2017 has been a year of brands standing alongside people during political backlash and human rights marches. The question is: how do brands tastefully align themselves with these campaigns? We’ve seen Pepsi get it horribly wrong, while Airbnb nailed it.
Brand activism should be a natural evolution from corporate social responsibility to a more active and politically relevant social purpose. BAMM spoke to Lucy Edwards, a vlogger, to uncover how beauty is more than skin deep, and why brands should care.
Lucy was diagnosed with a rare condition called incontinentia pigmenti, which caused her to lose the sight in her right eye at 11 and in her left when she was 17. Now completely blind, Lucy has taken the vlogging scene by storm, sharing her experiences as a blind woman. One particular video went viral: her makeup tutorial, Blind Girl Does Her Own MakeUp.
We met Lucy at her home in Birmingham. Stacks of boxes filled the room, as she was moving to London the next week to start her new job at the BBC. The only things left out were her camera and tripod which she uses to make her videos, and her boxes of makeup. Her guide dog Olga sat at her feet as we set up for the interview. “I took a cabbie to court because he wouldn’t let Olga in with me. I just found out that I won the case”.
“Living with a disability in the UK, I’m extremely passionate about politics,” says Lucy, stroking Olga’s head as Olga attempts to lick every inch of her hand. “It’s important to stick up for the rights of blind people.”
Lucy’s point of view is echoed by Dr George Taleporos, a disability rights advocate who recently argued that ‘people don’t like hearing about disability rights…they’re not as sexy as gay rights or climate change’. And it’s fair to say that in the cosmetics world, few companies are getting behind this movement. Gone are the days of how hair or beauty products make you look; people are now far more conscious about ingredients and how they feel on your body.
“I might have lost my sight, but I have not lost my ability to experience beauty in the world.”
Earlier this year, Dove released a campaign which featured Molly Burke, a blind ‘beauty obsessive’, to try out their new shower foam. The campaign focused on how, in a world without sight, she used her sense of touch to navigate the world. The commercial was hugely successful; over the years Dove has made a name for itself for being at the forefront of political and humanitarian issues. Lush is another example of one of the few cosmetics brands that are notable for getting behind issues such as human rights, animal welfare and environmental conservation, but there are many more who remain silent on these kinds of issues.
Lucy picks up her boxes of makeup and brings them over to the sofa. It’s an eclectic mix of products and brands. “When I started, my sister would be my mirror. I definitely overdid it a few times!” Her fingers navigate through the drawers and she begins to apply foundation with complete precision.
“When I was 16 I used to experiment a lot with makeup; I wouldn’t think about the formula. Now I’m much more pedantic about what I am buying – are the ingredients good, how will this feel on my face?”
Lucy has developed her own technique when applying makeup to certain parts of her face. For example, she uses her finger as a guide when using her eyebrow pencil to ensure the right expression. “There’s a massive movement to get disabled people in the beauty industry, but I think there needs to be a push to make products more accessible.”
Lucy applies the final touches, “I do consider myself an activist. YouTube is both my platform and community to speak to people”.