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Celebrity Brands: A Scam or an Extension of Self-Expression?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Stevens chapter.

Celebrity brands have become a growing aspect of today’s consumer culture as entertainment, fashion, lifestyle, and entrepreneurship have found a way to blend seamlessly.  Many of your favorite celebrities have begun leveraging their fame to develop and endorse their own product lines which can range from clothing to beauty or wellness products.  Celebrity business ventures offer a unique view of the relationship between commerce and fame, as A-listers strategically craft and promote their own brand identities and begin to engage and interact with their fan bases in a new way.  As a consumer of these products, it is important to ask yourself – Am I being scammed, or is this just another way to express myself and my appreciation for my favorite celebrities?

Celebrity brands often share a common thread – a premium price tag – which can reflect the quality of the products, but more often than not, the allure of the celebrity’s name and image.  Consumers are often willing to invest more in these brands, as they associate the products with a certain level of prestige or luxury.  But we must not be blind to the fact that our favorite celebrities are often deeply involved in the development process, which includes the setting of high price points.  They are not blind to the fact that their image and reputation can be used to justify otherwise unreasonable prices.

One of the most popular celebrity brands that has gone under fire for unreasonable prices is Harry Styles’ Pleasing which sells sustainably sourced beauty products and clothing.  Many fans argue that the high price points are unfair and claim that Styles takes advantage of his loyal fans, knowing that they will purchase products regardless of it being a fair value.  On the other hand, some place emphasis on the “Do Better” aspect of the brand, highlighting that this is not a Harry Styles merch, but a separate brand created by him to focus on sustainability, self-expression, and giving back to organizations that support kindness, creativity, and optimism.

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Many supporters of Pleasing find a sense of freedom in being able to express themselves through fun clothing, brightly colored nail polishes, and glittery eyeshadows while supporting a greater cause, which for them justifies the higher price points.

Another celebrity brand that has received backlash for unreasonable price points is Frank Ocean’s Homer.  This brand primarily sells high-end jewelry products, but at prices that are unreasonable for the large majority of his fanbase. GQ wrote “Ocean has that uniquely compelling draw because he’s carved out a one-person home at the intersection of massive global popularity and exquisite, niche taste.”  While many fans were excited to support Ocean, who is known to be an artist that “rolls in silence,” they were unable to, as the cheapest item of the first collection approached $500.  While fans of Frank Ocean may aspire to own Homer jewelry, its elevated (and arguably inflated) price point unfortunately limits accessibility for many, underscoring the exclusivity associated with luxury and artistic craftsmanship.

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One area where celebrity brands have seen a general positive response is in the beauty industry.  Several brands, including Rare Beauty, Fenty Beauty, r.e.m Beauty, and rhode, to name a few, have emerged as platforms for self-expression within cosmetics and skincare.  These brands encourage consumers and fans to not only explore but celebrate their unique identities through makeup and skincare – and at prices that are comparable to other makeup and beauty brands.  Celebrities often create a diverse range of products that cater to a wide range of skin tones, types, and preferences which fosters inclusivity and a sense of community amongst fans.  These brands often align with celebrities’ personal ethos and branding as well, which can be enticing to consumers as it allows them to align their personal self-expression with their favorite celebrities without necessarily breaking the bank.  In essence, celebrity beauty brands serve as a pathway to creativity and self-discovery.

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Celebrity brands present a dichotomy – questioned as potential scams exploiting the fame and influence of celebrities or celebrated as a means of self-expression and support for a greater cause.  The premium pricing associated with these brands is a consistent aspect, invoking debates on fairness and value.  It is within this intersection of commerce and creativity that we must navigate, discerning whether these celebrity brands serve as authentic expressions of self-expression or simply a reflection of opportunistic marketing strategies.

Maddy Tartaglia is a junior at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken New Jersey. Her major is Marketing Innovation & Analytics, with a minor in Psychology. Her personal interests include pop culture, music, art, and literature, and in her free time she loves going to New York, going to the beach, and to concerts.
Melissa Oliver is a Junior at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken New Jersey. Her major is Quantitative Finance, with a minor in Computer Science and a concentration in Finance. Her personal interests include pop culture, music, art, and running, and in her free time she loves going to New York, going to the beach, and to concerts.