement of cultural appropriation, flimsy excuses and general lack of understanding.
How did this occur?
It all began with assorted groups of independent Younique presenters, who appear to call themselves “Glam Life Dolls”, “Divas & Sparkles” and “Team Sparkle Purple” (ugghhh). Apparently, they were in “team wars” with one another.
In my experience, the word ‘team‘ doesn’t really apply in the Y-sister world – it is just literally a flock of uplines with their subsequent downlines. They’re all competition to each other, after all!
Obviously, the uplines need their downlines to perform so they can hit those statuses. When I was in Younique, I lost track of all the silly team names that people had given to themselves. This is touched upon in ‘Hundora’s Box’ – Chapter 4 of my Poonique Tale.
Anyway – in the uplines’ missions to get their downlines to perform, they regularly hold ‘Team Challenges‘. Usually fed down the chain by the Black and Purple Exclusive Presenters, this can be something as simple as recruiting a set number of new
schmucks presenters, or replicating a popular makeup look. In this previous guest post, writer Lillie describes how her friend Magda was constantly doing Harry Potter or Disney Princess-inspired looks – it is highly likely that Magda was diligently following her upline’s challenges.
In this case? The uplines of these groups set them the challenge of “warpaint”…
This information comes from the “#PurpleSparkle leads to a goldmine for this ridiculous Team Wars challenge thread” on /r/Youniqueamua.
Why is this a bad idea?
Besides the fact they look utterly ridiculous? As you can see from my fantastic editing skills, I have done my best to protect the identity of these people (all whilst showing the awful makeup) – especially the children in the bottom right. Poor sods didn’t ask to be involved in this shameless promotion, but I guess they wanted to support their Mum! However, there are unedited versions across the internet – I would just prefer not to identify their faces on my website.
However, the real crux of the matter is that by daubing themselves in “warpaint”, they are indulging themselves in cultural appropriation.
What is cultural appropriation?
To take this definition from The Week:
“…cultural appropriation is when someone adopts something from a culture that is not his or her own – a hairstyle, a piece of clothing, a manner of speaking, even a type of exercise (yoga, for example)…”
EverydayFeminism also provides a deeper explanation that unlike cultural exchange (in which there is a mutual interchange), ‘appropriation’ refers to a “particular power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group.”
There is a wealth of information and discussion on cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation, so if you would like to read further, there is some recommended reading at the end of the article.
Did these Younique presenters understand what they were doing?
That’s a tough one. I’d personally hope that they simply didn’t realise the implications of this “warpaint challenge”. I’d like to think it would be a case of educating themselves – not only on the bad impact of multi-level marketing, but also the cultural impact of this poor-taste challenge.
“…In other words, context matters. Which means it’s not about saying that you, as an individual, are a bad person if you appropriate someone else’s culture. It’s a complicated issue that includes our histories, our current state of affairs, and our future, as we act to eliminate oppression, instead of perpetuating it…“
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the other challenge entrants.
These screenshots were provided with thanks to my follower Lindsey Lester, and another a concerned reader who wishes to remain anonymous. Thank you.
Here we go…
“We take our makeup very seriously in this business” says this ‘Glam Life Doll’. Again, I have done my utmost to protect her identity with my wonderful photo-editing programme. 😉
Should I be aware of what hashtag #burntheboat means?? Also, I do hate to break it to this woman, but with the statistic of 99.7% of people losing money in MLM, #futureblackstatus is highly unlikely.
However, these next pictures have caused the most outrage amongst the Reddit and Twitter community.
I keep seeing this #teamwars hashtag. What exactly are they warring over, anyway? Don’t get me started on that puerile “Sparkle Purple” bullshit either.
“Literal redface. Unbelievable…” says one Redditor.
“Did she seriously make her skin a red shade on purpose?“
“To see someone show such a flippant disregard for a whole culture…just pushes every button I have…”
What is ‘redface’?
Redface is the term being “used by some to describe the wearing of feathers, warpaint, etc. by non-natives which propagate American Indian stereotypes, analogous to the wearing of Blackface…” according to the Wikipedia entry.
As Dr Adrienne Keene of Native Appropriations tells EverydayFeminism, “You are pretending to be a race that you are not and are drawing upon stereotypes to do so.”
You may have also noticed a Redditor expressing their disgust at a Y-sister who used “the #squaw hashtag a few days ago“. Yes, that actually happened. Except she misspelled it #sqaw – in the context of the post though, we know full well what she meant.
Not only does she appear to be doing a stereotypical war-cry in the top left photo (allegedly, she posted a video of it too), but she has really not thought about the implications of her makeup OR the hashtag.
The English word ‘squaw‘ is an ethnic and sexual slur, historically used for Indigenous North American women. Use of the term, especially by non-Natives, is now considered highly offensive, derogatory, misogynist and racist, says the Wikipedia entry.
In the news article “Squaw Island to be renamed ‘Deyowenoguhdoh'” in The Buffalo News, we learn “…
The proposed name change comes at the request of Native Americans, who say the word “squaw” is a racist, sexist term…”
In “SQUAW -Facts on the Eradication of the “S” Word“, we are told that “…through communication and education, American Indian people have come to understand the derogatory meaning of the word. American Indian women claim the right to define ourselves as women and we reject the offensive term squaw…”
It doesn’t end there, though. This Y-sister clearly had a quick education from a fellow Instagram user, as she reposted without the offensive hashtag.
Did you notice the comment from my pal Silvia of @younique_corporate at the bottom of the picture, though? This “WOW! amazing work! love it! 🙂 -Silvia” comment was made whilst the offensive hashtag was still present (check the original picture).
Younique’s Social Media Team has a lot to learn
Silvia, social media representative of Younique Corporate, is leaving comments praising racial slurs and cultural appropriation. That’s not professional now, is it.
My long-term followers may know that Silvia and I have crossed paths in our time. I finally ended up getting blocked by Younique Corporate on Twitter and Instagram – on the anniversary of Chapter 1 of my #Poonique tale’s appearance!
Back then, Silvia didn’t like being called out on her flimsy cruelty-free responses – read all about it via “Elle Finally Blocked by Poonique Corporate“. Their response was to block. Devastating, I know.
Back then, I said “…if Silvia is a real person, I do feel she deserves better…” and I do still feel that way. I also feel that she needs some social media etiquette though.
What @Younique_Corp forgets is – blocking me won’t stop me from viewing their tweets. They are set to public, after all.
With permission from the original poster, a follower of mine kindly sent screenshots of the following public Twitter exchange between Canadian author Marie Porter (@OverlordMarie) and our friends at Poonique.
Here, Mary questions why Younique’s corporate social media account is praising “this display of racism.”
What do Younique Corporate have to say in response?
“…I have removed our comment, and I can assure you this was a mistake…” says ‘Paige’. However, in typical Younique fashion, she wants to take the discussion to private message.
Yes, we’re only human and mistakes do happen. However, that’s a heck of a mistake to make.
One Twitter user is not convinced by this flimsy explanation.
“Your ‘mistake’ caused your followers to view a harmful image…your non-response shows how little you understand the gravity of the situation…” says @XtinaCutestory.
All Paige can do is assure us that she understands the negative impact, and “we are coaching our teams to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
Paige has just realised something though – she cannot send a private message to Marie, because Marie isn’t a follower…
I love Marie’s “I’m not planning on following indefinitely” response. However, needs must – eventually, Paige’s direct message arrives.
Paige says she has “…spoken with our Social agents to ensure that we read through each hashtag and are familiar with these terms to avoid this happening in the future...”
In my humble opinion, Paige (and as someone with history of social media marketing), such matters boil down to basic common sense.
Marie rightly points out (in public tweet and direct message) that its not just an inappropriate hashtag that has caused such disgust. Its the makeup itself.
“Do you see how problematic that makeup job and post was? That was in no way appropriate…”
Paige agrees that it was not appropriate, but fails to address the bad makeup, and instead goes back to discussing “extensive training’s [sic]” with the social team.
Marie is not backing down, pointing it out once again – “so will you be telling your sales people to not do racial makeup?“
Here comes the Younique diatribe of “Uplift, Empower, Validate“. Or “Undermine, Exploit, Violate” as I like to say.
Paige says “we hold each of our Presenters to the same standards” – I call bullshit. What with all the illegal raffles, stock-swap groups, selling on eBay and ridiculous/offensive makeup challenges?
In the end, Marie is fobbed off with “I have passed this on to our Compliance team for further review…”
In that case, sweet fuck all will be done. I remember when I was a presenter, and I contacted Compliance over presenters selling at cut-price over eBay – they clearly did nothing, as it still happens to this day.
In my opinion, Younique Corporate doesn’t give a shit what its presenters do, as long as they are selling their crap.
They use the fact that their presenters are ‘independent’ to therefore distance themselves from any ridiculous claims or statements they make – including whether the product is cruelty-free, vegan, or “chemical free” – EVERYTHING IS CHEMICALS.
Marie continues to call them out over Twitter – I suggest we all do the same.
Marie was then informed that the makeup all boiled down to a “team competition” – as this type of nonsense is usually fed down the ranks from the Black Status Overlords, surely someone had the common sense to see what a bad idea it was?
Paige, Silvia and the rest of you – you really do deserve better than working for a company like Poonique.
Has realisation sunk in yet?
Earlier in the article, I said that I believe that most of these women acted in innocence, without realising the gravity of their actions.
However, according to one of my outraged followers, it would transpire that at least one of them has no remorse. None other than the #squaw hashtag user.
Here is what my follower had to say in reference to this person’s photos:
“…She’s a white woman living in the UK. One of the censored hashtags on here was “squaw”. Another was “war paint”. She’s doing a “war whoop” in the first picture and posted a video of it too. I don’t think I need to tell anyone why this…is an absolute train wreck of racism…”
My follower points out her disbelief that the official corporate account praised this behaviour: “…Its completely unacceptable, and its not the first time they’ve endorsed problematic “tribal” makeup looks from their presenters…”
So, what happened with the offending post?
“…This presenter has since removed the post after it received an avalanche of horrified comments…she didn’t apologize and say it was wrong, she called everyone criticizing it a bunch of trolls and haters…”
Trolls and haters? Typical MLM response.
What can we do?
Younique Corporate provide flaky responses over their cruelty-free status, and equally so when it comes to matters of cultural appropriation. In my experience, no significant action will be taken by Corporate – it will likely be brushed under the rug. Hey, as long as their presenters are selling their shit products, who cares?
Either way, you can try and email your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org – I wish you luck with that.
As a company, they need to know that we won’t stand for their bullshit and “passing the buck”. If they are going to dupe people into signing up as ‘independent presenters’, the least they can do is ensure they are given appropriate training and knowledge. Instead of being thrown under the bus when shit hits the fan, of course.
Keep spreading the anti-MLM word on social media, and check out our resources for other ways you can help.
These Younique presenters were clueless in their actions. I have found some informative and thoughtful articles on cultural appropriation, which explains how and why certain actions may cause offence and harm.
If you have another other good resource pages, please feel free to add them in the comments below.
- “Introduction to Cultural Appropriation” by Nadra Kareem Nittle for ThoughtCo.
- “What is cultural appropriation and why is it offensive?” from The Week
- “Cultural Appreciation or Cultural Appropriation?” by Paula Schriefer for Spring Institute
- “What’s Wrong with Cultural Appropriation? These 9 Answers Reveal Its Harm” by
- “What is Cultural Appropriation?” by Neil Van Leeuwen for Philosophy Talk
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