Jeffree Star: creating an empire one palette at a time

Emily Aiken ‘20, Editor-in-Chief

What started with one lipstick, has snowballed into a makeup empire. Jeffree Star also known as Jeffrey Lynn Steininger Jr., founder of Jeffree Star Cosmetics, could arguably be one of the smartest entrepreneurs in the beauty industry right now. Raking in over $150 million each year, he is the definition of self-made.

Star had a rough upbringing: his father committed suicide when he was only six years old, and his mother struggled with addiction. But as he grew older, Star found a love for make-up and social media. As he began to create his brand, he following on social media grew. According to Out Magazine, he was at the right place at the right time because he began leveraging his persona to launch his beauty brand just as the makeup community was beginning to appear more and more online. However, with this success came enemies or ‘haters’, and his history of racist comments, of which he has apologized for, turned up, and he found himself ‘cancelled’— a term the internet uses to boycott someone. But while most beauty influencers cannot bounce back from being ‘cancelled’, Star is not like most.  

In 2018, YouTuber Shane Dawson revealed a much more private side to Star in his docuseries entitled The Secret World of Jeffree Star. The five-part series included everything from Star’s rough upbringing to the lavish lifestyle he experiences today. The series was a hit, totaling 152 million views on YouTube. People who were not fond of Star or his persona now found themselves intrigued. Star has gained a lot of respect and attention from that series, which has only helped his brand. Viewers also gained an insight to where even more of his money is coming from. His YouTube channel, which makes about $17 million a year (according to Forbes) is only “play money” as he explains in this series. He actually owns about 10 businesses on top of his cosmetics company. “I own an entire shipment and fulfilment center. I own a merchandise company. I print and manufacture everything myself. So I have about 10 businesses that I’m currently running besides my brand which is a giant cosmetics company,” Star said.  

Star could arguably be one of the most successful in the beauty industry compared to other powerhouses like Kylie Jenner and Jaclyn Hill. His branding strategies and transparency in both the manufacturing process and pricing have made him appear both smart and honest with his viewers—qualities that are lacking in the online world. He is not afraid to tell the truth. His products are unique—they are an experience rather than a product—which is a difficult thing to accomplish in the makeup industry, and he is not afraid of trying something new. “It’s time for new blood, new faces, and it’s a different evolution. People are kind of bored. The consumers, even myself, it’s just kind of stale. That’s why I want to keep the excitement and keep creating really wild, crazy stuff,” Star said in an interview to Out magazine. 

On Nov. 1, Star teamed up with Dawson to launch Shane X Jeffree Conspiracy Collection. They even released a six-part docuseries on the whole process. It gives viewers an unprecedented, behind-the-scenes look on the whole process of making makeup—everything from the colors and design to the blood, sweat, and tears both Dawson and Star put in. It is the fact that you can watch it for free on YouTube, that makes it much more personal. We see moments where Dawson mentions his insecurity and anxiety issues when comparing himself to other YouTubers, and the viewers find themselves immersed in a story where they want success for Dawson. One fan commented, “Shane not selling much for 10 years and then he goes all out with this. [This is the] biggest catch up ever, with all the emotional story pressed into a series. I am not even into makeup, but this is so fascinating to watch. [I] can’t deny that.” The entire series builds a ton of hype around the collection, and is the greatest marketing campaign the internet has ever seen. The collection included two palettes, six liquid-lipsticks, a lip gloss, a lip balm, hand mirrors, and makeup bags. Two minutes before the launch, the entire website crashed because due to all the traffic. The whole entire collection sold out in an hour, breaking many records. 

As of July 2019, the cosmetics industry is estimated to be worth $532 billion and will continue to benefit from social media influencers and brand ambassadors, as will Jeffree Star Cosmetics.


Photo courtesy of Entertainment Tonight

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