Jeffree Star, one of the most popular kids of the MySpace era, last year ushered himself as a ready to conquer cosmetics entrepreneur. His first product, the Velour Liquid Lipstick of Jeffree Star Cosmetics, has gradually become a cult fave. And with eight hues so far, he’s continuously rolling out new ones for an excited fanbase.
As he always debuts the latest of his colorful palette on his Instagram, his current batch are three coinciding shades of the color blue. One lippie in particular is named “Abused”, a strong and statement-making blackened eggplant. The introductory photo and caption of “Abused” shortly provoked discussions in the comments section on whether it was his artistic freedom to name a makeup item such a publicized trigger word, or was he just being a little reckless..
On Instagram, he said the shade was created as a tribute to the goth era of the mid-to-late ’90s. He specifically references the Marilyn Manson cover of the Eurythmics‘ harrowing 1983 classic “Sweet Dreams” where Annie Lennox infamously sang:
Some of them want to use you
Some of them want to get used by you
Some of them want to abuse you
Some of them want to be abused.
The outrageous Internet personality then reassured his customers in a non-outright manner that doesn’t mention the most recorded forms of abuse such as substance, sexual, or violent but in a let’s-be-honest sense that we all abuse something in our lives “whether it’s power, love, money or glamour…Just don’t let it control you.”
I instantly shivered a bit when I saw the word “Abused” starring back at me, written in bold caps and the color itself unforgivably reminiscent of a bruise just starting to heal. But I felt that Star wasn’t coming from a bad place and that he was attempting to be persuasive and was possibly challenging the widespread belief that “abused” doesn’t just contain negative connotations or memories. Like for him, he “abuses” makeup and a love for art with his tattoos. But either way it’s controversial because there is the implication that we “abuse” the things or people we love, which in context and reality is a bit startling.
Many of his followers on Instagram (he recently scored a cool one million of them) mostly shared thoughtful opinions about the potentially questionable title of an otherwise harmless lipstick. Others were a bit snappy about it.
What is interesting about makeup, or cosmetics, is that as girly and cute as its reputation is–because for most of us, we feel prettier, more invincible when having it on–also has the ability to recall the darker episodes of our lives, fantasies or nightmares. We’ve seen the pendulum swing from glamorous to torture through movies where scars had to be recreated, and through fashion shows in the late ’90s and 2000s. The late talent Alexander McQueen is a perfect example of fashion’s sometimes inflammatory use of makeup. His presentations regularly pushed the boundaries of comfort levels. Back in January, Chinese designer Shangguan Zhe sent his male models down a London Fashion Week runway with made up facial bruises, lip gashes and black eyes. The makeup artist for Zhe’s show, Maria Comperetto described her looks as a “playful edge on Fight Club.” She also had no chill in hashtagging photos from the show as #beautifulbruises. It’s doubtful that survivors of real domestic abuse would call it the same. (Not to mention most photos under that hashtag are bordering grotesque).
Star’s latest Velour lippie joins the already commenced discussion of when makeup goes too far, at least in how companies present their items through names. In March, Kat von D profusely defender her decision to name a Sephora-exclusive Painted Love lipstick “Underage Red.” The tattoo artist and makeup CEO claimed it was nod to the movement of “feminine rebellion” and aggressively mocked the notion that it could be viewed as the pro-sexualization of young girls.
“’Underage Red’ is not a girly, pink shade. It is not a sophisticated, deep red either. It is an unapologetic, bold red. To me, ‘Underage Red’ is feminine rebellion.
Mega brand M.A.C. caught it earlier this year too when one of their pale pink Tinted Lipglasses was given the name “Lolita.” It’s almost never a good idea to refer to anything or anyone as Lolita.
Star hasn’t publicly refuted or explain himself further regarding the building uproar of “Abused.” Yet being that he probably saw it coming based upon his original paragraph caption, he appears hopeful that fans will give the debatably named lipstick a chance in a selfie. In June, it’ll be released in limited edition packaging alongside “Blue Velvet” and “Jawbreaker” (Star’s just going for the jugular with the names here). Stemming from the controversy, the trio could wind up being be a collector’s item for the YouTube tutorial makeup age.