MAC M/U BOYCOTT
Thanks to the corporate steamroller better known as The Estee Lauder Companies Inc., Professional Freelance Makeup Artists worldwide are having jobs ripped out from underneath them.
This is a multifaceted issue, to say the least. So let's take this step by step.
We all agree that the professional freelance makeup artist community made MAC Makeup into a global icon.
We all agree that this was major factor behind Estee Lauder's decision to buy the company. MAC had built-in credibility and buzz unheard of in the industry thanks to the Pro MUAs that talked about it and proudly displayed it in their kits.
We all agree that MAC Makeup is no longer "professional" quality thanks to Estee Lauder's tampering with the original formulas and substituting cheaper ingredients and fillers.
We all have been informed that this is "a typical practice in corporate America" and that the choice was a "smart business decision" by Estee Lauder Companies. So, extracting as much cash as possible from the unaware consumer while offering the same product but with diminished quality and a smaller quantity is just business as usual? Wow, that's not a great way to reward customer loyalty.
We all understand that MAC needs to defer the high cost of the millions of dollars worth of makeup and services they give away for FREE to support their endless quest for media domination (product placement, press and editorial coverage, etc). It's unfortunate that they're using the consumer's hard earned cash to foot the bill.
We've all realized that a substantial portion of the Professional Freelance Makeup Artist community no longer carries alot of MAC Makeup in their kits because of the deterioration of quality and performance from the products.
But enough about the unfortunate (horrific) changes made to a previously outstanding makeup line. Although we're unhappy about the changes in the quality of the product, it's not the reason we're so upset with the company.
Let's discuss the REAL reason why Professional Freelance Makeup Artists are having HUGE ISSUES with MAC Makeup & Estee Lauder Co., Inc.
As I mentioned earlier, many professional makeup artists have quietly replaced the watered down, lower quality MAC Makeup in their kits with brands that continue to create professional level products.
Without the MAC logo showing up prominently in makeup kits on high profile Photo, Film and Video sets, the company has lost much of the free advertising and professional seal of approval it previously enjoyed.
When this problem became apparent to MAC/Estee Lauder Co…it became imperitive to do damage control and to create the illusion that the "PRO" community was still fully behind the brand…as fast as possible.
The new Estee Lauder Co. controled MAC training department went into overdrive and quickly began manufacturing MAC "certified" makeup artists with built in positive product buzz (very Stepford Wives if you ask me).
But what good were these new pre-programmed MAC makeup artists without a place to be seen and heard. So MAC bought them exposure by offering their services for FREE to make sure they would be seen working at events and projects that had extensive press coverage.
Let's use New York Fashion Week as an example. MAC has shelled out enormous amounts of money to buy the title of Official Makeup Sponsor for Olympus Fashion Week. This gives them HUGE say in what goes on behind the scenes and the level of press coverage the brand receives. The designer/fashion companies are paid off for using MAC and can either use one of the MAC "Pro Artists" to design their show or they can choose their own Key MUA (usually agency repped) who is required/forced to use MAC "artists" and MAC Makeup.
These were jobs previously booked with well paid, non-MAC freelance makeup artists.
Logically, we're inclined to want to spread blame around. Many of these companies and designers have "enabled" MAC Makeup and Estee Lauder Co.'s ability to do unethical things…but we've got to be realistic about this also.
Fashion Week is a business and offering ANY business cost cutting options is going to get their attention…FAST.
What financially conscious designer/fashion company would reject saving thousands of dollars and still receive the same services…FOR FREE!
The designers/fashion companies are told that the "certified" artists supplied by MAC Makeup and Estee Lauder Co. are the same level of experience as freelance artists an agency represented Key Makeup Designer would hire.
And they can have them absolutely free… in exchange for product placement, press credit, etc.
Unfortunately, they're not being entirely truthful.
MAC Makeup no longer hires makeup artists. They hire anyone who fits the "look" (ie; Goth Drag Party) and has moderate sales aptitude.
MAC does their "certifying" through their own training department. These "certifications" carry absolutely no weight in the real world and do not guarentee any significant level of actual artistic acuity.
Previously, a non-MAC freelance makeup artist had to train, assist and work very hard for MANY years to be considered experienced enough to work NY ashion Week.
MAC Makeup is now passing off sales people with often less than 4 days of formal training as a "certification" of the ability to work these high profile jobs.
When the abilities/experience of these "MAC Certified Makeup Artists" are challenged by a fashion designer or company CEO…the subject is quickly changed and attention is diverted with promises of free makeup by the truckload. MAC Makeup and Estee Lauder Co. have also been known to secure the deal with substantial cash gifts as a token of their gratitude for turning a blind eye and using the MAC team.
Ridiculously shady and completely unethical? DAMN STRAIGHT!
But we have to be realistic.
You own a company and someone offers to SAVE you MONEY, give you lots of FREE SWAG and fill your pockets with CASH?
What smart business person is going to pass this sweet deal up? And that's exactly what MAC & Estee Lauder Co. are banking on.
VERY IMPORTANT STATISTIC:
The average "assistant" rate for non-MAC freelance makeup artists during NY Fashion Week USED to be $500-600 per show!
Because MAC furnishes these consultants/sales-people for free, the fashion show rate for non-MAC freelance artists has been reduced to a max of $200 per show (if the freelancer actually manages to get the booking). Estee Lauder pays their MAC consultants/salespeople the same $12-$18 an hour they would get working at the MAC counter.
Wouldn't they rather have the $600 in their pocket along with the satisfaction that they were hired for their talent and not because they were part of a bribe? I just don't understand why these MAC employees allow themselves to be taken advantage of so blatantly.
They are being used as nothing more than a bargaining chip for corporate gain and brainwashed into believing that they are working toward a fabulous career in makeup artistry.
The international freelance community is now being cannibalized by MAC Makeup & Estee Lauder Co.
Non-MAC, freelance makeup artists around the world are now being pushed out of paid bookings by MAC employees whose services are being offered for free in exchange for press coverage and product placement.
MAC Makeup has taken over London and Australian Fashion Weeks. Major award shows (most recently the "World Music Awards") and many international television and film production companies are now being approached and bribed into using MAC products and artists.
Here's another disturbing fact…
Many of the artists that used to Key/Design the fashion shows have been replaced by MAC's Pro Team. These were agency artists who are celebrities in their own right (Pat McGrath, Dick Page, etc.) and were paid VERY well for their vision/creativity. The agencies that represent them are not to happy with the loss of publicity for their clients and the loss of revenue for both parties. The new "names" you see keying MOST of the shows are from the MAC Pro Team…who are salaried employees of Estee Lauder Companies, Inc.
See if you recognise any of these names:
Gordon Espinet, Global Director of Makeup Artistry for MAC
Nadine Luke, Director of Makeup Artistry for MAC
Victor Cembellin, Senior Artist for MAC Pro
Why would you agree to work like this?
These MAC Pro Team members are worked like slaves. They are booked to Key/Design anywhere from 3-5 fashion shows A DAY….
They DO NOT get paid per show, as a top level agency artist would.
MAC offers their time and creativity to the designers for FREE. This is considered part of their 'job description. MAC Makeup & Estee Lauder Co. has them replacing top level agency artists that would have been paid TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS to design these shows…and all they get is their regular salary.
Don't feel too bad for them, they get one huge perk - PRESS!
Estee Lauder Co. makes sure of that. Why would they throw this enormous amount of money around unless they were going to get lots of press in return?
This is the primary reason that artists who work for MAC at this level never leave the company.
All this press attention is like a drug addiction and MAC is the dealer. They never really wanted to start "using" but once they got a taste of the spotlight they were hooked. MAC & Estee Lauder Co. parade them in front of the press like well groomed show dogs. They are instructed to spew scripted responces to the press that glorify the company and have their egos stroked just enough by MAC to make them feel like they're the "real thing".
But they aren't "real" because the bookings have been bought for them. The ONLY way they would be designing these shows in the real world is if they were Agency Represented (Jed Root, Cloutier, Art House, etc)…which none of them are. Their talent has been used as a bargaining chip and they have become nothing more than hired guns for a corporate mob.
Everything has it's drawbacks…
If they ever leave the company, they have little to show for their years of hard work.
Most of these artists don't have books (portfolios) they can call their own because when MAC sends them to do a job, it is credited as "such-n-such" for MAC Makeup.
The MAC Public Relations Department quickly collects the tears/credits to promote MAC Makeup…they are not in the business of promoting the artist who did the work (that's what legitimate agencies are for)
These MAC artists have no legal right to any of the work they have done, it's all owned by MAC Makeup/Estee Lauder Co.
They would more than likely have to start all over (build an entire new portfolio) if they decided to leave the company at that level.
I doubt if many of them are even exposed to how the actual industry runs anymore (day rates, half rates, specs, etc.). They just go out and say/do what they're told and get a weekly paycheck from MAC / Estee Lauder Companies, Inc.
MAC Makeup & Estee Lauder Co. are not about the Pro Makeup Artists that made the brand famous, not about the employees that they program to act as if MAC was a religion/cult, and certainly not about the consumer who is manipulated with visions of being part of a "MAC lifestyle".
It's not remotely about people anymore, it ALL about achieving global domination of the consumer cosmetic market.
I can see you rolling your eyes and saying, "Well, that's the way big business runs…grow up KJ".
Sorry, but I don't agree with the Walmart-ization of this country (or the world for that matter). Mowing down any independant contractor or small business that gets in the way of the relentless need to dominate an industry is heinous. The damage that MAC Makeup and Estee Lauder Co. is doing to the freelance makeup industry worldwide is irresponsible and shows no respect for the the artists that made the brand the icon it is today.
The frustrating thing is…it's doesn't have to be done this way.
But MAC Makeup & Estee Lauder Co. are very shortsighted when it comes to the bottom line ($$$). They want what they want, when they want it and will take the quickest, most ruthless and sometimes the most destructive path to get there…unbothered by the collateral damage they might create (freelance MUA's, loyal consumers, etc.)
But, this is the way Estee Lauder herself did business and the way the company continues in her memory.
AND…just for the record
I, like millions of others, am grateful that MAC has given given tens of millions of dollars to charities and has instituted many social awareness programs.
But hold on…we need to clarify something.
By the time MAC was sold to Estée Lauder Co. in 1998, the company was already known for its good works and ethical policies.
It had already developed these 4 social initiatives:
* The M·A·C AIDS Fund (founded in 1994)
* M·A·C Cruelty-Free Beauty
* Back to M·A·C Recycling
* M·A·C Kids Helping Kids
I understand that Estee Lauder Co. was under no obligation to continue these programs…
They're not stupid.
They understand that it would have been corporate suicide and a press nightmare to abandon these initiatives after the company changed hands. Besides, it allows a company with "questionable ethics" to continue business as usual without tarnishing their halos. When they get caught doing unethical things… they pull out the "look what we've done for charity" card and all is supposed to be forgiven.
Let's make this crystal clear:
I'm neither a disgruntled former Estee Lauder employee or some angry makeup artist MAC wouldn't hire. As a matter of fact, I was hired as an industry expert to teach MAC MasterClasses prior to realizing what had happened to the product and how other freelance artists were being treated.
I'm a respected, working member of the Professional Freelance Makeup Artist community. I don't have problems getting work because I've been doing this for a long time, have years of expereince, credentials and connections that keep me working consistently.
I'm fighting for all the aspiring artists who don't work for MAC that will never get the chance to experience the things that I have. I'm fighting for the future of the industry that supported and nurtured me as I carved out my career.
If MAC / Estee Lauder Companies continues this campaign to control the freelance makeup industry around the world, where will the new, non-MAC artists learn their craft and be able to make a living doing what they love?
You have every right to buy/wear the makeup of your choice.
But why would you choose to support a company that has turned it's back on the artists who made it famous, is taking their livelyhood away and is systematically destroying the future of an entire industry……..just to sell a few more lipsticks.