We interview Jane Cunningham, aka British Beauty Blogger, about MLMs, makeup, & her career as a beauty writer.

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Thank you very much for agreeing to join us for a Q&A – we know how busy you are! Could you start by telling us a little bit about your professional background as a beauty writer and why you started your blog?

Thanks for inviting me! I was a beauty writer for print for many years working on titles such as The Telegraph, The Independent, The Daily Express and Metro. I started following blogs – Temptalia and Blogdorf Goodman in particular – and was absolutely fascinated by them. I saw a feature pop up in the New York Times about how blogging was the new ‘thing’ and thought, I can do that! So, I did. I really had no idea quite how it would go or whether it would be a ‘thing’ in the UK too, so it took many years before I had the courage to ditch print altogether. It did offer me an environment that was unedited so I could say what I really think about an industry that on the one hand adores women and yet on the other, is prepared to rinse them for every penny without even a backward glance! Don’t start me!

You are known for your honesty & directness when reviewing brands and products. What prompted your powerful video directed at MLMs – it seemed like the pressure had been building for a while?

As a blogger, I get contacted a lot by MLMs – mainly Younique, I must admit, and that has died off now but at one point it was every day, and I think my frustration comes from knowing that not one single one of the people who contacted me had a clue that everyone else was contacting me. I think there must have been some kind of guideline from the brand on contacting bloggers and how to do so, resulting in a flooded in-box. I’m not frustrated by it (I always speak passionately about beauty!) but I’m sad for the people who have such hopes for it, when statistics clearly show that ‘getting rich’ happens to very, very few. 

How did your followers react to your post? We know that it was very widely viewed and shared, so I’m assuming that what you said resonated with a lot of people!

 

I feel really lucky with my readers – because I’m prepared to be direct, they often are too. I felt they shared my frustration with a model that doesn’t work for many women (and men).

You mentioned in your video that you were bombarded by requests from MLM representatives – much like we all are on social media – have you had any response from the MLM companies/representatives since the video?

Nope! But then, I wouldn’t expect to – people are good at ignoring what they don’t want to see or hear. Although saying that, my FB Live channel is small because it’s fairly new (I swapped from Periscope to FB) and it does somehow seem that the brands I don’t particularly want to see it always end up seeing it! I don’t know how that happens! 

You were very clear about advising people against joining MLMs. We get angry when MLMs state that they ‘empower’ women as we feel that they exploit them. Does your exposure to them back that up?

Really, that whole empowerment thing is silly. If anything, it’s alienating. Nobody wants to hang out with you if they think you’re going to try and sell them something. I had an awful experience with an MLM brand (before I had my blog) and I invited some friends (as a favour to another friend) to a ‘beauty party’ but had said to the person doing the party, please DO NOT go through the whole thing for hours – these are women who can choose their own beauty products with very little persuasion, so no hard sell.

An HOUR AND A HALF later we were all still sitting there in excruciating silence listening to someone who literally couldn’t deviate from the required speech. It was awful. My friends were cross with me for nearly boring them to death for over an hour, felt they had to buy something just to get away, and I was cross with the friend who I did the favour to who in turn was furious with the poor woman who presented the brand. Nobody came out of that experience happy. And that’s what happens.

Out of desperation, people who work for MLMs start off so optimistic and think everyone will share their passion, and apply pressure to friends and family, who comply out of kindness and then it just ends up a mess. The person working for the MLM brand ends up at the hard end of a lot of bad feeling (and being blocked on Facebook!) and that’s not good for self-esteem and certainly not empowering! Beauty can be truly for the good – it can be empowering, it can be so helpful and it can be an absolute joy but MLMs somehow mood-hoover all the good things to leave a joyless and awkward experience.

I’ve seen a lot of bad feeling on line towards women in the lower chains of MLMs. On the one hand, it’s so unfair – they’re genuinely trying to make a little money to support themselves or their families and yet on the other, they’re targeting other women who need their money to support themselves or their families. It’s basically a shifting of money in an environment where that money is hard earned and precious in the first place. I find it hard to condemn anyone who falls for the stories of ‘the dream’, I see how and why it happens but also I see why people get angry when they’re ‘targeted’. 

Finally, we have to ask you for your thoughts on the news that Coty Inc. has purchased a stake in Younique. What do you think this will mean for both companies?

Brands do strange things. Behind the scenes, corporate beauty world is shark infested. It could be that they lose sales from one or several of their key brands to Younique, so buying it to kill it stone dead longer term makes sense if that’s the case, or they could be looking to bring other brands into the model. Mascara is a weird thing – L’Oreal has the patents to most decent mascaras (which is why it’s hard to find really good mascara outside of that stable) so it might even be a patent issue. You just never know. But I do know that it looks like a statement of MLM approval which isn’t the best thing, in my view, for consumers. Just go to Boots! You don’t need to rock up to anyone’s ‘party’ to be sold an overpriced mascara, or even to wait five days for delivery when you can go to the shops or even on line and have it immediately. *bangs head on desk* !! 

We’re big fans of your MUR Fortune Favours The Brave palette – any more collaborations coming our way?

Thank you! No, I don’t have any further plans for makeup collaborations, but I have a few beauty boxes that I’m finalising now for this year. I don’t plan too far ahead on Britishbeautyblogger – beauty world moves very quickly, as do trends, so I’m a commitment-phobe and hesitant to lock down with anyone long term. 

Thank you so very much for your time and your expert input.

You can find Jane’s blog here

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