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The new year brings us another beauty campaign to analyze, one that, thank goodness, does not include Gigi Hadid or Kendall Jenner. Manny Gutierrez, who goes by the handle MannyMUA on Instagram and YouTube (where he has about three million and two million followers, respectively) will appear in Maybelline’s new mascara ads.
Obviously this is important because beloved, nationally known brands like Maybelline are showing America — which is starting to look a little more close-minded in 2017, let’s be honest — that it’s cool for men to wear makeup. It’s part of a new “trend”: CoverGirl named teen James Charles as an ambassador in 2016 (landing him on Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list), Ipsy hired Gabriel Zamora as a stylist, and Jeffree Star (and his many controversies) was everywhere. MAC just started working formally with Thomas Halbert, one of my absolute favorite Instagrammers of any gender, to help promote its new Shadescents collection of fragrances.
But Gutierrez’s new campaign is also a big sign of where beauty advertising in general is headed: a much more relatable place.
It’s still a big deal for a large cosmetic brand to use any Instagram influencers at all. Smaller and mid-range brands, like Benefit and Too Faced, have had relationships with these influencers for years, but bigger brands ignored them. But that’s all changing as brands realize that social media stars are eclipsing traditional celebrities.
One big reason is diversity. Women, particularly younger ones who watch YouTube videos and follow Instagrammers obsessively, want to buy things from people who look like them. CoverGirl hired Nura Afia, a beauty blogger who wears a hijab, to star in a campaign at the end of the year, but it was overshadowed a bit by James Charles’ announcement.
But so many women (and yes, boys) have told me over and over again at beauty shows like Generation Beauty and Beautycon that they love these beauty stars because they can relate to them. While YouTubers are sometimes mocked for not being “chic,” the truth is that a huge chunk of the population that buys Maybelline looks up to them and trusts their recommendations as “real people.”
Here’s to the beauty industry pushing more boundaries to sell you stuff this year!