YouTube beauty vlogger Laura Lee’s cosmetics business is crumbling like an eyeshadow palette dropped on the ground.
Just weeks ago, Lee had more than 5 million followers, internet stardom, and her own makeup line, Laura Lee Los Angeles, which she launched last year.
But after fans of rival vlogger Jeffree Star reportedly uncovered a series of racist and fat-shaming tweets on her account from 2012 and 2013, Lee’s world quickly shattered. She lost more than half a million followers on her YouTube channel, and has been scorned by former devotees.
And it’s only getting worse. In recent days, Lee’s products have disappeared from the websites of makeup retailers—and the CEO of one subscription-box service has gone so far as to shame her publicly in a damning Facebook video.
The most notable brand to cut ties with Lee in the wake of the controversy is Ulta Beauty, which bills itself as the largest beauty retailer in the United States. A spokesperson for Ulta Beauty told The Daily Beast via email Thursday that the company will not stock Lee’s beauty line.
“We have decided not to move forward with the launch of Laura Lee Los Angeles,” the spokeswoman said. “Ulta Beauty values equality and inclusivity in all that we do.”
Lee scrubbed the offending tweets after the drama began, according to The Washington Post, and reportedly said that two of the tweets linked to her are “fake.”
But she hasn’t denied one particularly egregious claim—that in the months following George Zimmerman’s fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, she tweeted “tip for all black people if you pull ur pants up you can run from the police faster.. #yourwelcome.” She similarly has not denied posting fat-shaming tweets in 2013, including one that allegedly read: “A skinny guy with a 6-pack is like a fat chick with tits. It doesn’t count.” Lee did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.
She has spoken out, though. On Aug. 13, Lee posted a screenshot of a note on Twitter, saying that as a girl from small-town Alabama, she lacked the “cultural education” at the time to understand the repercussions of her actions. She also pledged to get involved with social-justice foundations, to “make sure ignorance like this is left in the past not just for me, but for everyone.”
As the furor reached a fever pitch Sunday night, Lee posted a four-minute tearful YouTube apology. She labeled her retweets “vile” and “hurtful,” and called herself “stupid” and “ignorant” for posting them, but did not explicitly address any of her tweets.
Lee added that the last week has been “one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” claiming that her mother received death threats and that her 14-year-old niece was “attacked.” Throughout the video, she apologized repeatedly to fans for her past behavior. “I have no excuses here today,” she said. “I’m only here to say I’m so sorry.”
Despite her tears, many fans weren’t having it and criticized the apology as too little too late.
Other sites that appear to have carried Lee’s products, including Colourpop Cosmetics, Morphe Cosmetics, and Beauty Bay, did not immediately return The Daily Beast’s request for comment. But it appears that many of them have also been silently pulling her products from their websites, or marking them as “sold out.”
The Blast reported that Diff Eyewear, a company that released a limited-edition collection with Lee earlier this summer, also removed her products from the site and told customers: “We’ve taken this issue very seriously and do not support the comments that were made. At this time, our Peachy frames are unavailable for purchase. Thank you for your understanding.”
But the strongest condemnation of her behavior came from Yosef Martin, the founder and CEO of BoxyCharm, a beauty and makeup box subscription service that included Lee’s “Party Animal” eyeshadow palette in their August offering. Martin took to Facebook to express his disgust with Lee’s comments in a video posted on his company’s public page.
“This video is more of a statement, a company statement and a personal statement,” Martin began, before calling one of her tweets “very hurtful” and “very disturbing.”
“I want it to be very clear,” he continued, “for anyone that has any doubt: Absolutely, we do not support that, we do not understand how someone could tweet something like this [...] We are against that.”
Martin noted that his company does some due diligence on the people and brands that they partner with, but added that it’s difficult for them to catch everything a person has ever said.
“In the future, if we ever work with a company, a person, or someone that has said something like this,” he added, “before you even expect a statement—which we probably will release—I am telling you now: we do not support that.”
Martin concluded by labeling the debacle “a learnable lesson for all of us.”
“When you post something on social media, or when you say something in general, it doesn’t cost you anything to be nice,” he said. “How much would it cost you if you weren’t?”