Tuesday, June 5, 2018

What I'm Not Buying: Lunar Beauty Life's a Drag Palette

YouTube personality MannyMUA has created his own brand, Lunar Beauty, and the brand recently launched it's first (and as of now only) product, Life's a Drag. 

And I won't be buying. 

I wasn't planning on writing a post on this palette because I don't typically write about brands that emerge from YouTube personalities, for the exception of Makeup Geek, which has been an established brand for several years. I didn't write about Laura Lee's Cat's Pajamas palette or Tati's "vitamins," and there have been dozens of YouTube collaborations that I have passed over as well. But I do feel there's a bit to talk about with this product, so here we are. 

I should also establish upfront for new readers that this is an anti-haul blog. It is a blog that is meant to encourage smart consumerism and critical thinking as relates to makeup purchases. If you're a diehard Manny fan hoping that I'm going to gush about this palette and not be critical, you're in the wrong place. 

Life's a Drag costs $45 for 14 eyeshadows. The brand is online only, so you won't be able to test products in-store, and the only return policy is for products that arrive broken. This means that if you purchase this palette, not having been able to test it first, and you don't like it or think the quality is poor, you will not be able to return it. There is no shipping information available on Lunar Beauty's website, which leads me to believe that there is no free shipping. I am also not sure if Lunar Beauty ships internationally as this information is also not included on the website. So, with what I assume shipping costs will be plus tax, I imagine that the true cost of this palette will be between $50 and $55.

Let's look at it:

Something that I found odd when looking at Lunar Beauty's website is that there is no actual picture of this palette. There are only pictures of broken shadow pans:

but no actual picture of the palette. And I find that exceptionally odd. 

Before I delve into all the reasons that I personally will not be buying this palette, I do want to talk about some of the palette's positives features. 

I really love that this palette is called "Life's a Drag" and that is celebrates drag culture. I think a drag queen would have perhaps been a better ambassador for this message, but I think that Manny has done a lot for men who wear makeup in terms of having a platform and large following and showcasing his love of makeup and skillset.  

I also like that the palette is somewhat inclusive. I say "somewhat" because I do feel the neutral colors cater toward light skin tones, and I feel some of the beige tones could have been replaced for shades that work well for deeper skin tones. But in the "About" section of Lunar Beauty's website, it says, "Lunar Beauty is a cosmetics line for men, women, and everyone in between." I appreciate the inclusivity among genders, though I don't know if stating "men" first was potentially the right move (I'll talk more on this later in the post). 

Finally, I like that Manny included six colorful shadows in this palette and didn't make the entire thing a basic neutral palette the way that most people do when they start a brand and feel they need to play it somewhat safe. And when you consider Manny's palette when he collaborated with Makeup Geek:

I think the inclusion of colorful shadows was a smart choice (we will get into this more later in the post).

Let's look at the shadows as pigments:

When you consider that the inspiration behind this palette is drag makeup, it makes sense to include neutral and colorful shades. However, I think any new brand (and even existing brands) have to consider that their audience likely has neutral shadows at this point. And I think the challenge then becomes how to create a new product that is not a "complete" palette and isn't giving people more of what they already own. 

And when I look at these shadows as pigments, I'm really only interested in the colorful ones. And even then, it's the yellow and green. The rest of the palette just looks so incredibly boring to me, and it's the majority of the palette. I don't need yet another matte black or white, and I certainly don't need that many brown shades that don't look very different once blended on the eye. 

Lunar Beauty included this photo in their promotional images:

And while I think it's an odd choice as I personally don't find this photo all that pleasing and it doesn't make me want to buy the product, I do think it's interesting that in the front, there are all these individual colors, and in the back, it's just a sea of brown. 

Lunar Beauty also does not include any swatches of this palette on their website, which I again think is a rather odd choice, and the only somewhat "official" swatches I could find were from Manny's YouTube channel:

When I look at these swatches, it feels like Life's a Drag is a combination of Manny's collaboration with Makeup Geek:

and Huda Beauty's Electric Obsessions palette:

(Or Bad Habit's dupe of this palette, After Shock):

And it is absolutely worth stating at this point that if you already own the Manny and Makeup Geek collaboration palette, you already own the majority of Life's a Drag. It makes sense, of course, because a person is always going to be drawn to their favorite shades, especially if they are trying to create a "complete" palette, which it seems like Manny is trying to do. But, when you own a brand, it's a disservice to your customers to keep selling the same shades over and over again and expect your customers to buy them. This is not just an issue with Manny—many brands do this, even (especially?) those that are very established, like Too Faced, Tarte, Urban Decay, and now Colourpop. Hell, Too Faced recently came out with the THIRD version of their "Natural Eyes" palette, and Huda Beauty just lightly tweaked their Rose Gold palette and rereleased it like it was an entirely new product. 

This is something that happens all the time. And that is where we need to step in as the consumer, recognize this tactic, and not buy into it. It is very, very likely that the target demographic for Life's a Drag is the same as the Makeup Geek palette: Manny's fanbase. I don't say that to insult Manny or his fans, but I don't think the average makeup consumer looking for a predominately neutral palette with a few pops of color, or even someone wanting to do drag makeup, is going to go to Lunar Beauty instead of all of the other well-established brands. The people who are going to be drawn to this palette are other YouTube personalities who want to either "support" Manny (and therefore not be critical of the palette) or who want the buy the palette simply to increase their own engagement. And, of course, Manny's fanbase.  

And if these fans are so diehard that they will buy anything that Manny releases, chances are they already bought the majority of this palette already with the Makeup Geek palette. 

Life's a Drag also reminds me of Dose of Colors Eyescrean:

BH Cosmetics Festival:

Juvia's Place Festival:

Juvia's Place Zulu:

And Juvia's Place Douce:

While all of the above palettes reminded me a bit of Life's a Drag, I have to admit that I find the color schemes of all of them more interesting. And, for the exception of the Dose of Colors palette, all of the palettes are considerably less expensive than Life's a Drag. 

If you're drawn to the color scheme of Life's a Drag and not just to the person who created it, chances are you already have all of the neutral shadows in your collection and you could just buy one of these other palettes or eyeshadow singles from brands like Sugarpill, Make Up For Ever, Makeup Geek (their new pressed pigments), Coloured Raine, etc. 

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't state why I personally don't want to support Manny or his brand. A year and a half ago (and, yes, I do acknowledge that this happened a little bit ago), Manny said in this video:
"There is no denying the fact that Morphe has good shadows, like, there's no denying it. I know a lot of people try to talk shit about Morphe and say, like, 'It's chalk and doesn't even work.' At the end of the day you can literally swatch it, put it on your eyes, and you'll see that they work. If you know what you're doing, they work. No tea, no shade to other shit-talkers that can't use Morphe shadows. Maybe if you knew how to do makeup, you could use them."
Meanwhile, Manny has an affiliate code with Morphe in the description box of that video.

Shortly after those comments were made, I posted this anti-haul post on the Morphe X KathleenLights palette. And regarding Manny's comments, I wrote:
"Makeup on the whole is a tool to be used for enjoyment and to make people feel good about themselves. It is a tool that every gender utilizes, but statistics have shown that the vast majority of cosmetic consumers are women. So having a man tell his audience that is primary made up of young women that if they don't like a, frankly, mediocre eyeshadow formula then they are bad at eyeshadow is disgusting and is another example of men systematically putting women down. His language was elitist and gross, and is especially unsettling because women are the main users and consumers of makeup. He is a man speaking to a primarily female audience in a female-dominated industry/hobby, and he is still putting women down. So having MannyMUA be a loud, obnoxious mouthpiece shill for Morphe does not make me ever want to support Morphe. They should be denouncing his comments, not celebrating them. If MannyMUA is the kind of spokesperson Morphe wants for their brand, then they are not a company I want to support."
To my knowledge, Manny has never apologized for that statement, and as you can see, the video is still live, that part of the video is still included, and there is no edit in the description box to say that he is sorry for making such statements.

And this is also why I am mildly annoyed that Lunar Beauty says that it is a line for "men, women, and everyone in between." Now, I don't think that there was any conscious decision to put "men" first in this list. Manny is a man, so it makes sense that he would put "men" first, and he is also an ambassador for men who wear makeup. It is also so engrained in our culture to always put "men" first when discussing "men and women" that it also just seems like something pretty innocuous. But since, as I said in my post a year and a half ago, makeup is a primarily female-dominated industry/hobby, I think it could have gone a long way to place "women" at the top of the list of who this cosmetics line is for. And, yes, I see that it is a small, maybe even petty concern, but microagressions are real, and I think it's important to always be aware of them.

YouTube is rapidly shifting, and people aren't as easily able to make a ton of money off of making videos anymore. Video creators are now in a scramble of figuring out what to do, so many of them have placed a ton of ads on every single video and are begging for people to pay to let them to live a flexible lifestyle through platforms like Patreon. (I could write an entire post about Patreon, but largely I feel it's pretty insulting to ask audience members who have to work the "boring" jobs many of these creators don't want to then pay the creator each month out of their hard-earned paycheck. And only so that the creator can continue not working those "boring" jobs and getting to live their preferred lifestyle.) It seems like the YouTube cash bubble has indeed burst or is coming very close to bursting soon. And people are having to figure out what to do so that they can keep living their lavish lifestyles. Many of the creators with the largest followings have decided to create their own brands, but at this point, the market is already so saturated that unless they can bring something truly new to the table (new products or incredibly low prices), there just doesn't seem to be room for them.

The price of Life's a Drag, I feel, is frankly too high. It's a new brand with only one product; it's online only; and they don't allow returns. Ultimately, it's a palette that is not that unique. I can't speak to the quality of the shadows, but based on Manny's finger swatches, they look like have similar performance to shadows from Colourpop or Juvia's Place. I like both of those shadow formulas, so what I mean is that Lunar Beauty's shadows don't appear to be anything revolutionary. Essentially, the palette is made up of mostly basic neutrals and a few pops of color, and is a typical shadow formula. I don't need to pay upwards of $55 for that.

While I do think there are a few positive attributes to the Life's a Drag palette, especially when you compare it to products released by similar brands created by YouTube personalities, ultimately, there is just nothing all that unique, interesting, or special about this palette. So I won't be buying.


  1. What an excellent analysis! I've never watched any of his videos, only got to know of his existence through friends that love to follow the drama, but your analysis is worth a round of applause. This kind of content and depth of analysis is what I miss from the beauty blogosphere that youtube videos and social media cannot provide!

  2. I like the creativity of drag and the impressive wealth of knowledge and skill in transforming your looks with makeup or costuming in the drag community. The irony with drag hitting mainstream is that young youtube audiences and (mostly girls) dont use drag techniques for creative expression but creating a more perfect version of themselves where they blend away their perceivedpercei and features with contour, highlighter and all that jazz. So while people like Manny mua are celebrated as an example of diversity in the beauty industry, they're probably contributing a good deal to more conformism than progressiveness, I guess. Kim Kardashian is another example who brought makeup techniques originated in drag performance art to mainstream consciousness and use.