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Milani Cosmetics faces backlash after wading into Depp v Heard trial

Many people believe the make-up brand should not be interfering in a case involving domestic violence, and have criticised the ‘meme-ification’ of the trial

Make-up brand Milani Cosmetics has been criticised for weighing in on Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard after one of its products was used as evidence in the defamation trial. 

Depp is suing his ex-wife Heard for libel, claiming her accusations of physical and sexual abuse against him are false. Heard is countersuing. During opening statements of the trial, which began April 11, Heard’s lawyer Elaine Bredehoft showed the court Milani Cosmetics’ All In One Correcting Kit, which she said Heard carried throughout the relationship to cover her bruises. 

“This was what she used,” said Bredehoft. “She became very adept at it. You’re going to hear the testimony from Amber about how she had to mix the different colours for the different days of the bruises as they developed in the different colouring and how she would use these to touch those up to be able to cover those.”

While neither the name of the brand or the specific product appears to have been mentioned, the distinctive packaging led the concealer to be identified as Milani Cosmetics. Following this, the make-up brand then released a 15-second video on its official TikTok account claiming that the Correcting Kit Bredehoft showed to the court only launched in 2017, after the couple were divorced.

Set to the song “International Super Spy” by the Backyardigans, the TikTok video is captioned “You asked us… let the record show that our Correcting Kit launched in 2017!” and shows various clips of hands pointing at catalogues and slide decks. The brand also wrote “We are here to provide the facts of the case,” in the comments. 

The video has since caused backlash online, with many people calling out Milani for getting involved in a domestic violence case. “Why would a big name brand do this for a domestic violence case… and we’re all gonna act like this is normal,” said one tweet which has over 50,000 likes. “Brands have absolutely zero boundaries anymore insane thing to post,” another Twitter user wrote.

Several posts criticised the “meme-ification” of a domestic violence case, while another wrote: “It’s actually extremely scary to see corporations interfering in public opinion of court case like this… We should be very very concerned.” Many others criticised the brand for using the trial as an attempt to gain internet clout and for the tone of the video which used upbeat music and skit-like TikTok tropes.

A friend of Heard, meanwhile, defended the lawyers, the Metro reports, saying: “Ms Heard’s lawyer was using an example of the kind of make-up that she used, but it’s a sad day when a make-up company uses that as an opportunity to make light of what victims of domestic violence have to do to hide the results of the abuse they endure.”

Milani Cosmetics’ video is just one example of the way the trial, which is being live-streamed from the courtroom, is being consumed on social media as entertainment.  Alongside people live-tweeting and making TikToks and fancams about the case, there has also been merchandise produced including t-shirts, stickers, mugs, and even throw blankets with quotes from Depp’s testimony and anti-Heard statements written on them.

“I don’t think people are looking for ethics here. They’re not looking for morality... essentially, they’re consuming the celebrity and it has to do with instant gratification,” Evie Psarras, a feminist media scholar based in Chicago told CBC.