File this under “Really? No one saw anything amiss? No one? Not a single, solitary person?”
Sephora has pulled off its shelves a lipstick shade from LA Ink star Kat von D’s line called Painted Love called “Celebutard.” For the few who don’t know, it’s a term that sprung into being after the Paris Hiltons and Kim Kardashians of the world started to become far more rich and famous than their talents would indicate they should. But it also incorporates the word “retard,” which caused offense to advocates for the developmentally challenged.
“It should have never been on the shelves to begin with,” said Faith Bodnar, the executive director of nonprofit Inclusion BC. And she wasn’t the only one. Other families and Glee star Lauren Potter (she plays Becky Jackson), also expressed outrage.
“I could not believe that a successful company in 2013 would use such a derogatory and mocking name for their lipstick,” said Emily Norman, mother of two children ages two and four, one with a developmental delays and the other with Down syndrome.
When a tube of this lipstick hit the desk of someone in marketing, there should’ve been a quick thumbs down and renaming.
Sephora has issued the following apology:
“It has come to our attention that the name of one shade of a lipstick we carry has caused offense to some of our clients and others. We are deeply sorry for that, and we have ceased sale of that shade both in our stores and online.”
Sigh. But this is something that anyone in marketing (or anyone with any sense really) could’ve seen coming, even if it didn’t bother them personally. As a writer from Jezebel points out, it took her a minute to see why this might upset some people. After considering the fact that tons of moms, sisters, friends and other lipstick wearers have a personal connection to this issue and have heard awful remarks flung at their loved ones, she saw why it was insensitive.
It’s a marketing person’s job to make these connections. To take a look at taglines, product names, logos, and other branding materials and assess any issues with them. And if you’re at Sephora, it’s your responsibility to scrutinize everything that goes on your shelves as you’ll ultimately be responsible should something like this happen.
Instead, they relied on Kat von D, a woman who once made tabloid headlines for dating Jessie James and being tied to anti-Semitic remarks. Her response to this situation, in a tweet that has since been deleted (according to People magazine), was, “At the end of the day, it’s just a f – – – – – – lipstick.” Because Kat von D.