Beauty brand Bioré and influencer partner Cecilee Max-Brown have apologized following outrage around a partnership TikTok video that referenced Michigan State University’s February school shooting.
Max-Brown, who was a student at Michigan State University during the shooting and experienced the lockdown, explained in a video posted on May 21 that her intention was to “spread awareness of the struggles that I have had with anxiety since our school shooting.” Comments on the apology video have been turned off.
Both Max-Brown and Bioré have taken down videos of the ad, but some Twitter users have screen recordings that they’ve been circulating on the platform. In it, Max-Brown, in a matching workout set, is filmed walking towards a beach and then jumping rope on a rooftop alongside a voiceover saying, “Life has thrown countless obstacles at me this year, from a school shooting to having no idea what life is going to look like after college.”
According to another video Max-Brown posted, she took her last college exam on May 5.
Max-Brown continues to say that for Mental Health Awareness Month, she partnered with Bioré to “strip away the stigma of anxiety” — a play on one of Bioré’s most well-known products, its pore strips.
“I found myself recently struggling from seeing the effects of gun violence firsthand,” Max-Brown continued in the video. “I’ve had to intentionally set aside time for prioritizing my mental health. I will never forget the feeling of terror that I had walking around campus for weeks in a place I considered home.”
Social media users were outraged at the connection, questioning why the partnership between the influencer and beauty brand would leverage a mass shooting that killed three students to sell pore strips.
In an Instagram post, the Japan-based beauty company wrote, “We lacked sensitivity around an incredibly serious tragedy and our tonality was completely inappropriate. We are so sorry.”
Bioré also asked followers in the caption to direct anger towards the brand, “not towards the creators themselves.”
While social media compared the ad to Black Mirror and called it “dystopian,” this continues to be a concerning trend for influencers and brands that are seemingly pushing the limits of what constitutes as “authentic” branded content.
Recently, TikToker Ken Waks found himself in hot water after posting a series of videos claiming to investigate a series of missing persons cases in Chicago, only to then have it revealed by a since deleted LinkedIn post that he was eventually going to leverage his following into promoting his startup.
This year, influencers at Coachella barely managed to fool followers by faking their presence at the music festival in hopes of further legitimizing their social media status and securing more brand partnerships.
In January, the term “lashlighting” was coined to describe the debacle following creator Mikayla Nogueira allegedly pretending to apply L’Oréal’s telescopic lengthening mascara in an ad on TikTok.
“No words can describe how disgusting and infuriating that video is,” one Reddit user wrote in response to the Bioré video. “I’ll never forget the text messages I had to send to my mom and best friend that day because I was scared of the possibility of losing my life … Thank you for reposting this, because I will NEVER buy a biore product ever again now.”
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