It’s the dodgy lash that broke the internet.
When the TikToker Mikayla Nogueira’s apparently false eyelash came unstuck in a video last week, it took much of the influencer’s reputation with it.
And while it might seem like a simple wardrobe mishap to some people, for the chronically online – which is to say lots of us – the incident represented a cultural shift away from social-media-led spending, and prompted many of us to do some soul searching by asking an age-old question: did I really need to buy all that shite?
You see, the video wasn’t a simple GRWM, or a get ready with me, where you watch somebody preparing for, say, a big night out (which Vogue describes as strangely relaxing). It was a tryout of a new L’Oréal mascara.
Nogueira had rocketed to 14.4 million fans, more than a billion likes, and a set of brand deals in less than three years as a TikTok beauty-content creator.
Her early popularity was down to her honest reviews of products that were going viral on the social-media app. Her timing was perfect: she started her demonstrations right as the pandemic hit, which meant she was reaching a population stuck at home, unable to go into stores and test products themselves.
She was a welcome respite from overproduced influencers on Instagram and YouTube. Her unapologetic Boston accent and uncool enthusiasm won over TikTok users who reward authenticity over performance. The platform and its Gen Z-heavy user base have no time for pretenders.
In the 44-second clip she claims the L’Oreal mascara “literally changed my life ... This looks like false lashes ... How?”
The answer, according to internet sleuths, was because she did indeed use false lashes. Thousands of videos slowing the footage down show a dramatic difference between the cutaways of her applying the product and the result. Stills reveal what seems to be the fluttering edge of a falsie on top of her natural lashes, coated with the clumpy mascara Nogueira was being paid to promote as an “ad partner”.
Her core asset, which was not her beauty but her sincerity, is now compromised. Trust is everything with beauty influencers. In a post-Covid world where tester products have not returned to every beauty store’s shelves, we look to them before we order online.
It’s a tricky situation to be in when your audience expects you to provide content for free but punishes you for taking cash from brands to make a living out of it
That has helped make TikTok a powerful force for shifting face goop. Videos of Maybelline’s Sky High mascara outperforming more expensive rivals caused it to sell out four times in US stores in its first two weeks. There was a naive belief that this time things were going to be different, that it wouldn’t get like YouTube and Instagram, where beauty gurus told us we needed 50 brushes to do our eyeshadow.
But now money has entered the chat, causing some influencers to become the things we hated: professional, sponsored and dependent on positive reviews. It’s a tricky situation to be in when your audience expects you to provide content for free but punishes you for taking cash from brands to make a living out of it. People are fed up being sold things they don’t need for the sake of a quick pay day, however.
We are at our most vulnerable when we’re scrolling. The glimpses into other people’s homes, lives and wardrobe tell us that we’re ugly, we’re fat, we’re unorganised, that our workout routines aren’t rigorous enough, we haven’t travelled and we don’t make cute lunches for our children.
As we see everyone else’s highly edited versions of their best selves we think we can be that too. We just need these acrylic fridge organisers to hold fruit, a large Stanley cup to stay hydrated, bento lunch boxes to make our kids eat their food, a cute workout set to encourage us to go to the gym…
My list of things I regret purchasing includes a designer handbag that doesn’t fit my headphones, any cropped top I have bought ever, a British passport and a portable clothes steamer that is excellent at leaving my clothes wet and still wrinkly
A whole genre of content is dedicated to gadgets from Amazon. Full-time creators produce daily videos titled “Kitchen must haves from Amazon” or “The 20 essential travel buys from Amazon to make flying easy with kids”. Their promises are seductive: we want to believe we can really get a toddler to sleep on a long-haul flight with a blow-up pillow we can order with a click of a button. These influencers, God bless them, even have an Amazon storefront where all you need to do is click to purchase. Of course they do: they get a cut from the sales. Maybe that bag that promises to fit under an airline seat didn’t go viral just because it was the “best bag ever”. Maybe people received commission for spruiking it to followers.
The cost-of-living crisis and the backlash to influencer marketing have dovetailed neatly into the rise of “deinfluencing”, simple videos where creators show you all the crap they regret buying. “You don’t need this,” they say. “Save your money.” Fancy moisturisers, the Dyson Airwrap and even air fryers have featured on people’s not-worth-it lists.
My personal list of things I regret purchasing includes a designer handbag that doesn’t fit my headphones, any cropped top I have bought ever, a British passport (just before Brexit) and a portable clothes steamer that is excellent at leaving my clothes wet and still wrinkly. What are yours?