Lies or Marketing? Can We Trust Natural Celebs When They Discuss Their Favorite Products?

DISCLAIMER: Before I begin this post, I want to make it very clear that I am not bashing Tracee Ellis Ross or any other company spokesperson, in any way, shape, or form. My intention is to call out the practice of masked advertising and sponsored promotion as an educated consumer.

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I recall the first time I read about Tracee Ellis Ross’ hair routine and favorite products in the NY Times, calling out Kim Kimble, Bumble and Bumble, Aestelance, and Moraccanoil. Less than a year later, she was interviewed by Curly Nikki and listed Optimum Care 6-in-1 Oil and Moisturizer as her favorite products, which obviously caused a lot of discussion in the curly hair community since she is a frequently mentioned (and admired) curly idol for a lot of women. It wasn’t until I learned that she had recently become the latest spokesperson for Softsheen-Carson/Optimum Care that this made sense as it was not mentioned at all in the previous interview. Fast forward to today – Glamour released an interview with Tracee Ellis Ross last week sharing her “favorite” curly hair products, which called out Optimum Care’s Amla line.

I’m sure you’re reading this like, okay, so what? Well, here’s the thing: it’s becoming more and more difficult to identify what is an ad and what isn’t. In the social media age, celebrities are constantly posting pictures of their lives online and brands are seeking quick publicity by paying them to post their products. And while the Federal Trade Commission has attempted to regulate this type of activity, it’s nearly impossible to prove that a celeb isn’t posting or mentioning a product simply because they like it. The same goes for interviews – it’s a classic public relations tactic to “pitch” products to celebrities’ management and send them for free or flat out pay for mentions.

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If you aren’t an informed consumer (and love buying the same products as your fave celebs), you may be misled to buy products that you otherwise would have never touched. I mean, look at the Optimum Care Amla Oil‘s ingredients – the first two ingredients are cyclopentasiloxane and dimethicone and actual amla oil is towards the end – hardly impressive. Their Damage Antidote Oil Moisturizer lists mineral oil as the second ingredient. Yea, I’ll pass.

But hey, they really might be Tracee’s favorite products. I know that I’ve fallen in love with products after they were sent to me. Either way, I guess we’ll never know (definitely not trying to mess up her coins, lol), so make sure you are looking at ingredients when you’re looking for new products and not flocking to products just because your fave curly claims to love them. Even if their hair is absolutely gorgeous.

How do you think transparency should be enforced with celebrities?

**This post also appears on Black Girl with Long Hair.

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16 comments

  1. It is nothing new, celebrities do this all the time. Just like any form of advertising, it is making you aware of the products. It is up to the consumer to decide.

  2. As technology and the times change so does the face of advertising and marketing. The world we live in is a huge marketplace. Everything you see everywhere is an attempt to persuade you to use your hard earned dollars within a specific market. I take all product reviews, mentions, boost, shot-out or whatever with a grain of salt.

    1. Hah, that sort of stinks if you don’t trust any of them. I know I check out reviews before I often buy things and praise products I like with no intention or concern for people buying them.

  3. This is a bigger issue. It doesn’t matter if it is your pastor, your best friend, Elle or Tracee Ellis Ross. It is important for humans to use discernment in all matters. Instead of blindly following and believing something because it is a part of our culture or environment or because someone with gorgeous hair or is seemingly successful said it was right, we have to question everything and see if it rings true within us.

  4. Celebrity endorsement has been around for years. Nothing new here. You really think Katy Perry wears Cover Girl makeup or Beyonce uses boxed hair dye. I think not. I’m unbothered. Who buys products because a celebrity said it was their fav anyway? I think people on YouTube (mostly) are more trustworthy than celebrities when it comes to product endorsement. Overall, I don’t think it’s that serious.

  5. Call me cynical, because I am LOL but every time a celebrity mentions loving a particular product I ALWAYS think there’s something in it for them…besides “loving” the product. 🙂 That’s part of being a celebrity, getting that hustle on with endorsements. If the product sounds very interesting (after my own research) I might try anyway, but I never blindly try/buy something simply because a celebrity mentions liking it.

  6. I am so confused as to why you would even blog about this issue. First of all, Tracee Ellis Ross is an actress. She’s paid to speak and if she was paid to do so than so be it. That’s her gig. Secondly, you, me and every other woman with natural hair falls in love with a different product every six months and we share that info every time someone askes us about it whether it’s in the grocery store, restaurant or in your case your vlog. Your “holy grail” list changes like the wind and that’s one of the things I like about it. I always hear something new from you. I believe you missed the mark on this on.

    1. I think you’re missing my point. While I agree that your holy grails can change, it’s a bit of an interesting coincidence that all of her faves became OC after she became their spokesperson. Also, I’m not even just talking about her – I’m talking about marketing in general, a practice that I know exists. And an ad or commercial is one thing, but it’s another to act like you’re just chatting with a girlfriend and calling out your employer. In those instances, it’s not clear that it’s part of an “act.”

      P.S. My HG list does NOT change like the wind. Most of the time if I remove a product completely, it’s because their ingredients changed or it’s discontinued, or I found something comparable that’s easier to obtain. That’s not my fault – I have products on there that have been there since I BC’ed and if I move something to Honorable Mentions it’s mainly b/c of something superficial, like I like the smell of something else better. Just b/c I update it, doesn’t mean I’m switching products all around. When I tell you all about something new and I like it, that does NOT mean I made it a HG.

      1. I get your point Elle, and it is interesting. I like hearing what you and a few other natural ladies review on You Tube. Because your testing products that I may not want to or can afford to buy. It helps! It`s about trust too. That`s part of being natural…… Honest Hair! Tracee Ellis Ross has nice hair, but now who believes what she says she uses on her hair. So again some company uses her celebrity to sell us false hopes.

  7. Ms. Ellis, and others, can certainly push products in order to earn income, after all, this is a free market society in which we live. Fortunately for me, I am not driven to buying or trying products based on a celeb’s use of them; in fact, quite the contrary. I am driven to try/buy a product based on its ingredients and whether or not my skin, hair, or digestive system for that matter, can tolerate them. So, let the buyer beware.

  8. Well, if our favorites in hair and products in general can change, then so can theirs I guess. I will just have to trust the integrity of the celeb and/or check their track record. We could say the same about bloggers/loggers. Even if some of them say that they aren’t getting paid doesn’t mean that they aren’t giving good reviews for future potential sponsorships and to look good. I am sure anyone can find reasons to like something if they look hard enough. Its hard to say. Determining to use a product as a consumer is the preference of the consumer. In this case, we would never have commercials. I can’t count how many times a pizza commercial has aired and even though I may not get pizza the same day, later on in the week that picture pops in my head and my mouth waters. The truth is stimulus response is real and psychology has always been beneficial in sales and marketing.

    1. Of course they can change, but it’s very rare to only like one brand. And I agree, you can definitely say the same thing about vloggers and bloggers. Believe me, if one day my HG list transformed to only one brand…I’m lying, lol.

      1. Well, some people tend to be very close minded after finding a product(s) that finally work for them. Don’t get me wrong, I love trying new things, but there have been people that I know that are afraid to venture out to new hair horizons. Not only have I seen this in hair products but also beauty products. No matter what the product is, some people just won’t change.

    2. Sorry for the grammatical errors. I hit the send button by accident before I could read through it and check it one last time. 🙂

      Well, if our favorites in hair and products in general can change, then so can theirs I guess. I will just have to trust the integrity of the celeb and/or check their track record. We could say the same about bloggers/vloggers. Even if some of them say that they aren’t getting paid doesn’t mean that they aren’t giving good reviews for future potential sponsorships and to look good. I am sure anyone can find reasons to like something if they look hard enough. Its hard to say. Determining to use a product as a consumer is the preference of the consumer. In this case, we would never have commercials. I can’t count how many times a pizza commercial has aired. Even though I may not get pizza the same day, later on in the week that picture pops in my head and my mouth waters. The truth is stimulus response is real and psychology has always been beneficial in sales and marketing. These celebs are just using it to their advantage and natural hair companies know that the same goes for bloggers and curly celebs. Give a person with a strong following a product and sales will change.

  9. I thought the same thing. Especially when reading a magazine and a celeb lists the products they use in a pictorial layout. Sometimes I think its the magazines way of promoting its advertisers. On the other hand- it does make me research new products of which I mostly pass on or are out of my price range.

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