- 2020 was a big year for the cosmetics industry and beauty influencers.
- Celebrities embraced their acne and gray hair in Instagram posts, and they even brought back the controversial mullet trend.
- Beauty influencers, on the other hand, found themselves facing scandals, feuds, and more.
- Jeffree Star, for example, was accused of sexual assault and making hush-money payments, James Charles feuded with two celebrities, and Kat Von D sold her namesake brand.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
2020 was a big year for the beauty industry.
New trends emerged — like the controversial mullet comeback — and beauty enthusiasts rose to fame on TikTok. Celebrities also opened up about their acne, gray hair, and natural beauty while staying home.
Of course, there were scandals, feuds, and surprising moments, too. James Charles publicly argued with celebrities, Jeffree Star was accused of sexual assault, and Kat Von D shocked the internet when she said influencers were part of the reason she sold her beauty brand. Earlier in the year, YouTuber NikkieTutorials was blackmailed and robbed at gunpoint.
Here's a deeper look into those events and other major beauty moments that occurred throughout 2020.
Jeffree Star broke up with his longtime boyfriend Nathan Schwandt, who often appeared in the YouTuber's makeup videos.
In a YouTube video posted on January 11, Star said he'd be "starting this year off alone" as he and Schwandt, who he described as his "soulmate," had broken up. As Insider's Kat Tenbarge previously reported, Star said Schwandt was "struggling with living under the intense scrutiny that comes along with Star's viral celebrity fame."
Though their breakup didn't affect the beauty industry at large, Schwandt was a big part of Star's business. Jeffree Star Cosmetics sold a liquid lipstick named "Nathan," and Schwandt was often featured in videos like "MY BOYFRIEND DOES MY MAKEUP… OMG."
People tried to blackmail NikkieTutorials into coming out as transgender.
NikkieTutorials, whose real name is Nikkie de Jager, announced in a 17-minute video on January 13 that she is transgender. Though the YouTuber always wanted to tell her story, she said was pressured into sharing it sooner than expected by people who were blackmailing her and threatening to leak her story to the press.
"Today, I am taking back my own power," de Jager said in her video. "I've been wanting to share this side of myself to all of you for so long, but I could never figure out the timing. And there always was going to be the day where I would tell you. I did not expect this day to be today, but here we are."
She later said in an interview with Dutch publication &C that she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after the blackmail attempt.
The Kat Von D makeup brand was renamed to KVD Vegan Beauty after Von D sold her shares in the company.
Von D partnered with Sephora to create a namesake cosmetics line in 2008. On January 16, however, Von D announced on Instagram that she sold her shares of Kat Von D to Kendo, a company she partnered with for 11 years.
She said that while she'd love to run her makeup brand while raising her child, running her shoe company, and making music, she "just can't do everything at the maximum capacity."
"This was not an easy decision, but after careful consideration, I decided I wanted the makeup line to continue to thrive and grow, and I believe Kendo is primed to do just that," she wrote.
"In order to avoid any confusion with such a big change, Kat Von D Beauty will take a moment to rebrand itself, so you will start noticing the change from KatVonD Beauty to KVD Vegan Beauty," she added.
Shane Dawson attempted to enter the online beauty space after releasing a makeup collection with Jeffree Star Cosmetics.
At the start of January, Dawson quietly created a YouTube channel called "ShaneGlossin," which he intended to use as a space for sharing beauty-themed content. He unveiled the channel after a Twitter user criticized him for seemingly only becoming interested in makeup after realizing that he could profit from it.
At the time of writing, only one of the six videos on the "ShaneGlossin" channel is about Dawson's experience in the beauty industry. He makes bold statements in the 36-minute-long clip, some of which are aimed at controversial beauty influencers that have a history with Star, his collaborator.
"They put me on Kat Von D's list, and I had to tell them to take me off," Dawson said about receiving free beauty products from Star's friend-turned-enemy. He then made a scared face at the camera.
Dawson also said he received hairy lipstick from Jaclyn Hill's namesake brand, though he included a disclaimer to say that Hill has since "addressed the issue" and "had a very successful launch" of highlighters. Unlike Star and Von D, Star and Hill are seemingly friends.
Star wore dreadlocks and laid edges while promoting his Blood Lust makeup collection in February.
Photos of Star wearing the hairstyles were posted to Twitter, Instagram, and the Jeffree Star Cosmetics website. Soon after, people said Star was culturally appropriating Black hairstyles, which he's previously been criticized for doing, and profiting off a culture that he's famously been racist toward in the past.
Star didn't publicly address the criticism, though he shared photos of himself wearing cornrows, another hairstyle associated with Black culture, just a few days later.
Kat Von D infuriated people when she said influencers played a role in her leaving the beauty industry.
During an appearance on the "Second Life" podcast in January, Von D said the beauty industry has become "a culture thing" filled with influencers who tell you what to buy and how to look to "be cool."
"It's been 11 years, and I am proud of what we've done, but I think that the beauty industry is changing so much," Von D said during the podcast. "For a moment there, I felt like I did find my place in an industry, and then I think the older I get, I realize that I don't know if I fit into it anymore."
"It kind of throws me back to how I felt when I was a kid," she said. "I feel like I've stepped away from it a lot, partially on purpose, and the other part of it is, obviously, I just — after having the baby, and then I wrote an album years ago, and I was supposed to release it last summer, and then I got pregnant."
Social-media users criticized Von D's statements and said that Von D's own actions — including her controversial statements against vaccines — were the real reason she began to decline in popularity.
A woman said in a YouTube video that she beat her child over a Jeffree Star Cosmetics eye-shadow palette — and the makeup mogul responded.
In February, YouTuber Michelle Grace uploaded a video in which she complained about her child smearing ranch dressing across her Jeffree Star Cosmetics Alien palette. In the now-deleted video, she said: "One second, my hand hurts. 'Cause I just beat the crap out of her. Not literally, but I taught her a lesson. Because I'll be damned if she's gonna walk all over me."
Though Star didn't initially respond to the backlash that ensued following Grace's comments, he later appeared to reference her video in a different tweet about a toddler destroying makeup.
"My 3-year-old got into my @JeffreeStar #bloodsugar palette while I was at work today," a Twitter user wrote, showing pictures of the broken palette and a mattress stained with eye shadow. "We cleaned it up the best we could. Guess what I didn't do? Touch her. I didn't scream, didn't beat, didn't 'pop' or spank. I talked with her, she apologized, and helped me clean her mess up."
The next day, Star responded by offering the user a new eye-shadow palette.
"Hi parenting, how are ya?" Star wrote. "Please DM me your address so I can send you a new palette! I'd send you a new mattress too but I don't know how firm you like it."
Beauty professionals faced new challenges at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
From major retailers to independent professionals, those working in the beauty industry faced unprecedented challenges at the onset of the pandemic.
First, shoppers urged Sephora, Ulta Beauty, and other major chains to remove in-store samples and makeovers as a safety precaution. Around that time, those working in the corporate offices of beauty brands complained that they weren't being allowed to work from home, despite health concerns that go along with working in an office space.
But arguably no one in the industry was hit harder than hairstylists, makeup artists, nail salon staff members, and other independent beauty workers. Not only were their businesses temporarily closed as a precaution, but many professionals worried that they'd permanently lose customers who learned to do their own hair, makeup, and more while staying home.
Celebrities opened up about their acne, gray hair, and natural beauty while staying home and social distancing.
At the start of the pandemic, numerous stars, including Katy Perry, Zoë Kravitz, and Kesha all shared barefaced selfies as they took breaks from their usual red-carpet glam. Some, like Keke Palmer, even opened up about their struggles with acne.
Other celebrities showed off their natural hair — from Tamera Mowry's stunning curls to Kelly Ripa's grays — and experimented with bold colors. Hilary Duff dyed her hair bright blue, and Ricky Martin opted for a vibrant shade of pink.
Fans of Bretman Rock attempted to visit the beauty influencer at his home, despite COVID-19 concerns.
Rock posted a series of Instagram stories in mid-April as a plea to fans to stop visiting his home in the hopes of getting a photo with him. He said in the videos that he felt he had to speak about the incident after two men knocked on his door, asked if the influencer was home, and later left a note on his car.
"Can y'all not do that please, because next time I really will be calling the m—– f—— cops," Rock said. "Like, I understand — no I don't understand because if I was a fan of f—— somebody, I would not, I really would not, show up at their house."
In a statement sent to Insider at the time, Rock added that meeting his fans and supporters is "the best part" of his job because "they are always so fun and have the best energy."
"I love getting to know them and taking photos for the memories," Rock told Insider about his fans. "Of course, we are now in the midst of a global pandemic, and sadly the interactions we used to cherish are no longer safe per public health guidelines."
Beauty influencers like James Charles participated in April's mugshot trend.
At the time, it was trendy for TikTokers to use smudged mascara and costume makeup techniques to artificially roughen their facial features with fake bruises, black eyes, and bloody noses to create "attractive, staged mugshots," as Insider's Kat Tenbarge previously reported.
But many took issue with the trend as they felt it glorified abuse and harmed domestic violence survivors.
After Charles shared his take on the trend, he wrote in a now-deleted tweet: "only I could lazily smudge on some purple eyeshadow and fake blood to recreate a dumb tik tok trend and have it twisted into an actual scandal lol."
He talked about the photo again in a December YouTube video, saying he "definitely wouldn't do it again," but that he learned from the experience.
"I can see why this would offend people, and I did end up deleting it later on, however, this was definitely frustrating because it had nothing to do literally at all with domestic-abuse victims," Charles said. "I'm not sure why anybody would even like, want this to correlate in any way, shape, or form. It just didn't make a lot of sense to me."
Star attempted to reignite a former feud with Charles while appearing on a podcast that month.
Star was interviewed by Daniel "Keemstar" Keem, FaZe Banks, and Colossal Is Crazy for an episode of their "Mom's Basement" podcast released on April 28. During their chat, Star said he had a recording from "a victim" of Charles on his phone, seemingly referencing past allegations made by himself and Tati Westbrook that Charles leveraged his fame to sexually manipulate people.
"It's going to upset a lot of people, but the truth is that someone, and right now I legally can't say who, told us a few things," Star said on the podcast. "And we trusted that person's opinion, and then another person said some things –that were friends with that man – and it really convinced us that he was a predator."
Neither Star nor Westbrook has publicly shared substantive evidence to back up their claims.
In early June, beauty influencers spoke out against makeup looks inspired by George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement.
A makeup enthusiast who goes by @catharinas_beauty online painted a half-blackface look while "This Is America" by Childish Gambino played in the background. Amelie Zilber, a beauty influencer, also shared a makeup look that included "#BLM" and "I Can't Breathe" written across her face.
Influencers including NikkieTutorials, Patrick Starrr, and Alissa Ashley condemned the trend. The latter makeup artist wrote on Twitter: "Raising awareness isn't using fake blood to appear beaten up. It's not using a darker shade of foundation to show your solidarity. Black peoples trauma/reality isn't a makeup trend. Like y'all can't possibly be this dumb."
Sharon Chuter, the founder of Uoma Beauty, created the #PullUpOrShutUp campaign to show the "under-representation of Black people in corporate America, especially in leadership roles."
She launched the campaign in late April as a challenge that asked people to avoid purchasing from beauty brands — especially those that released statements in support of Black Lives Matter — over the course of 72 hours. In that time, brands were encouraged to release the number of Black employees working in their leadership roles.
In a statement previously sent to Insider, Chuter said #PullUpOrShutUp "is not an exercise in naming and shaming," but is instead "a call for all brands to review their own practices." Companies including e.l.f. Cosmetics, Glossier, and Kylie Cosmetics participated.
Dawson responded to speculation that he and Star pressured Westbrook to release her explosive video about Charles in 2019 with a lengthy rant on Twitter.
Dawson started his statement by writing: "WELCOME TO THE CIRCUS — my final thoughts on the beauty world."
According to Dawson's four-page rant, he knew that Westbrook was considering making a video about Charles. However, he said he didn't "orchestrate it," tell her to make it, or "have any involvement in the video." He also said he never "tried to ruin a career or make someone look bad," and that he doesn't have "a track record of getting into drama with people or having fights with other YouTubers."
He went on to describe his makeup collection with Star's brand as "one of the best experiences" of his life. Still, Dawson said he was "over" beauty influencers who are commonly involved in scandals, and described them as "attention-seeking, game-playing, egocentric, narcissistic, vengeful, two-faced ticking time bombs ready to explode."
As Tenbarge previously reported, people were especially bothered by Dawson's "continued defenses of Star and his announcement that he was 'out' of the beauty community."
"I love what I was able to create with Jeffree and I'm sure people are going to assume I only did it for money but that's not true," Dawson wrote. "I just am choosing to no longer be a part of that world."
The drama between Dawson, Westbrook, Star, and Charles didn't stop there.
Westbrook came back to YouTube from a hiatus on June 30 with another explosive video about Star, Charles, and Dawson. She apologized to Charles at the start of the video, and said Star and Dawson "manipulated" her into speaking out against him in 2019 because they viewed Charles as competition.
Dawson and his fiancé Ryland Adams were quick to deny Westbrook's claims with now-deleted tweets and Instagram videos. Star, on the other hand, released a YouTube video on July 18 in which he also apologized to Charles, denied some of Westbrook's claims, and said his lawyers were looking into their options.
Westbrook has not posted on her YouTube channel or other social-media platforms since releasing her video in June.
In July, Morphe cut ties with Jeffree Star and his namesake beauty brand.
In a tweet on July 10, Morphe wrote: "Today we've made the decision to cease all commercial activity related to Jeffree Star and affiliated products. We expect this to conclude within the coming weeks. As we look to the future, we will continue to share updates on what lies ahead for the Morphe brand."
Jeffree Star Cosmetics then released its own statement on Instagram, saying the brand was "shocked and extremely saddened by the decision" of its "former retail partner Morphe Brushes."
"Over the past 5 years we've accomplished amazing things together and released iconic products," the brand's statement continued. "We are proud of everything we've accomplished with them. What's next? We have an incredible remainder of 2020 planned and are excited to share our new products with you and our partner around the world. We know our customers will continue to create, inspire, and push the boundaries of our art."
At the time of writing, a few discounted Jeffree Star Cosmetics products are still available to purchase on Morphe's website.
Skin-care brand Clarisonic announced in July that it'd be shutting down after more than 10 years in business.
The company made the announcement in an Instagram post on July 14, saying it would shut down permanently by September 30. Clarisonic also thanked its customers and announced that its full range of products was on sale for 50% off on its website.
Though Clarisonic didn't explain on Instagram why it would be going out of business, the company did say on the FAQ page of its website that "this difficult decision was made so that L'Oréal can focus its attention on its other core business offerings."
Influencers, beauty lovers, and more expressed shock at the announcement, as many of them had previously shared rave reviews about the brand's products.
Alicia Keys announced that she'd be releasing a beauty brand — much to the dismay of some influencers.
In early August, e.l.f. Cosmetics announced that it will be launching a "lifestyle beauty brand" in collaboration with Keys in 2021. In a press release sent to Insider, the company described the line as "groundbreaking," and said it would allow Keys to "further explore conversations about inner beauty, wellness, and connection."
It was unclear at the time if the brand would include cosmetics, though some beauty fans were quick to question why Keys would enter the industry as a longtime advocate of wearing no makeup.
Influencers like Charles and Manny MUA shared similar opinions on Twitter. Charles wrote in a now-deleted tweet that he believes "people who do not wear makeup should not be coming out with makeup brands," and Manny MUA asked if anyone felt "slightly irritated" by celebrity makeup lines.
Both influencers later shared similar apologizes online. Manny MUA wrote in a Twitter note that he "should have researched more to discover that she is working with e.l.f. cosmetics to develop SKINCARE." Charles also said he deleted his tweet because he felt it was "childish" to indirectly tweet someone, and that he is "not the gatekeeper of makeup."
NikkieTutorials and her fiancé Dylan Drossaers were robbed at gunpoint in August.
On August 8, Dutch news outlets reported that three people entered the home of de Jager and Drossaers around 4 p.m., robbing them at gunpoint. Later that day, the YouTuber shared a note on Instagram regarding the incident.
"Earlier today one of my biggest nightmares became reality when we got robbed under gun point at our own home," de Jager wrote. "Dylan and myself got attacked but physically we're okay. Mentally it's a whole other story."
"I'm writing this message for now to let you know that we are 'okay' and safe," she continued. "Thank you for the understanding as I take the next couple of days to myself."
De Jager later posted a YouTube video — her first after being robbed — in which she said it was "impossible" to share the full story of the robbery as it was still under investigation. As of December, however, de Jager said the robbers had been arrested.
Charles found himself in another feud when he criticized Lauren Conrad's beauty brand.
In August, Charles filmed himself ranting about receiving a press package full of empty beauty products from someone who he said had "no business" creating a makeup line. Though Charles didn't name Conrad in the video, he did hold up easily-identifiable products from her brand.
Conrad then confirmed in an Instagram comment that Charles was talking about her brand, and said she was the person who accidentally filled his package with sample bottles in place of real products. Charles then apologized in an Instagram story after her comment, and the two seemingly reconciled a few days later.
The duo also reunited for a video with YouTuber NikkieTutorials in November.
Star faced allegations of sexual assault, physical violence, and hush-money offers in October.
As Tenbarge reported on October 1, "some of Star's former friends, peers, and associates told Insider that he physically and sexually abused others at the height of his Myspace fame." Some people also accused Star of "groping" and "non-consensual oral sex" at his concerts and using weapons like a stun gun for fun and retaliation.
Insider obtained messages from two on-the-record sources "discussing a $10,000 payout offer from Star to recant their allegations," and leaked documents show that one accuser was paid $45,000 to retract his story.
Star has not publicly addressed the claims, and his attorney "denied the allegations of physical and sexual violence" by calling them "false and defamatory," Tenbarge reported.
Tenbarge's full investigation can be read here.
Nikita Dragun faced backlash after asking fans "what race" she should be.
She asked the question on Twitter in October, immediately drawing backlash from fans and other influencers who said Dragun appeared to be "blackfishing," or pretending to be of a different race through darkened skin and cultural appropriation.
Dragun later wrote on Twitter: "i know it's a joke to comment on my race but i'm really tired of having to defend myself on every post. 'she's hispanic today' i'm hispanic everyday. my mom is mexican. my dad is asian. i'm mixed. the end. bye."
The transgender influencer later shared two photos of herself pre-transition that showed how her skin looked lighter in a photo she said was taken in the winter compared to her skin in a photo she said was taken during the summer.
Leaked text messages revealed that YouTuber Glam&Gore previously said BIPOC and LGBTQ YouTubers are "handed" their success.
On October 11, a YouTuber named Spankie Valentine uploaded an hour-long video in which she discussed her former friendship with Glam&Gore, who also goes by Mykie. Valentine also shared text messages she previously exchanged with the YouTuber.
According to Valentine, Mykie commonly made racist microaggressions, "used" Charles and Star for their fame, and attributed other influencers' success to their races and sexualities.
In an Instagram story that's still available to view on her page, Mykie apologized for her past actions and said she had been "incredibly tone deaf" over the years.
Westbrook and her husband were sued by their Halo Beauty co-founder in October.
On October 20, 2020, Halo Beauty's co-founder and co-owner Clark Swanson filed a complaint through the Superior Court of California in Los Angeles County, as Tenbarge previously reported.
The lawsuit claims Tati Westbrook and her husband James committed fraud, negligence, and breach of fiduciary duty, causing Halo Beauty and Swanson to suffer financially. Swanson is seeking more than $25,000 in damages.
According to the court documents, Swanson claims that by selling beauty products and planning others under the Tati Beauty brand, the Westbrooks had gone against their agreement to "make Halo Beauty the umbrella brand for all of Tati's future product lines, including cosmetics, skin care, and fragrances," as Tenbarge wrote.
Tati, James, and their brands have not yet filed a counter-complaint, though their lawyers did respond to Swanson's claims with a letter, which was shared exclusively by YouTuber Emily D. Baker. She said at the start of her video that she obtained the 188-page document from one of Tati's lawyers.
The letter says Swanson was an "unreliable and unproductive" business partner, that he wasn't truthful about his wealth and experience in the nutraceutical industry, and that there's no documentation to back up Swanson's lawsuit, among other claims. Swanson's lawyers did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
Mullets and shag haircuts came back into style thanks to celebrities.
Miley Cyrus became one of the most popular modern stars to rock a mullet this year. The haircut saw another boost in popularity as a result of Netflix's "Tiger King" docuseries. Some have even compared Cyrus' hair to that of "Tiger King" star Joe Exotic.
"Game of Thrones" star Maisie Williams was also recently photographed with a blonde mullet on Instagram, and Rihanna, Cara Delevingne, and more donned the style at the 2020 Savage X Fenty fashion show.
Influencers visited a hair salon in the middle of the pandemic.
Habit Salon, located in Los Angeles, California, and in Arizona, is run by owner Chrissy Rasmussen, who often works with internet-famous clients.
Throughout the pandemic, however, social-media users pointed out that in videos taken and shared by the salon, hairstylists were often seen working without masks. Some pointed out that the clients, many of whom are TikTok and Instagram stars, are also not wearing masks in the videos.
Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee, told Insider in October that those visiting and working at the salon could be "dreaded spreaders" of COVID-19.
"It's bad modeling," Schaffner said. "People will watch that and say, 'Gee, if they're out there being carefree or even careless, why can't I?'"
Influencers were criticized when they posed with monkeys outside of their homes to promote a fashion brand.
In early November, fashion brand Bananas Monkey sent a baboon and capuchin monkey to the homes of Star, Charles, and other influencers to promote its clothing.
After the social-media stars shared photos and videos of themselves to promote the brand, they were widely criticized for exploiting animals, encouraging private ownership of wild species, and in some cases, being hypocritical for posing with monkeys when they often promote cruelty-free beauty products.
Lisa Frank collaborated with Morphe on a '90s-inspired makeup line, but some beauty enthusiasts weren't pleased with the collection.
In November, Morphe said the Lisa Frank collection would include rainbow sponges, cheetah-print brushes, and a Lisa Frank-themed version of Morphe's beloved 35B palette, which was discontinued in 2018. The product packaging also features Lisa Frank cartoons like tigers, aliens, and unicorns.
Though many people were ecstatic over the collection, others were reminded of a similar makeup line from years ago that never came to fruition: the Lisa Frank x Glamour Dolls collection.
Speaking to Insider, numerous people who backed the Kickstarter campaign and didn't receive refunds said that while they feel Glamour Dolls and Lisa Frank are both to blame for the failed collaboration, they believe the latter brand shouldn't be releasing more makeup.
Influencers began a boycott of Hourglass cosmetics over the brand's limited shade ranges.
The cruelty-free cosmetics brand announced in November that it had reformulated its popular Illume Sheer Color Trio, which has not been available to purchase since 2019. Though many fans were excited to try the beloved product, others pointed out that the cream compact is only sold in one variation of shades, which mainly suits lighter skin tones.
In response to the lack of available shade ranges, Christine Mielke — the editor-in-chief of review website Temptalia — and beauty influencer Samantha Ravndahl said they'd both stop reviewing and using Hourglass Cosmetics products.
Beauty enthusiasts rose to fame on TikTok and started to take the place of major influencers.
Specifically, TikTok stars like Hyram Yarbro and Mikayla Nogueira started to transform the digital landscape for makeup lovers and skin-care enthusiasts alike. Their videos created unique communities online and resulted in sold-out products across the nation.
Social-media expert Trina Albus also told Insider that TikTok will likely continue to take over the beauty industry because of its unique algorithm, relatability, and opportunities to go viral.
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