Friday night, I got a message from a blogger/vlogger friend.
“Is this you and did this extremely rude person take your pic without permission??” She asked, linking to the above Instagram post on Stephanie Lange’s account. When I saw the photo – horribly edited around my mouth, eyes and eyebrows – and read the caption, “The REAL reason your makeup doesn’t look like beauty gurus,” I got some kind of feels in the pit of my stomach.
This vlogger, unknown to me at that moment, stole my photo, jacked up my face, and alluded that I tried to copy the Nikkie Tutorials look on the left and failed (photo credit to Nikkie for that photo on the left, by the way, and the majority of photos here today will be screenshots!).
There are MANY things wrong with her actions. And I decided we need to discuss this, because this is a woman who seems to have built a brand around building others up – she talked a lot about confidence and self esteem for her viewers in the accompanying YouTube video to her 1.2 MILLION subscribers – for which she used that ugly collage above as the thumbnail. And she’s apparently writing a book on confidence.
But yet…she takes a stranger’s photo off the internet, edits it to suit her needs, and uses it to demonstrate why your makeup might not look as good as a beauty guru’s makeup.
I will say upfront – she took down the collage from her Instagram (however, she had turned comments off on it; I couldn’t load them after my friend messaged me) and she also removed the thumbnail of it from her video). For that I am grateful. And what I’m about to do is outline key takeaways from what happened. My intent is to use this situation as a lesson, not a bashing session.
So let’s talk. I’ll break it down.
1. She stole my photo
I don’t know how many times the blogging community has to express this to the general public, let alone other influencers, but OUR PHOTOS ARE OUR COPYRIGHTED PROPERTY. I’m SO SO tired of brands stealing influencer photos to promote their product, without giving credit or payment. I’m tired of people not thinking “oh, this photo has a watermark on it. Perhaps I should ask the owner permission before using it.”
And when I messaged her, confronting her about stealing my photo, Stephanie’s response was:
GOOGLE IS A SEARCH ENGINE. IT IS NOT A FREE IMAGE LIBRARY.
Let me just move on.
2. She edited the photo and claimed she was disguising me
I may not have 1.2 million subscribers – I’m pretty small time – but BeautyJudy has been around for 9 1/2 years, and I’ve gotten to know a LOT of other influencers both big and small, and I am recognizable to those that know me or of me.
But regardless – not only did she steal my photo, but she edited it in a very poor manner, making the picture look even worse (hey, I never claimed my photos were great, guys), and used it. Again – UNACCEPTABLE.
This is the collage that my friend posted that was reposted by other influencers:
As you can see, my actual photo is very different. The edits to the photo make it more gaudily similar to the features/coloring as beautiful Nikkie has on the left.
WHY, I wonder, if she talks in her video about how different beauty gurus look in person compared with their videos and images due to lighting and multiple takes/angles, doesn’t she take an unedited simple phone camera photo of her own look, and then a flawless image, and use that in a collage. Another vlogger who did a similar topic simply used a couple photos of gurus in her thumbnail – she didn’t drag a stranger into it.
3. Her collage mocked me to more than 1 million people
My interpretation of that collage, with her caption, said to me, “I’m going to tell you in my video about why your makeup looks like the crap on the right when you’re trying to achieve the perfection on the left.”
Imagine if she’d stolen the photo of someone who put themselves out there but had serious depression, anxiety or image issues. How shook do you think that person would be? That could have been devastating!
AND, imagine the impression she’s leaving on her audience. As influencers, big and small, we have to consider that ANYONE could be looking, watching, reading at ANY time. What message does it send when you take a stranger’s picture, jack it up, and use it in this manner? I was overwhelmed at how, without any prompting from me, the influencer community rallied around me. But what brought me to tears was this message from my friend’s young teen daughter, who is like a niece to me:
YOU NEVER KNOW WHO IS WATCHING YOU AND YOUR ACTIONS.
DO GOOD, BE KIND, BUILD EACH OTHER UP. It’s not that hard to think twice about your actions, and to consider whether it would hurt someone.
This collage was the COMPLETE OPPOSITE OF BUILDING SOMEONE UP. It was using me to promote her content.
4. That’s not even the look I was inspired by
My look was truthfully inspired by a tutorial I watched of Nikkie reviewing/using the Huda Beauty Desert Dusk palette. I blogged the look HERE. And here’s the excerpt of me talking about the inspo:
I spelled Nikkie’s name wrong and I apologize! But I didn’t want to correct that in the post, I wanted to leave it untouched as it’s part of this whole thing.
And here’s a screenshot of the look, in case you don’t want to open another internet tab, lol!
The day I did this look, I was pregnant, suffering from completely clogged sinuses and miserable. But my best friend, her husband and her older daughter were in New York City, and my husband and I made babysitting arrangements for our older daughter and took the train into the city to have dinner with them. I decided to do up my makeup, so I would feel better.
For me, makeup is fun. It’s a way for me to express my creativity, and I don’t take myself so seriously about it. I LOVED this look so much that I blogged about it. I had purchased the MAC concealer that Nikkie had used for her cut crease/where she put her glitter, so I could tap on one of the more glittery shadows in the palette.
I skipped several of Nikkie’s steps, and I deviated from what Nikkie used/her technique because I know my eyes and taste, and I was simply inspired, I wasn’t imitating.
That photo on the left? That is NOT the look I was inspired by. I was inspired by something totally different. So the collage is just completely all wrong.
And the quality of the photo…well. Like I said, I’ve been blogging for almost a decade. And when the beauty blogging world exploded over that period of time, and people upped their photography game, I made the decision that I would stick with a more casual, unedited approach, because while I LOVE seeing those flawless, gorgeous photos from gurus, I use more natural photos to make my decisions on purchasing when I strip away the influencer title and approach makeup as a consumer.
So, while I try to get the best lighting, and I try to stage some product shots and I make an effort and put in a good amount of time, I’m purposely not aiming for perfection. Perhaps this is why I’m not bigger than I am, but selfishly, BeautyJudy has always been my creative outlet first, followed by community and engagement.
And guess what? THAT’S OK. The internet is a big, vast space, and there’s room for everyone.
5. You gotta keep your head up, whooooa oooh
I have tried to keep calm and keep my head up about this whole event. I did some InstaStories about what was happening, because so many other influencers were fired up about it. As was I, truthfully.
But I’ve not seen a need to bash Stephanie. She’s beautiful, and she seemed lovely in her video. The truth is, I don’t believe she had ANY ill intent with her actions. But I believe her actions were careless, and sorry, I just don’t believe some of what she’s saying to me in her apology. Or in this apology she posted on one of the other influencer “call out” posts:
I believe that she didn’t realize that while she stole a small fry’s photo, that small fry has a big, fierce village that went to bat on social media, reporting the photos to Instagram and YouTube, and asking her to do the right thing and calling her out on the contradiction between her actions and her words.
There’s something missing in the exchange above that I share, the private apology and back-and-forth between Stephanie and I. My last communication to her, after her last message to me, was to send a heart.
I’m not a hateful person. I don’t wish her ill will. Like I said, there’s room for everyone.
I do wonder why she didn’t address this publicly, apologize for the contradiction on her own Instagram or YouTube channel. I received such an outpouring of support from my fellow beauty bloggers, my loyal readers/followers, and new followers who told me they were glad this happened because they “found me;” but perhaps to her the audience is still “small fries” but in my opinion the action she took conflicts with everything she seems to stand for.
And to another earlier point…you never know who is watching, listening, reading or paying attention.
Thank you for reading this, if you got this far. I don’t like drama. I hate that I was involved in this. But I also can’t ignore it, and if I have a voice in this situation, I need to speak up about it – especially if I can educate people on copyrighted content, and considering your audience.