Like an unopened package of s’mores Pop-Tarts, fresh out the carton, and my gluttony ready for the devouring, without hesitation, when I read the news of Kim Kardashian West launching a makeup line, set to be available on June 21, I followed the “KKW Beauty” accounts on Instagram and Tumblr. West was going to drop a contour and highlight kit, which would make sense as she galvanized the technique onto the mainstream forefront nearly ten years ago.
If you were a makeup artist (MUA as the kids call it now) back when The Trinity (Naomi, Christy, Linda) strutted for Gianni Versace and Azzedine Alaia, contour and highlight might’ve been mandatory, so a model’s face could stand out against the often harsh bright lights above them on the catwalk. It is also endemic to fashion pictorials and both drag queen and Broadway show performances. (A sculpted face is also just kind of sexy, giving off mysterious vibes of delicious danger on the horizon).
Before she was West, Kardashian’s intense, meticulously executed contour mesmerized thousands of women in America. They were taken back as this was beyond blush. What was that deeper shading about? And how come she looked like an awesomely put together bad girl than a grown woman that played in mud? Her gorgeous mug perfected by this trick (sometimes her cheeks were cut) was a seismic turning point for makeup products, sales, and the Internet as YouTube gave makeup know-it-alls a place to congregate and share with the curious just how to contour and highlight properly. (It can take a while to master. It is considerably strategic). Sure KK wore a lot of makeup but damn did it look good. Today, contour and highlight (or highlight and contour) kits and items aren’t only available from brands like Smashbox, but department stores like Lord & Taylor that have commissioned their own, as well as drugstore labels CoverGirl and IMAN. The entire beauty industry squeezed themselves a spot on the bandwagon, making it accessible for the everyday woman and girls that work 9-5 and on weekends in the mall.
At 9 AM PST/12 EST that June 21, I was on the KKW Beauty website and the “Creme Contour and Highlight” kits hadn’t sold out yet. I flirted with buying “Deep Dark” or “Dark” but money was tight, so I continued perusing the caliginous millennial pink background and large print text. Not to mention, I was alright with the $48 price tag, but $8-9 for shipping? I’m one of those in which a $5 shipping tag will have me re-think a well-curated shopping bag before pressing “Complete Order.” So I passed again, indefinitely.
The day after its launch and the real-life KKW hosted a press event for reporters and most superlative beauty vloggers at her home (brave, considering the Paris incident last fall), its first product has been a shit show of controversy, complaints, and West again stilettoing all the way to the bank. It’s been a dream for YouTube drama channels. They are dissecting the hullabaloo left and right. It also gives us the momentary chance to look at whether KKW is still the reigning beauty maverick she was when she first became famous. Are we all still trying to look like Kimmy K with or without her makeup line?
Jackie Aina and Jeffree Star were not the first to upload their video reviews, albeit they were greatly anticipated. Star was surprisingly and overly exuberant about the kits, having almost nothing negative to say about the shades, textures, or brushes, baffling his 4 million plus subscribers and visitors. Star is likable in his makeup videos, offering kinky humor and an over-the-top presentation that is entertaining to watch and consistently contradicted by his actual talent in cosmetics application. His fans, though, did not hold back, accusing him of “kissing ass” towards KKW and knowing “damn well” that the product wasn’t all that great and he has done better and more with various other brands.
“I really love [Star], but I swear to god if it wasn’t kimk’s makeup packaging, he would roast it…” – Deep like Deepika
“Not worth $48” – Namjoon’s Dimples
“this review feels like jefree is being tamed…this makeup sucked, you can actually see that he was not living for this like he usually does. Still love your makeup Jefree much love” – Guainia Tirado
“How did this shit sell out bruhhhh dollar tree got better packaging” – Seiko A
I watched Star’s review and I admit that in it being devoid of his usual, cutthroat polemics felt disingenuous. Towards the end of the video around the time stamp of 15:33, Star was holding the contour and highlights sticks, promising he “really loves it.” But his fidgety handling of them and blank stare said otherwise. He fully admitted that the sponge on the double-ended brush was, however, a no. But all-in-all the Creme Contour was “Jeffree Star approved.”
From Aina, she’s become the de facto voice of honestly reviewing the still infantile KKW Beauty line. This was determined by the discovery of Aina not being tagged in a series of photos posted on West’s official Instagram with many of the beauty influencers that attended her event. Every single one of them was tagged but Aina. Her devotees flooded the post, defending the Los Angeleno’s direct examination of what she called more like “travel size” items and that she revealed didn’t have that much product in it. Apparently, KKW’s PR compartmentalized the candor as an affront to the beauty line. In her clip, one of the double-ended sticks broke off before she even began her tutorial. Earlier, at the time stamp of 2:06 she proclaimed, after gazing at a freshly rolled-up stump of contour, “Girl, you tried it, girl! That’s all you get…!”
“WOW! a rare HONEST review. So refreshing! Not a hate filled or suckup review. HONEST. Love it.” -Kay Tee
“Kim Kardashian is so salty over this review she didn’t even tag this sista.” – Fameolous.com
“In Jackie we trust, puts left hand over heart” – Sharon Perera
“Jackie does not like this product, but she trying to be nice lol” – Joi Davenport
She did praise the shade range but found mid-way for the formula to be a little patchy on her and reached for a Beauty Blender, warning that for those who were a “novice” to makeup may find the double-ended brush tool annoying to use. She generally viewed the kit as alright. Okay. It’ll do.
In full, she wasn’t intolerably caustic towards the items. She was just real in that you probably wouldn’t want this unless you are a West fanatic and she herself might not have bothered unless she was invited to the KKW event.
A particular point Aina shared as she wrapped her thoughts and I absolutely agreed with was that KKW commencing her makeup line was about seven years too late. Back when she was really hitting every other A-list event, Paris Fashion Week, and gracing so many top magazines from W to Harper’s Bazaar, was when she should’ve announced her line and given the kids a coveted contour and highlight set. She was such an influence in this beauty, she was selected to cover Scott Barnes‘ second makeup manual Face to Face.
Along with the beauty YouTubers that were truthful and the coterie of commentators, there was a palpable sentiment that those interested and who made a purchase wanted to achieve as closely as possible the contoured look Kim had back in 2012. Her makeup journey in recent years, especially since being married to Kanye West, has pivoted in her high-end high heels to a dewy version of her past Botticelli glam, and that includes her contour and highlight that blends more seamlessly into her skin than pop out. (This is beautifully accomplished by her current go-to glam guy and guiding light of the kit, Mario. He is a truly skilled MUA).
Long-standing YouTuber Tati, who admitted wasn’t invited to the high gloss KKW event, liked that the Creme Contour seemed perfect for “real life contouring.” This is a good point as magazines/Instagram makeup should be different from sitting at a desk, running up and down to meetings or on a retail floor, working in a lab, teaching, you know everyday life jobs for us regular folk.
Forbes, another title West has graced, was one of many that reported she made $14.4 million (presumably before taxes) of the kits that sold out in three hours. Forbes further disclosed that Seed Beauty was her manufacturer, the same company best known for Colourpop and assembling and mixing the items for West’s younger sister Kylie Jenner‘s Kylie Cosmetics’ liquid lipsticks.
In a nutshell, the public has roasted the kits for not having enough product for $48, packaged in a caliginous millennial pink ziplock-looking bag (no one dared tried to disagree with this presentation when Pat McGrath did it for her $60 lipstick sets), the sponge part of a brush tool that also caught a case of dirty jokes for looking like a vibrator, and for simply being Kim Kardashian West endorsed. Her influence, though challenged, remains high as while it’s a roast session on both Star and Aina’s YouTubes featuring it, on the actual KKW Instagram page, there are plenty of comments asking when the re-stock is. Some of the kids just don’t want to hear it.
I haven’t been this obsessed with the public reaction to a beauty launch since…the Kardashians released Khroma Beauty, eventually changed to Kardashian Beauty because of lawsuits. There have been a few since that disastrous line, but they’re never as “grab the popcorn” inducing as when the Kardashians or Jenners are attached.
Besides, if you can’t bring yourself to buy Kimmy K anything but are intrigued nonetheless, try NYX’s Wonder Stick for $12!