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Are Posthumous Makeup Collaborations Disrespectful?
M.A.C seems to be intent on profiting off the nostalgia that fans have for dead artists.
By Ruby Mora
Aaliyah, the legendary R&B singer who created an unforgettable legacy in the music industry as the ever-reigning queen of R&B will have her own makeup collection in collaboration with her estate and M.A.C Cosmetics set to launch in Summer of 2018, according to a recent announcement by the makeup company on their Instagram account.
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Aaliyah is truly one in a million — an unstoppable icon whose groundbreaking work in R&B music and film inspires us all. Today we join her countless fans in celebrating her with the announcement of the M·A·C Aaliyah collection. You made it happen! Stay tuned in 2018. #AaliyahforMAC @aaliyah_haughton_official
“Aaliyah is truly one in a million — an unstoppable icon whose groundbreaking work in R&B music and film inspires us all,” the company stated. “Today we join her countless fans in celebrating her with the announcement of the Aaliyah x M·A·C collection. You made it happen! Stay tuned in 2018.”
This announcement left me with mixed feelings. Although I’ve been an Aaliyah fan for years, I can’t help but feel like the decision M.A.C made to launch this collection is odd, inconsiderate, and a bit heartless, to say the least, especially since the company had already released a collection in collaboration with the family and estate of Selena, anther legendary singer with a legacy as queen of Tejano music and iconic in her own right.
Both collections coming into existence are mainly in result of fans who signed a petition created in July 2015 demanding the makeup collab (after the announcement of Selena’s collection), which has surpassed 26,000 signatures at this point. The Selena collection also had its own petition that accumulated 40,000 signatures before M.A.C announced its impending creation.
Although there are signs of valid intentions coming from the artists’ estates, are similar intentions also coming from M.A.C? There hasn’t been any information regarding where the profits gained from these collections went or are going to, so one can assume it’s likely in the hands of the makeup company.
M.A.C, along with other makeup companies clearly profit off the nostalgia and pain of fans and loved ones of the artists that they posthumously collab with. Even if Selena’s sister was involved in curating her collection, it’s still a culmination of something that the artist didn’t take part in directly, so the profits from the collection are coming from the idea of what the artist could have curated.
It’s known at this point that Aaliyah’s collection is a collaborate with her family and estate, and Selena’s line was curated by her sister Suzette Quintanilla, so these collections were made with the involvement of both singer’s inner circle who knew them intimately. “She was my best friend,” Quintanilla told the Houston Chronicle. “We talked a lot about everything. Clearly, we’re girls, and makeup was one of the key things we liked to talk about. This is something she was working on when she was taken from us.”
Even though not many details have been released as to what will be in the collection (products, shades, etc.), the announcement alone resulted in thousands of positive responses from fans, overshadowing the few mixed ones.
— Kristina (@electronization) August 25, 2017
First Selena now #AaliyahforMAC 😩🙌🏼
— Dyamond🦄 (@_LegallyCurly) August 25, 2017
How about we demand the release of her music before they try to profit off her name and some stank colors she didn't approve. #AaliyahforMAC
— David (@Dreams_on_Paper) August 24, 2017
— ✨✨✨✨✨✨✨✨ (@merelynora) August 25, 2017
There’s no doubt that these collaborations are a dream come true for millions of fans, but it’s still clear that even with the knowledge of the launch time frame for Aaliyah’s collection, fans will be ready and waiting to purchase any, and maybe all, of the collection, and it’ll probably be in high demand for a while after the launch.
After so many years since their passing, I can’t help but think that these two highly talented women of color, who both made a huge impact in their respective genres of music in the short amount of time that they were with us, are being used in a capitalist manner to sell products that the companies know will profit from immensely. Although M.A.C hasn’t released the amount they made from the Selena collection, because the collection sold out within 24 hours from its October 1st launch online last year (it was available in stores October 6th) and because the items in the collection were between $17-$35, the company likely made a large profit from it. Are they grasping at the opportunity to profit off these collections while the fans still love and remember them?
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Whichever way anyone flips it, these collabs will eventually have people, fans especially, question if the artists would have wanted this to happen. Both Aaliyah and Selena were fashion icons in their time, with each of them having iconic evolutions of fashion. In a 2001 interview with E! News, Aaliyah expressed her love for shopping for clothes, while Selena had taken part in designing not only some of her clothing she wore in many of her known performances, but also created boutiques under the name Selena Etc. that were part salon, part store that sold memorabilia and held some of the singer’s famous pieces she wore. Knowing all of this, there would be a possibility that both artists could have wanted to create a makeup collection if they had more time on this earth.
I’m as much of a stan for both artists as the next person, but before M.A.C Cosmetics and any other makeup company considers using the fame and likeness of a major artist in their next collab, they need to consider not only what responses will come of the resulting collections in the future, but also of how the public reputation of these companies end up being perceived as after choosing to do this further down the road.
When the Selena collection was released, I was ecstatic at first. I grew up listening to Selena in my mom’s stereo and made horrible attempts to sing along with her. She was not only an inspiration to me, but also represented latinx women not only in the music industry as a whole, but in a genre of music where women were seen as incapable of being successful on their own. Selena broke boundaries in Tejano music and beyond, and for her to be represented in a collection that she unfortunately wasn’t involved in is hurtful to what she’s accomplished and what she continues to represent to millions of other WoC. The collection gave off an image that the likeness and fame of a dead WoC can be used in any way by any company to make a profit so long as there are still dedicated fans.
There have been makeup collections based off of cartoons, superheroes, and even television shows (a la 50th anniversary Star Trek collection), so M.A.C and other makeup companies have characters and forms of media that they can collaborate with in the future instead of profiting off the nostalgia of dead musicians. Even if they do continue to do makeup collabs, there are so many other living women of color entertainers they can work with directly like Kehlani, Beyoncé, SZA, H.E.R., and many others that are creating or have a transcendent legacy already set.
The legacies of Aaliyah and Selena have thrived during their time on this earth and after their passing, even before these collections were even an idea in someone’s mind, and it’s quite clear that they will continue to be fondly remembered.
About the Author: Ruby Mora is a freelance writer and music photographer whose writing focuses on pop culture, identity, and feminism through a Latinx perspective. She’s written and photographed for the Philadelphia-based music site Rock On Philly.