Have you ever purchased a brand name product only to find out later it’s a cheap knockoff? Well, if your kid is one of the millions of subscribers who follow beauty influencers, they’re susceptible to the same thing. In the headlines of late: “Beauty Influencer Stolen Photos”. Second-rate companies the world over are stealing influencers’ images in order to sell their own products. Children who don’t know better might make a purchase online because they see their favorite influencer’s face, unaware it’s been stolen to market a product the influencer had nothing to do with.
“It’s just kind of creepy to see my face in something I’m not associated with in any way,” beauty influencer Lucy Kyselica said in a conversation with Wired Magazine. “It hurts my business. Also, on a personal level, the trust of my followers means a lot to me. I feel iffy about having my face used when the products are made in a way that is likely not ethically produced, like in a sweatshop in China.”
Kyselica’s face has been stolen many times over the years. It’s been used to sell products like hair styling tools, hair thickeners and beauty pills. According to Wired, the first time Kyselica discovered her image was being used without her permission, it appeared in the window of a shop in a small American town. Turns out the shop owners took a screengrab from one of Kyselica’s YouTube videos and made a poster out of it to sell their own beauty products. Kyselica found out only because some of her fans brought it to her attention. She emailed the store to get them to pull the image, but never heard back.
Kyselica is far from alone. “Instagrammers often complain about Chinese fast fashion companies copying their looks and using their photos…to sell cheap knockoffs,” Wired reported. “Beauty YouTubers constantly encounter ads featuring their own eyes, nails, or whole faces.”
There’s not a whole lot an influencer can do to stop companies from stealing their likeness, but in certain situations, they might be able to turn the theft around to their benefit. That’s what YouTuber Bernadette Banner was able to do. Banner, who makes historical sewing videos, told Wired one morning she woke up to find her DM boxes full of messages from fans telling her a fashion company was using her image to sell one of her own dresses at a cost that wasn’t even half of what she paid for the materials she used.
“I had just woken up. I was incoherent. I never got to the point of rage,” Banner told Wired. “I thought ‘What would happen if I bought it? That would make really good video content.’ Without getting out of bed, I ordered the dress.”
Banner made a video called “Buying a Knockoff of My Own Dress: An Educated Roast,” which currently has over 3.7 million views and, according to Wired, doubled Banner’s subscriber count and made her five figures in revenue.