Kat Von D’s Makeup Line Sparks Controversy for Sephora

Article by Samantha Caffrey | esPResso Committee Member

Image courtesy of Flickr/Mike Mozart

Image courtesy of Flickr/Mike Mozart

Sephora, a well renowned and popular cosmetics company, has recently been receiving criticism due to a controversial lipstick name released by one of its licensed brands, Kat Von D Cosmetics.

Kat Von D, the creator and face of the brand, is a tattoo artist best known for her roles on the TLC shows “Miami Ink” and “LA Ink.” She launched her makeup line in 2008 and has been releasing new collections annually, each with its own twist and splash of creativity.

Earlier last week, one of her lipsticks, “Underage Red,” sparked an Internet controversy that left consumers baffled. According to Yahoo Beauty, a picture of the lipstick name was tweeted with the caption “Went shopping for some makeup. How on earth is this a lipstick color?” The photo was immediately retweeted and spread, thus starting a lively debate. Multiple accusations were made and it was argued that the name made references to things like statutory rape, violence, degradation of women and human trafficking.

Appalled and confused by the negative feedback she was receiving, Kat Von D released a statement on Facebook defending and explaining her reasoning behind “Underage Red.” She stated:

I clearly remember wearing a variation of this shade when I was 16 years old. I also remember the feeling of wanting so badly to go see a specific concert at this age, and not being able to get in to the venue because I was underage. Back then, I was already deeply in love with punk rock music, and although in the eyes of many (including my parents), it may have been inappropriate for me to be wearing lipstick. But I did. “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.

She then goes on to say that if someone is willing to jump to such conclusions so quickly, then they should question their own thoughts rather than hers. Kayla Ottensman, a loyal fan of the Kat Von D makeup line and an owner of the “Underage Red” lipstick, said, “It never even occurred to me that the lipstick name was offensive. I’ve been using it for years and never questioned the reasoning behind it. It’s a great shade and I wear it all the time.”

The bold yet unapologetic tone of Von D’s statement is being simultaneously frowned upon and applauded on the Internet. Sephora has yet to comment on the crisis and how it will proceed; for now the lipstick has been removed from its website. AdWeek made the suggestion that the retailer should hire a spokesperson for the brand because of Von D’s tendency to speak before thinking out the potential consequences.

From a public relations standpoint, the reaction to the Internet controversy was handled quickly by Von D, but the question still stands as to whether her statement was too harsh or just right for the situation. Will this tarnish the reputation of either brand? It could be too soon to tell, but Sephora and Von D need to consider a plan to combat future problems if a similar incident happens again.

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