Do ‘Problematic’ Influencers Deserve Their Success?

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YES – Lauren Hurst

Image courtesy of DVSROSS via Wikimedia Commons

Influencers are still a relatively new pillar in modern life. Dating back to socialite queen Paris Hilton, the idea of the idol has captured our attention. The first influencer that we can label as ‘problematic’ is Kim Kardashian. The Kardashians have become a household name, and their continuing success in the public eye, both with their long-running reality show and massively successful Instagram profiles. Is it deserved? In my opinion, yes.

Largely thanks to momager genius Kris Jenner, the Kardashian brand came from nothing but a spoilt, rich reputation and was turned into a multi-million dollar brand. Nowadays, the Kardashians are still not without controversy, but it’s the acknowledgement of their mistakes that proves that anyone is capable of growth and change, which is a positive message to come out of ‘problematic’ behaviour. Kim Kardashian in recent years has begun to use her platform to advocate for changes in US prosecution methods and unjust convictions, with her public efforts equating to more successes than losses. And her studying to get a law degree shows that education is essential, and matters, to young people who may be led primarily by the so-called vanity-driven Instagram side of the Kardashian/influencer lifestyle.

When it comes to ‘problematic’ influencers on YouTube, it seems like you don’t need to look far. From Zoella to MannyMUA, the platform is rife with influencers within the beauty and lifestyle community who have each faced their fair share of public controversy. Disputes within the community keep viewership high, but it’s a good reputation that creates big brand deals and earns success.

The Jeffree Stars of the world need no introduction, to types of influencer who are seemingly embroiled continuously in some fight or public shame. Still, it’s THE Jeffree Star, who’s (genius PR) series with Shane Dawson that made people rethink whether or not he deserves the success he’s garnered. From living on a couch to owning custom pink Lambos, it’s his intelligent business decisions and constant work outside of MySpace/YouTube life that is the most impressive. For example, his massively successful makeup line, where people across the globe anticipate his palettes and lipstick releases for the quality of products that they receive, is testament to his well-deserved success.

Aside from the notorious, there are influencers like Snitchery, Brad Mondo or Harmony Nice. These people have created a platform based on their talents and developed an environment that promotes kindness and passion for what you love. These voices we desperately need and their successes are wholly deserved.

‘Problematic’ or not, a lot of big influencers have dedicated their current lives to their chosen work. Be it Instagram or YouTube; many influencers will go as far as quitting their current jobs, staking their livelihoods on the dream of living off of their passions. Not many people get that chance, so can anyone blame them for taking it, and working hard in brand deals or sponsored videos to maintain it? The problem there really lies in whether they acknowledge their privilege or not once they’ve attained it, and whether they lose touch with the real lives of the average person, their followers to who they largely owe their successes.

Whether it’s smart PR that saves these influencers from being truly cancelled for good or just something within them that is inherently good and keeps a fanbase around, living in the public eye is harsh, so can their successes be anything less than deserved?

NO – Lauren Banks

These days, kids and young people are watching YouTube more than any other platform. The people they watch have a significant impact on who their role models are and how they develop. So, if these role models consistently embroil themselves in drama and controversy, what sort of message does that send?

Everybody’ lives’ for the drama from big influencers. Yes, it can be brilliantly entertaining, but we also have to think – from all of this negativity and scandal, we are giving these people even more attention and press coverage. From videos of Jeffree Star yelling racist slurs and offensive tweets of Laura Lee resurfacing years down the line, there have been countless events throughout the beauty community that should have wholly blown these peoples careers. Instead, they still run YouTube channels with millions of subscribers and have companies that rake in millions of dollars per year. If anyone catches you in any drama, the formula is simple: sit down in front of your couch with no makeup on, fake cry for a bit, and talk about how you’re so sorry that you let everyone down.

This constant drama and cattiness has set a dangerous precedent for young people. James Charles and Tati Westbrook could have sorted their drama behind closed doors, but instead chose to air it out on a global platform and harmed more than it helped anything. Nothing can be solved privately with these people – every little thing has to be posted online and exposed for all the world to see. These huge internet celebrities need to be held accountable for their actions, including how they deal with their issues with other influencers – because if not, it just shows that rich people can get away with basically everything.

A lot of big influencers are great at putting on a show, presenting a friendly, smiley face for the cameras and raking in the attention and brand deals. A lot of them launch their own brands or have collabs with various high-end brands. But if they are building this on scandals and drama and pettiness, I really don’t think they deserve it. Morals seem to fly out the window in the beauty community, especially.

That isn’t to say that I don’t think that people can’t change. When Jeffree Star sat down and apologised for his past, there was genuine maturity there. The problem arises when it is a constant issue. Every other week it seems that social media is exposing another person for a problematic past. People need better role models than this. Surely there are some influencers out there who aren’t so problematic? It certainly doesn’t seem like it.

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