Vine star turned influencer Bretman Rock said he no longer identifies as a beauty influencer after scandals and exposés that rocked followers over the years.
In an interview with Them for his newly released memoir, Rock reflected on his most influential videos. The 24-year-old, who first came to fame via comedy sketches and makeup tutorials on Vine, Instagram, and YouTube, looked back on moments including his first viral video in 2014, an early “soft pink glam” makeup tutorial, and his first palette collaboration with Morphe.
“It just became an ick to me,” he said. “It’s no longer a beauty industry, beauty community. And I use the word ‘community’ very loosely, like my hole.”
One video Rock commented on was from 2021, from a livestream in which he announced he was leaving the world of beauty influencing. In it, Rock says he had largely stopped wearing makeup and filming makeup content, and no longer wanted to be tied with the beauty community or identified as a “beauty guru.”
“The girls were not happy with this video,” Rock said in the new interview. “Ultimately, I said what I said, and I meant what I said. White people ruined the beauty community, and I’mma go.”
Rock added that when he started off as a makeup creator, his motivation for continuing was his love for the other creators, who inspired him to share interesting makeup tips, products, and skills, but the scandals from predominantly white creators made the genre “ugly.”
Since Rock’s first viral video, several prominent makeup influencers have been embroiled in scandal and accused of assault, exploitation, and false advertising. The makeup YouTuber “Dramaggedon” from 2018 to 2019 started after fans resurfaced old racist tweets from Jeffree Star, Laura Lee, and Gabriel Zamora, resulting in several tearful apology videos (and then, after more backlash, apology videos for their apology videos). Makeup influencer James Charles faced a string of controversies about such things as exchanging sexual messages with minors, releasing a palette that gave some people hives and stained their skin, and a public feud with beauty guru Tati Westbrook that culminated in several back-and-forth videos in 2020. Several people also came forward to Insider in 2020, revealing that Jeffree Star had sexually and physically assaulted them, and showed messages in which the makeup guru offered $10,000 to two of the victims for their silence.
The frequent scandals between makeup and beauty YouTubers sparked an entire genre of memes around apology videos, with certain elements in videos (clean background; a solitary, centered figure; title that alludes vaguely to the conflict) immediately sparking comparisons to “beauty community drama.” As more celebrities and influencers began addressing controversies on Twitter via statements written on their Notes app, “notes app apology” became a common meme phrase for people jokingly demanding more insincere statements.
Rock said the frequency of scandals and infighting was the reason he felt he had to leave.
“How are y’all... do not even know how to apologize?” he said. “It’s as simple as addressing what you did, saying sorry, and never doing it again. But you bitches are gon’ cry, make up excuses, not say sorry, and still do the shit you say. The beauty industry became the sorry industry.”
In the last few years, the influencer economy has expanded beyond a handful of “vlog squads” and elite groups of influencers, as short-form content types like TikTok and Instagram Reels have allowed new creators to break into the makeup content creator scene. Rock said that growing up online and going viral at the moment he did allowed him to uplift Hawaiian communities and Asian Americans with his various television and social media projects.