It’s that time of year, y’all, where rainbows start showing up everywhere and suddenly everyone remembers that the queers exist, long enough to try and sell them some shit.
This year, Pride has a slightly different tone because of all the protests around police brutality that are, frankly, long overdue. There are so many young queers today who don’t even know what Stonewall is, let alone the way that it shaped the trajectory of gay rights, queer politics, all leading up to their ability to put on booty shorts and dance on a box…as long as the boxes are all 6 feet away from each other because, don’t forget, there is still a goddamn pandemic going on. They also don’t know how instrumental black and brown trans people were to that protest. That’s the privilege of being a young queer: even though we have a long way left to go, they don’t have the experience of living in a world that aggressively erases them.
First, the lecture-y part:
I talked a little bit about this last year when I reviewed the Morphe Pride palette as well as a few other products, and I still stand behind that post: I remember the times where almost no companies would sponsor a Pride event or put a rainbow on anything. You had to work to track down Pride merchandise, and if you didn’t live in a big city (or have the means to travel there) you were shit out of luck. I think representation matters, and sometimes slapping a rainbow on something is a symbolic gesture that can have real meaning to someone who feels invisible.
“But it’s a cash grab!”
Let’s talk about the bare bones truth of economics in a capitalist system: technically EVERYTHING is a cash grab.
Companies that sell things exist to do that: sell things. If they can find a need – or more often, a desire – for something in a community, they can supply the product for that need/want. It’s all the rage now for woke YouTubers to constantly remind their viewers that “corporations aren’t people” when it comes to things like social media presence and PR packages and collabs. For what it’s worth, I think they’re right…for the most part. Corporations are made up of individual people, but the corporation itself is a business, and a business is not a person. But then I find it strange (and frankly, logically inconsistent) that once we get to the subject of Pride merch (or for some, any merchandise that is targeted to any specific community) suddenly people are talking about corporations like some mustache-twirling villain in a melodrama, scheming their dastardly schemes in order to bamboozle you out of your money!
Charitable consumerism is a complicated thing, and I did lay out a lot of my thoughts in last year’s post. This year, as I’m preparing to review the new Morphe Pride collection, I want to add something in the spirit of #PullUpOrShutUp. One of the complaints about Pride collections is that brands that don’t feature or promote queer people the rest of the year suddenly get the taste for that sweet, sweet queer money. Although family dynamics for queer people are always changing just like they are for anyone else, marketers figured out that a significant number of queer couples were the coveted demographic of DINKs: Double Income, No Kids. That made them a prime targeted for slickly marketed merch capitalizing on their identities, and there are a lot of companies that do just that.
But as complicated and “problematic” as Morphe is as a brand (though I think they get flack for a lot of things that are actually consumers not taking accountability for their own choices – but that’s a subject for it’s own post!), I don’t think they can be accused of being guilty of that. The four biggest influencers that they work with regularly, all year long, are Jeffree Star, Jaclyn Hill, James Charles, and Manny MUA. Now, that’s a group that inspires all kinds of feelings among all different kinds of people (and for a lot of good reasons), but you have to at least acknowledge that 3 of their 4 most prominent influencers are openly queer people, one of them a queer POC. It’s not diverse enough, not by a long shot especially in terms of racial and ethnic representation, but it’s also not fair to say that they don’t include representations of queer people all year long. Add a donation to GLSEN, a queer charitable organization that has a pretty good reputation in terms of diversity and inclusion, and I feel comfortable getting my rainbow fix from their annual Pride collection.
And I also made a donation to the Trevor Project at the same time, so can I just have some fun and play with some goddamn makeup now?
I know, I know. All of the flavors available out there, and I had to choose salty.
This year’s collection includes the 10G GLSEN Up palette, A Better Whirled brush set, Speak Up gloss, and Set To Inspire setting spray (which I think is just their original setting spray with a limited edition scent, like the peach mist from the Saweetie collection).
The 10G GLSEN Up palette is a bright palette that I wasn’t really sure about at first, primarily because half the palette – HALF! – is pressed glitters, and I am generally not a fan. But I loved the bright colored “topper” shades and I do love glitter in a more general sense, so I decided to give it a shot.
For the topper shades, I swatched them over the ABH eye primer. For these, I only did a finger swatch to try and get the best payoff (same with the glitters, though I did those without the primer). The top photo is under my studio lights with no flash, and the bottom photo is the same lighting with a flash.
L to R: Keep It Kind, Blaze A Trail, Shine Hope, Inspire Change, Accept Everyone
Not gonna lie, I was a little disappointed with this row compared to the swatches that I saw online. I didn’t get nearly the same brightness or vibrancy that I saw online, eccept maybe from the purple shade Accept Everyone. They are pretty, and I definitely want to start playing with them in some colorful looks, but I wanted more impact.
L to R: Love Yourself, Be A Visionary, Live Your Life, Dream Big, R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Color me shocked, but I actually liked the glitters here better than the top row! These are really pretty, they are bright, and they have some really interesting combinations of colors. RESPECT (sorry, I don’t have the patience to type it out with the dashes every time!) is probably my favorite, a mixture of all different colors of glitter. The green one, Live Your Life is also fantastic.
It’s a cute little palette. Is it necessary? Not even a little. But have I spent more on worse? Absolutely. I don’t mind having it in my collection and I’m sure I’ll find a way to put it to use.
The gloss in Speak Up is a basic shimmery glitter gloss. If you liked the new Heaven’s Gate gloss from Jeffree Star’s Cremated line and you weren’t able to get it (or don’t buy from JSC), this is a similar sort of situation, though it’s not nearly as shimmery. The swatch photos were terrible but I did make this really terrible short video trying to show off the sparkle.
It’s a gloss. It’s nothing revolutionary, but if you like the Morphe gloss formula 0 and I do – this is just as good as any of the others. Plus, glitter.
The Better Whirled brush collection is a 6 piece set that features all eye brushes, which is what I love. I have some staple face brushes that I go back to over and over again, but when it comes to Morphe, I appreciate their eye brushes most of all. They are inexpensive and I find them to be just fine. Are they going to be the same quality as individual brushes that cost 50 dollars each? Nope. Brushes shed, no matter what the price, but I’ve not run into any problems with any of my brushes, and I actually like their eye brushes more than any of my other inexpensive brands. Real Techniques rules my face, but for my eyes I love a Morphe brush all day long. I think the rainbow ferrule is pretty, sophisticated and simple, and the iridescent pouch is unnecessary (I almost never use these for brush storage) but pretty. I actually bought two of these sets since they didn’t have any face brushes in the collection.
The one dud for me in this collection is the setting spray. I love, love, love, love the peach scent of the Saweetie collection spray, and I wish they would do that in a full size. They described this as having a limited edition “sweet” scent, but didn’t really elaborate. And there’s a good reason: it kinda smells like pop star perfume. Remember back in the day, early 2000s, when every pop diva decided she had to have her own perfume, and they all just smelled like cotton candy vomit? Tone that down by about half, and that’s what this smells like. Sweet, and very perfume-y. It’s not great. I love the Morphe setting spray, and I’m sure I’ll use this up because I am a monster who goes through setting spray like a maniac, but I would never buy this again. Just get me a full size of the peach, Morphe!
So it’s another year, another Pride, and the “soothe shopping” that’s been getting me through quarantine included more rainbow products. Do I regret them? Except for the setting spray, no. Do I think I’ve contributed to the downfall of queer culture? Nope. In a way, I’m glad that younger queers don’t know the invisibility that I knew when I was first coming out, in the same way that with age I grew to respect my own queer elders for how much worse I knew their struggle was than my own. That’s the nature of progress: the old guard (which I have somehow become a part of – damn you, Time!) grumbles about the naivety of youth while the young people stumble around thinking that they invented being oppressed. The circle of life.
If anything, Pride is supposed to be about Freedom. Not just Equality, but Freedom. My wish for me and my queer and trans family, especially in the beauty space, is that we embrace the idea of Freedom and lighten up on how we police each other’s behavior. People can’t seem to grasp that you can be an aware consumer, do your own research and look into the brands you’re spending your money on, and come to a different decision than they do. And then they apply this all or nothing thinking: if you bought X item from Y brand, then that somehow defines you, and nothing else in terms of who you are, how you conduct yourself, or the work you do matters.
That’s not the kind of world I’ve fought for in my own activism, and it’s certainly not the kind of world that would inspire people to pick up a brick and riot.
And you’re welcome to disagree with me. That’s what freedom is all about.