First of all, some are disappointed that Chrissy is teaming up not only with a Jenner, but with Chef Jenner and the mastermind of Kardashian. This shouldn’t be surprising, as they’ve been friends for years (the Karjenners even threw a baby shower for her) and have lots of close friends in common, like hairstylist Jen Atkin. Also despite, or because of the criticism the Kardajenners receive, their products are licensed to print money. SKIMS, Good American, and Kylie’s lip line are all pretty sturdy. They have a few hiccups in fashion, but overall they have tremendous marketing power.
Chrissy has also diversified thanks to her broad reach on social media and the success of her Cravings line. The review I’ve seen for this new line, Safely, centers around a few things: the ‘eco’ aspect of it and the idea that, in a pandemic, Chrissy Teigen and Kris Jenner are trying to win money with “clean” cleaning, a term loaded.
First, the veracity of the “herbal” claim. Greenwashing (a deceptive marketing strategy aimed at positioning products as environmentally friendly) is widespread and very difficult to spot as there are few rules on how words like ‘clean’, ‘herbal’, “Herbal” and “ecological” are used. Critics of this type of marketing say that slapping a word on a box doesn’t really tell the consumer the process behind the product, which is where much of the environmental damage can come from.
Yet the demand for these products has increased and celebrities have been everywhere. Jessica Alba was a pioneer in this field and started The Honest Company in 2012 and since then has had her fair share of success (a failed acquisition attempt, inflated valuation, product safety concerns, discount in question of ingredients and multiple competing brands). I recently browsed the site and was impressed with the detailed information they now provide, including where the materials are grown and how they are handled from start to finish. Then, of course, there’s Goop, the dean of “clean beauty”. But what does that mean?
Some Safely users pointed to an Instagram account called The Eco Well, which I had not heard of. This is a consultative group that focuses on demystifying greenwashing in cosmetics, agriculture and food using scientific evidence and studies. As you can imagine, these are very passionate and controversial topics (eg they are not EWG fans). One thing I read on the site that made a lot of sense to me is that it’s not the product that’s poisonous, but the dosage. So many things that we are told to make a product “dirty” are completely safe and harmless, and so many “clean” formulations use ingredients that could be toxic.
The Safely team does not seem prepared for an informed customer and has not answered questions. Many comments on her Instagram ask questions about the packaging (is it plastic?) And the process behind these products: what makes Safely Clean? What does vegetal mean? What is the concentration of essential oils? How effective is it at killing germs, which is sort of a priority during a pandemic? Many also point out that it is single-use packaging. There are so many green items in big box stores and due to its deal with Target, I’m assuming Safely will go this route alongside subscriptions. (Note: there are tons of small lines that do a good job at this, so try to sound local first – in Vancouver I use Sapadilla and love it. Some stores even have rechargeable options for that the bottles can be reused.)
Then there’s the disconnect from the millionaires (and maybe a billionaire?) Who sell cleaning products. Say whatever you want about Gwyneth Paltrow, but she lets go of her own reservation. I have no doubt that his bubble of illusion is well stocked with Goop products. And she goes straight to bragging about clean beauty one day and fulfills the next without a hint of shame. But if we’re talking about cleaning… well… when was the last time Kris Jenner cleaned a toilet? Or Chrissy Teigen cleaned the toothpaste from the sink? They are selling us a product that they might use at home, but which is not made for their use. And people don’t buy that aspect.
This criticism also elicited a backlash from their fans, mostly centered around ‘women supporting women’. I thought about it a bit as Kendall Jenner had just gone through a mini scandal with her tequila line, which some called cultural appropriation. George Clooney has a tequila line, as does The Rock. The same goes for Nick Jonas. I don’t think I saw any of them being accused of cultural appropriation. But is this sexism or just a natural consequence of being part of a family that has torn away black culture and has tried many times to appropriate it? Have the Karjenners won the skepticism?
Chrissy responded to comments on Twitter calling people “so mean” for pointing out that, uh, promoting the natural when there is unnatural beauty in the face, body and hair is hypocritical.
I really don’t wake up every day trying to drive you crazy, but I do somehow manage. and you say i have no talent. this is something i guess
– chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) 23 mars 2021
you are really mean. I will never get over it. https://t.co/LGSHzufCMf
– chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) 24 mars 2021
Is it right? Honestly, I don’t know because, as we all rethink the way women are talked about in the media, we need to examine our biases and internalized sexism and how dated these ‘stay in your lane’ conversations are, in particular. especially those who punish women for living by a standard of beauty perpetuated by society.
On the other hand, there is an exploitative aspect to this type of marketing because women do the vast majority of household purchases and these brands rely heavily on the feminism of corporate girls, which is related to wellness reading book that green equates to clean and clean equates to well / happy / healthy / rich. Some of these brands want to market exclusively to women a product that is typically bought by women, but then want to be safe from criticism from women because it is run by women. Why is it okay for us to be marketed, but not okay for us to criticize aspects of the product or marketing?
These questions didn’t start with Kris Jenner and Chrissy Teigen and even with a slightly bumpy start I suspect this stuff will sell like hot cakes. I don’t know if it’s a win for the environment, but the only thing that keeps winning is Kris Jenner’s bank account.