Media Aids Unnecessary ScarJo Skincare Line
Why do I feel like I'm reading the same book to my toddler over and over and over...
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Whenever a celebrity beauty line launches, I usually get around six minutes of amusement comparing its coverage on various women’s websites. The stories all usually publish on or around the same day, guaranteeing a smattering of puff pieces that are about as interesting as a celebrity talking about lotion can be. (I do not blame editors and writers for this — I blame media executives who have erected parameters around traffic and business interests that bar their creative staff from being honest and interesting for the benefit of their audience.)
This week Scarlett Johansson made that well-traveled press circuit to hawk, among other things, a $32 face wash and $54 night cream. It’s part of her new five-product line called The Outset, which claims to be “clean” and exists because Johansson was tired of being an “ambassador for other beauty brands.” Or maybe she just doesn’t have enough money. Who’s to say?
Let’s examine the sameness of the stories that include original interviews with ScarJo. Here’s WWD (emphasis mine throughout):
“…I had worked for a long time as an ambassador for other beauty brands and I think as I got older in my late 20s, there was a turning point where I just felt like I was done representing other people’s ideal beauty standards and I felt like I had enough confidence to start something on my own that felt true to me.”
The decision to start a skincare brand of her own came at the same time that Johansson decided to stop doing beauty endorsements, which she had been doing for years with brands such as L'Oréal Paris and Dolce & Gabbana. "It just no longer felt desirable to represent other people's beauty ideals," she said.
“I was coming into my own as an actor, artist, and woman, and just felt increasingly that my experience being the face of these other brands was inauthentic to my own experience and what I was looking for as a consumer,” Johansson tells Glamour.
“I’ve been the face of several luxury brands throughout my career, and all of those experiences were really wonderful. But—how do I put this?” she pauses, a black baseball cap semi-obscuring a furrowed brow. “I guess I always felt like I was sort of playing a character in those campaigns, and as I evolved, I wanted to create and represent a brand that was true to me.”
Her line comes when the celebrity beauty market is oversaturated. Last year, Allure published a list of 27 (!) such celebrity lines. In a post about the ScarJo line, BuzzFeed notes a slew of recent launches by celebrities that do not appear on Allure’s list, including Harry Styles, Ariana Grande, Machine Gun Kelly, Ellen DeGeneres, Hailey Bieber, Jennifer Aniston, Billie Eilish, Addison Rae, and Priyanka Chopra Jonas. Thankfully, WWD asked ScarJo to justify joining the fray already comprised of those 36 celebrities along with others like Kate Hudson:
For Johansson, she sees her skin care brand as unique to what’s on the market because it came out of her own necessity and offers a simpler solution for daily skin care.
“I can just speak for The Outset, which is it was such a labor of love,” she explained. “[The beauty industry] is a very crowded space, but in that space I felt like there was an opportunity to almost reduce the noise and make something that felt like it was an easy choice for people to understand and there was a transparency to it.”
If people are wondering why celebrities keep launching skincare lines — this is why. This guaranteed flash flood of saccharine press repackaging the same banal talking points if not nearly the exact same quotes. (There are more ScarJo clips I’m not calling out because they quote the above interviews.)
According to highly scientific, peer-reviewed Back Row research, each time a celebrity launches a beauty line, they pull the talking points from Celeb Beauty Bingo. Spaces include: “clean beauty,” “this took me so long to make,” “this is sustainable and/or good for humanity,” and “this is authentic.”
So let’s take a quick print magazine-style quiz. When was the last time you did one of those? A time before you could use Google to quickly identify three dozen celebrities with beauty lines, that’s for sure. Take yourself back to that happy place!
The Game: Match the Celeb with the Quote
Your choices for each question are: Kate Hudson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kylie Jenner, Gwen Stefani, or Scarlett Johansson. The quotes are either one of them talking about their beauty products or from a publication covering their beauty products.
“She’s the first one who introduced me to clean beauty… She was telling me about carcinogens and parabens and it was the first time I’d ever heard about it.”
“I realized that I was putting a lot of really harmful things on my face — [things that were] harmful for myself and the planet.”
“Innovation has come far in the past few years. When creating this line, it was so important to me to commit to using clean ingredients across the board, but to never sacrifice performance.”
“We absorb 60 to 80 percent of what we put on our skin… so the idea that you’re exercising and trying to eat well and then slathering yourself with chemicals, parabens, and silicones—it’s not great.”
Year(s) in the Making
X: “I’ve been working on this for what feels like a lifetime so I can’t believe I’m finally announcing!”
WWD: “X talks about her new clean beauty line that’s been five years in the making.”
Vogue: “Everything is subjected to her exacting taste. Developing the skin-care line took a year, and, as with her sit-ups ethic, X wasn’t finished until each product was precisely as she envisioned it…”
WWD: “With X, three years in the making, she’s stepping out on her own…”
WWD: “It turns out, it’s been 15 years in the making, a dream project for X.”
Sustainable and/or Charitable
“It makes me feel good when I’m doing things that are beneficial rather than filling our landfills.…”
“I really believe in what Karen is doing for the sustainability of the planet… She’s really the leader in these practices. It’s very important as a woman, as a mother, and as someone who preaches a non-toxic lifestyle.”
“So, I really have been thinking about my giveback for a long time. Like, what am I going to do? What am I going to do to really give back, you know what I’m saying? I never thought I could make any impact on anyone ever, but now I feel like I’m at a place where I’ve learned enough, and I’m smart enough, and I’ve had enough experience.”
“You guys are going to help me give back in a huge, huge way. All I wanted for my birthday was to do this money collection and give it all away.”
“It's uncomplicated, clean, and mindful, and we're looking to effect positive change. We've partnered with Dress for Success to support women as they enter the labor force, we work with One Tree Planted, we've found all these paper-alternatives [for our packaging], and we're a member of 1% For The Planet. I think there is space for a brand like ours that looks to redirect the industry in a way.”
“There’s nobody else who could come close to being more authentic… than I am when it comes to doing a line, because it’s what I’ve been doing my entire life.”
The Hollywood Reporter: “Early in the process, the budding entrepreneur met with several beauty companies about pairing with them, but she ‘kept coming back to this really authentic desire’ to forge her own path.”
“…[T]here's a reason why I have so many followers and why people pay so much attention to me. So I just try not to change and stay authentic.”
Cofounder to WWD: “X really embodies… wellness, authenticity, happiness and sustainability. So that’s where it starts with me, that our values and missions are aligned.”
“I think it’s really important to be happy, and I think women get happy by being authentic.”
Of course, there is surely no void in the market for any of these products to fill, despite these celebrities saying their products are designed to do just that. Saks.com alone has 802 moisturizers for sale on its site. Sephora has 702. Target has 1,240.
Late last year, the New York Times published the story, “Dear Celebrities: Please Stop Churning Out Beauty Brands,” saying the lines are “starting to feel like satire,” and reporting:
Everybody interviewed for this article, from executives at multibillion dollar companies to high school students, was asked if they could name one to three successful celebrity beauty brands besides Kylie Cosmetics, Fenty and Goop. None could.
The celeb beauty bubble, like the celeb clothing line bubble, will burst. When was the last time you thought about LAMB (Gwen Stefani), Holmes & Yang (Katie Holmes), Bitten (Sarah Jessica Parker), or 6126 (Lindsay Lohan)? All of those lines have shuttered, except for LAMB, which Vogue.com says limps along seemingly as just glasses now.
I spent a lot of time researching celebrity influence in fashion when writing my second book, ANNA: The Biography (preorder it if you haven’t yet!). The profusion of celebrity fashion and beauty lines is surely one consequence of them taking over the covers of fashion magazines like Vogue. However, that shift occurred about 25 years ago, and another away from celebs could be due given that culture and consumer media habits are now so strongly influenced by independent content creators and micro-influencers.
Just as the media is responsible for the rise of celebrities when it comes to new product lines, it could also be responsible for their undoing. When consumers can barely distinguish stories about these lines from one outlet to the next, why bother reading any of them at all? I’d rather watch Ina Garten parodies on TikTok. If media executives can allow the smart writers and editors they employ to take a chance at passing up a click, the industry might stop vomiting these product lines into the universe. Wouldn’t that be the most sustainable approach of all?
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