MAGA supporters claim to hate “cancel culture,” but that hasn’t been Sephora’s experience over the past few days.
Sephora is the latest company subject to right-wing outrage, joining the ranks of Keurig, Nike and Nordstrom after drawing the ire of far-right beauty influencer Amanda Ensing over the weekend. The beauty retailer’s social media accounts including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have been receiving thousands of angry comments since Saturday from supporters of the beauty vlogger-turned-QAnon conspiracy theorist.
Known for supporting the January 6 mob at the Capitol and spreading Trump’s false election claims, Ensing called for a boycott against Sephora on her social channels after it cut ties with her and has been railing against the company on conservative media outlets like Newsmax. As a result of the incident, Sephora is now rethinking its approach to how it hires influencers through third-party platforms.
“We were recently made aware of concerning behavior by Ms. Ensing on her social platforms. Most recently, she made light of the violence and tragic loss of life at our nation’s Capitol last month. For this reason, we made the decision to cease all programming with her indefinitely, including having the video she created through an external vendor, taken down,” said a statement from Sephora. Ensing did not respond to a request for comment.
Initial backlash was sparked on Friday when Ensing posted a Sephora-sponsored YouTube video that had been arranged by third-party platform RewardStyle. After Sephora received a flood of comments on social media expressing anger at the company for working with her, the company issued a reply to commenters that her previous statements did not align with the company’s values and it would “cease all programming” with her.
On Monday, Ensing made her way across the far-right conservative media circuit to criticize Sephora, claiming that she was being persecuted by the company for being conservative and Christian. She told members of her new Telegram group that she has more appearances planned for Tuesday. When she appeared on far-right commentator and conspiracy theorist Dinesh D’Souza’s show “The Enemy Within,” D’Souza called on viewers to “give Sephora a piece of your mind” about Ensing and the company’s “bogus diversity and inclusion policies” via product reviews on Sephora’s site.
“Any claim that this decision was made on the basis of political or religious beliefs is inaccurate, we respect each individual’s right to have their own perspectives and freedom of expression. However, Sephora reserves the right to terminate any partnership we deem inappropriate for our brand,” Sephora said in statement.
Moving forward, Sephora plans to make changes to influencer vetting. According to the company, “We take this seriously and are working to ensure all future influencer outreach, content and partnerships are subjected to tighter controls.” In Ensing’s interview with Newsmax, she stated that RewardStyle had informed her that Sephora had watched her video and approved it. RewardStyle did not respond to a request for comment, but previously told Glossy that it has banned QAnon content as of October.
When making her media appearances on Newsmax and other shows, Ensing has avoided sharing any of her conspiracy theory beliefs, instead claiming that she does not support violence and is not racist. The hosts failed to ask her about any of her QAnon posts or her thoughts on the racist paraphernalia at the Capitol event she supported. Thus, the questions from conservative media have helped to garner broader support for her anti-Sephora crusade among a wider swathe of conservatives.
Since the Capitol riot, Ensing has continued to spread QAnon conspiracies regularly in her Telegram group. She has posted conspiracy theories from Lin Wood, the QAnon-supporting lawyer who called for Mike Pence’s execution, and Simon Parkes, a British former politician and conspiracy theorist who has claimed that he was adopted as a baby by a nine-foot alien. Prior to the inauguration, she shared posts supporting the QAnon theory that the military would arrest President Biden and install Trump in power on Inauguration Day. When that didn’t pan out, she switched to claims that Biden is operating from a movie set instead of the White House.
Ensing has also opposed the Black Lives Matter movement, putting her at odds with Sephora, the brands she promoted in her video and most of the beauty industry. Sephora has stated, “We believe unequivocally that Black Lives Matter,” while brands featured in her sponcon video including Fenty Beauty, Glow Recipe, Summer Fridays and Tatcha support the movement as well. In a YouTube livestream interview Monday with far-right podcaster Drew Hernandez, he called the Black Lives Matter movement “radical” and asked, “If someone in this industry did the same thing, but for Black Lives Matter … would they be treated the same way as you are?” She responded, “I think it’s a classic rules for thee, but not for me. There are people in my position that have supported those things, that have supported violence.”
According to Sephora’s statement, “We have made a commitment to build a beauty community that is welcoming, considerate, respectful and inclusive for all. These values will continue to guide every decision we make.”
Ensing said in her social media posts and multiple media interviews that her “legal team” had been corresponding with RewardStyle over a clause in the contract allowing termination in the case of a scandal. According to Sephora’s statement, “Sephora has not had any direct contact with Amanda or her legal team.” The company also stated that, “Her contract, including but not limited to terms of payment and disclosure protocols, are all handled by RewardStyle, a partner of Sephora.”
Lifestyle, fashion and beauty influencers have given a feminine, Instagram-aesthetic face to QAnon over the past year while serving as a gateway to far-right content. Although most brands stopped following Ensing after the Capitol riot, Ensing has doubled down on beauty posts and announced that she has been developing a beauty line for two years. On Twitter, she said it would be a “kicka** conservative brand,” stating, “Make Makeup Great Again.”