While sitting on the L-train heading to Brooklyn, I found myself completely surrounded by images of the famous Youtubers Michelle Phan and Bethany Mota who are a part of Youtube’s latest commercial campaign to promote successful creators. With over 5 million subscribers each, these “beauty gurus” are making quite a name for themselves, but that doesn’t come without the harsh criticism from many viewers in a dastardly online forum.
The term “beauty guru” applies to anyone who posts videos of themselves on Youtube with some sort of knowledge about makeup, hair, fashion, life style and One Direction. These people, mostly girls, are insanely talented -- posting instructional videos ranging from what they carry in your purse to, you know, how to transform yourself into looking exactly like rapper Drake with only makeup.
With millions of subscribers comes highly profitable ad-revenue, then sponsorships and, of course, widespread Internet notoriety. But with any dollop of success comes haters or “trolls” who spew hate anywhere they can. It most likely stems from a place of insecurity and boredom, rather than any real fault on part of the posters. Since these trolls require a platform, the website, gurugossiper.com has crawled out of the recesses of the Internet to reign terror on one of its happier niches: the makeup and beauty community.
Gurugossiper.com is an Internet burn-book that brings out the mean middle schooler in many of its users, who appear to be predominantly female. The majority of members use this website as a platform to not only spread rumors and shit-talk famous Youtubers, but also humiliate them with unattractive screen captures and the oh-so-classy “before and after” pictures while speculating about nose-jobs or weight gains.
The activity on the positive threads is incomparable to the wide success of the negative threads. While a user could argue that no harm has been done, considering that the people at the center of the discussions are “Internet famous,” I’m concerned about the human element of all this.
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Cyber-bullying has become an omnipresence in the lives of many millennials. Why say something to someone’s face and deal with the consequences when you can just write, “their lips look like two shriveled rubberbands,” smile, close your computer and move on like nothing has happened, without any empathy?
As one would imagine, many Youtubers in the beauty community dislike the website. Zachary, known by the username BarbieGutz, explains that while there is criticism, the beauty community as a whole is a positive place.
“I honestly think this website is truly heartbreaking because we’re supposed to be spreading positivity but instead we are spreading negativity,” he said.
One could argue that gossiping is good for the human condition, and that it helps people vent so we all won't just bottle things up and eventually explode. But that argument becomes null and void when gossip turns cruel, as with the beauty gurus who sometimes have hundreds of pages of comments that pick apart their personality, physical features and supposed flaws.
Society has become so detached, floating aimlessly in cyberspace, that we can’t even seem to realize that we are discussing actual people. When you write in a forum about Zooey Deschanel saying that she’s “overrated” you just assume she isn’t reading it, because you assume Zooey Deschanel has better things to do. But she is a human, (this is why I love Jimmy Kimmels series “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets”) and it is possible she could see it and be offended just like any “normal” person.
While we assume celebrities have tough skin and know better than to read hate-websites, I have a particular problem with gurugossiper.com because the people discussed aren’t always the Michelle Phan’s of Youtube with millions of subscribers. This website has categories for all types of Youtubers, ranging from pages with over 50,000 subscribers to under 1,000. The probability of these young gurus seeing this website with hundreds of pages dedicated to strangers' critiques seems much higher than that of a celeb, and thus have a greater capacity to seriously damage these young artists' self-esteem.
Just as feminist scholar Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says in Beyonce’s song “Flawless," “we raise girls to see each other as competitors, not for jobs or accomplishments,which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men.” The site members write about these gurus because we are taught that, in order to feel better about ourselves, we need to constantly compare one another, and if we feel threatened, to attack our "opponent."
This idea is only magnified by the beauty and fashion industry that informs us that we aren't good enough unless we buy this mascara or wear that crop top. Obviously, women and girls are growing increasingly frustrated with these unrealistic expectations, but instead of pointing their fingers at the actual source of the problem (patriarchy and the patriarchal fueled fashion industry) we point our fingers at people who, in our eyes, seem to be “perfect women.” We, like many of the users on this site, often forget that these women wake up with morning-breath just like the rest of us, that they sometimes trip in public, and have their own problems to deal with on a daily basis. The small segment of their lives that we see is a well-edited version with paid sponsorships and great lighting.
Underneath all the makeup, they are humans too. The hate-spewers at gurugossiper.com only further perpetuate girl-on-girl hate culture. They create a community that feeds off the insecurity we feel about our appearance. It is a culture that is sponsored by the fashion and beauty industry, and it has strong, deep-rooted patriarchal ideals. We most come together and embrace one another as the beautiful, talented, artistic and enterprising women we are and support those who might need a little extra help applying a perfect cat eye.
Photo Credit: Matthew Tan / BarbieGutz / Jimmy Kimmel Live / Random House /