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DB Bullying

It’s time to finally address the bullying issue in the beauty industry


TextAlice GibbsIllustrationCallum Abbott

Instagram whistleblower @esteelaundry just launched an anti-bullying petition to raise awareness about the issue and spur companies to make change

Bullying can make work life miserable. We know that it is prevalent in the fashion industry, with a reported 80 per cent of workers saying they have been bullied by co-workers at least once. But now there are moves to uncover widespread bullying in the beauty industry.

Instagram account Estée Laundry is an anonymous beauty collective using its platform to voice issues in the industry from false claims to sustainability. In the few weeks, it has been responsible for launching a petition against bullying in the beauty industry. The Change.org petition is titled, “#SayNoToBullying in the beauty industry”. It has thousands of signatures from people who are passionate about the cause and has spawned lots of conversation around the issue, even with its own Reddit thread.

Workplace bullying can take many forms. From obvious things like yelling and swearing, withholding important information, excluding you from workplace activities or spreading harmful rumours. “Body shaming, racism, and homophobia seem to be common,” explains Estée Laundry. “So many people have told us that they’ve suffered extreme anxiety and depression as a result of constant workplace harassment. Some of them have permanently left the beauty industry.” 

Charlotte Tilbury and Coty Inc. are both names that repeatedly appear in the more than 200 submissions. “Charlotte Tilbury is one of the worst companies I’ve ever worked for,” reads one account. “Very toxic. If your face doesn’t fit, you are not going to survive very long.” One anonymous whistleblower states: “Between sexual harassment, unprofessional drinking and partying – not to mention favouritism.” Another adds: “(Coty is) a toxic environment and overall morale is in the toilet. HQ literally had to send an email to address ‘cattiness’”. 

“At Coty, we stand firmly against bullying in all its forms,” a representative at the company tells us. “We are committed to ensuring that all our employees work in a safe environment based on equal opportunity, free from discrimination or harassment. We communicate frequently with all our employees to remind them of the support that is available in such situations.” Charlotte Tilbury did not respond for comment.

“We have been sharing stories of victims of harassment who didn’t have a voice until now. We aim to raise awareness and create change,” explains Estée Laundry. “We knew from people working at these companies that they were all aware of these stories but were just waiting for things to blow over. Hundreds of women and men trusted us with their stories, and we felt it was our responsibility to make sure action was taken so this culture of bullying won’t continue.”

“We have been sharing stories of victims of harassment who didn’t have a voice until now. Hundreds of women and men trusted us with their stories, and we felt it was our responsibility to make sure action was taken so this culture of bullying won’t continue” – Estée Laundry

The beauty industry is no stranger to controversy when it comes to issues of diversity and inclusion, including issues such as favouring fairer skin and ageism. In an industry where issues such as these are often highlighted, we repeatedly see calling out of forward-facing issues, but risk ignoring behind-the-scenes issues.

“There is no place for bullies in the modern workplace,” explains TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady. “The impact of bullying can range from making people miserable and undermining their confidence. If bullies are allowed to dominate a workplace, wider office morale and productivity suffers too. Employers must have a zero-tolerance policy.”

Among stories highlighting bullying and harassment in the industry, other companies are working hard to ensure there is no place for such behaviour within their companies. Tina Rudolph Chow is about to launch beauty start-up Strange Bird Beauty and is already passionate about preventing bullying in the workplace. She explains, “When I notice someone is upset, or insecure, or emotional, do I seek to understand what is happening or hope it just works itself out? Bullying thrives in the dark. As the leader of Strange Bird, it’s up to me to create a space that lets the light in.”

“There is no place for bullies in the modern workplace. If bullies are allowed to dominate a workplace, wider office morale and productivity suffers too. Employers must have a zero-tolerance policy” – Frances O’Grady, general secretary, TUC 

Among the potential positive impact of attitudes like Tina’s, over 1000 signatures highlight the need for the entire beauty industry to act when it comes to bullying in the workplace. “The same companies seem to be bullying people over and over again, and this can’t continue. We need to hold them accountable to make sure they take immediate action,” says Estée Laundry. Through the petition, the collective want to bring about real change within the industry and force companies to make changes for their workers. “We want to raise awareness in order to create change. We want brands to acknowledge that it is a problem and commit to creating better working conditions for their employers,” explains Estée Laundry. 

In a world where beauty standards are changing, and parts of the industry are increasingly embracing diversity – it’s obviously disheartening to hear so many accounts of people working in the industry struggling in toxic environments. By continuing to speak out about bullying in the beauty industry, the companies responsible won’t be able to maintain silence on the issue for much longer.

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