Is beauty changing how we stan pop stars?

As Ariana Grande announces the products in the first chapter of her new makeup venture r.e.m beauty this week, she follows the likes of other pop stars with cult followings dominating the beauty sphere. Joining Rihanna’s luxurious and groundbreakingly-diverse Fenty, Lady Gaga’s NYC ball culture-inspired Haus Labs and Selena Gomez’s minimalist, disability-friendly Rare Beauty, mysterious Times Square billboards saying “r.e.m beauty coming soon” had Arianators by the throat in September — the brand name a clear reference to a song on the lauded 2018 album Sweetener. Since, newly created social media accounts for r.e.m beauty have announced their “ultraviolet” first drop will include “lashes, liners, plumping glosses and lip stains”. Meanwhile, fan-sleuthing discovered trademarks under the Grande-owned company Thunder Road Inc., that suggest the brand will also dabble in eye shadows, highlighters, concealers, cheek tints, applicators and even hair extensions to emulate the star’s iconic high-pony. 

The online consensus from Arianators seems to be overwhelmingly one of excitement. “Will be taking sugar daddy applications to afford everything from the r.e.m. beauty launch”, tweeted @grandesmarried, while @westarig commented: “we stan the queen of pop and makeup”. For the latter, who goes by Fran, Ariana holds a special place in his heart, and he’s ready to support all her endeavours. “She’s the definition of God is a woman and has had a big impact on my life. Thanks to her I am proudly queer,” he tells us. 

Ariana has played an important role in the formation of the style, identity and self-expression for many of those within Gen Z. Over the past decade, the breakout Nickelodeon actor-turned-global pop icon has released albums such as Dangerous Woman, thank u, next and Positions which all empowered a generation to embrace their sexuality. Additionally, her cute and comfy, sexy and femme fashion sense — think baggy sweatshirts, knee high-boots and kitsch matching two-pieces — played a big part in defining the trends of the late 2010s. 

One such fan highly impacted by Ari is 20 year old Kyla, who has admired Ariana since her early teenage years, not long before Kyla herself started doing makeup. “Ariana is such a makeup icon.” She says. “When I started doing makeup, one of my go-to looks for everything was the cat-eye. I was obsessed with eyeliner after it became Ari’s signature makeup look.” On Instagram, Kyla shares beauty looks she’s created, some directly inspired by Ariana herself — recently the pop star’s spacey adverts for r.e.m. beauty — others are Reels of how to create a look, often soundtracked to Ariana’s famously silky vocals.

When the beauty brand eventually launches, Kyla plans to support it largely out of a sense of pride towards Ariana. “In terms of her artistry and personal life, she has grown, which inspires me to do the same with my life. [I feel like] expressing myself through her makeup products would seal my fate in pursuing makeup and empower me to make my dreams come true like Ariana.” Like many other artists with beauty brands, Ariana’s strong and loyal following have grown up with her music as a way to explore their own identity and self-expression. They now want to support their fave in whatever ways they can. “Of course I will buy it even though I’m not that into makeup,” says Javie, the stan behind @grandeliciousxc. “I collect a lot of Ariana Grande’s stuff. I want to support her, and if the line is very versatile, I might even consider doing makeup myself.” In their support, beauty becomes a new base in which Arianators can push their own boundaries and explore things outside of their comfort zone.

Another artist consistently pushing the boundaries of self-expression is Harry Styles, and rumours have swirled that our PG-king has also got a beauty brand incoming after fans spotted his upcoming bi cop movie costar, Emma Corrin, wearing black and white nail varnishes by a mysterious brand called Pleasing — a similar name to one trademarked by Harry earlier this year. Becky, a 25-year-old Harry stan since day one of his One Direction days, says the star has definitely had a big impact on her own self-expression, especially since he flourished in his solo career. “A lot of us fans are comforted by the fact he is so confident in what he wears, and it makes us more confident to be ourselves in our own choices.” 

Becky says if he released makeup inspired by the song “Golden” — her most listened to song last year — she would buy it: “Even if he released colours I wouldn’t necessarily choose in relation to a particular lyric, it would inspire me to try it and push my boundaries, just because it’s his”. Although little is yet known about Harry’s beauty brand, yesterday Ariana announced her first dreamy collection would include items like “At the Borderlin
e Eyeliner”, “Flourishing Mascara” and “Midnight Shadows”, all references to lyrics from her most popular songs. 

By turning their music, art and personal style into a beauty brand, pop artists form a culture around their brand that becomes a tool for the fans to explore their own creativity with. A “thank you, next” T-shirt can instantly show you’re a fan of Ariana’s, but creating a makeup look from a Dangerous Woman-inspired eyeshadow palette showcases the ways in which the singer has fuelled your self-expression and creative identity. Your beauty looks can become an ode to the artist themselves. 

This is what’s happened for some of the more established brands and Lady Gaga fans use Haus Labs, which has been around since late 2019, to interact with each other and support their makeup journeys. Cate, a 23-year-old makeup artist and little monster who says the Born This Way era was especially impactful on her identity by introducing her to “queer sensibilities, gender non-conformity and campy realness at a young age”, works with other Gaga-fan MUAs to create looks that honour their faves most iconic beauty moments.

Cate and other fans take Gaga’s highly-conceptualised ideas and run with them in their own makeup projects, discussing between each other how best to execute gluing metal spikes to their eyes (in the style of Gaga’s 2019 Met Gala lashes) or creating their own kindness punk tribe based off of the warring alien armies in the “Stupid Love” music video. “I came up with the lavender ‘creative rebellion tribe’ and created a whole mythology around it, like Gaga did. They’re the haus of healing because of lavender’s therapeutic and calming abilities.” Her posts have caught the brand’s eye and, since, Cate has been featured in Haus Labs campaigns and is sometimes consulted along with other fans on what they would like to see from the brand. “We’ve had open and honest conversations about things that concerned us [such as,] being inclusive, sponsoring Black and brown MUAs and giving trans youth a platform. The camaraderie between this brand and Gaga fans is unmatched.” 

Haus Labs aren’t the only brand putting the fans front and centre. Many of these pop star-lead beauty brands choose to feature their iconic figureheads sparingly. Instead, the accounts are dedicated to the fans themselves, fostering close relationships with their followers and celebrating their own self-expression. Both @rarebeauty and @fentybeauty call on their fans to share photos of their makeup looks under #rareroutine and #fentyface, respectively, many of which are then reposted onto the brand’s accounts. The latter, especially, calls on their followers to uplift each other in the comments. While these brands are rooted in the artists’ visual identity, their fruit comes from the fans and the community they create around them. 

With Ariana’s strong and loyal following, r.e.m beauty has the potential to become a billion-dollar beauty behemoth revolutionising the industry like Fenty and adding a new dimension to the Ariana universe. “Good for her”, says Ari stan @grandeobvious when we asked what his thoughts were on her move into the beauty sphere, “but I hope it doesn’t stand in the way of her releasing music like Rihanna.” 

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