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In light of recent events surrounding the skincare and wellness brand Primally Pure I have decided to remove their products from my website and remove myself from their affiliate program.
What I’m sharing below is my experience over the past week, and is in no way a comprehensive account of what took place. I took several days to provide Primally Pure with the opportunity to properly respond to the situation, disclose all details, and be transparent with their affiliate network about what had transpired. I reached out to the brand directly after this was brought to my attention. In my opinion, they were given plenty of grace and the backlash they are facing should not be lumped into some sort of overreacting cancel culture narrative.
Last week, Primally Pure was held to account online when a controversial video from “comedian” JP Sears emerged online claiming to be sponsored by their brand. The video is highly harmful and problematic. It is worth noting that this is not some loose affiliation (as Primally Pure would like us to believe). Their logo appears on an opening slide of the video, and the video ends with an in-depth ad for one of their products. The content of his video is racist, homophobic, and transphobic. As is the majority of his content.
At this point, I felt slightly sympathetic. For 8 years I worked as a social media strategist for natural skincare and beauty brands. One of my biggest learning experiences was similar in nature to this situation with JP Sears (or at least how it first appeared on the surface). I was on my client’s account one night scrolling through tagged images and interacting. This was a regular form of moderation that we performed, and given their high engagement, it was not always possible to read each image’s caption thoroughly. One of the photos we were tagged in was a nice selfie of an influencer we had worked with several times, who tagged us in the photo because she was wearing our products. I left a kind comment and went to sleep.
When I woke up in the morning we had an inbox full of messages. It turned out that toward the end of her caption (which had started out being about her kids and her beauty routine as a busy mom) she expressed her views supporting the anti-choice movement.
This was messaging that clearly did not align with my client’s brand or mission (we had partnered with Planned Parenthood and other organizations several times) and thankfully people reached out and gave us the opportunity to answer fully and cut ties with that influencer immediately. It was an incredibly valuable learning experience for me.
And so, when I first heard about the situation with Primally Pure my instinct was to be patient. Social media moderation is much more complex and nuanced than people think. Sometime’s it’s a brand doing something crappy….sometimes it’s a simple mistake by a content manager who meant no harm. I believe firmly in giving both people and brands time and space to learn and course-correct. I have been the oblivious or harmful white/cis/politically outspoken person in the room plenty of times. Sometimes getting called out is how we eventually get called in.
However, Primally Pure’s handling of this situation is not one that I can overlook or be okay with. People who called them out on their posts were met with a canned response stating they “aimed not to be political” (a very not-cute look in today’s climate). My emails directly to the founder were met with fluffy (copy and paste) responses. But perhaps worst of all, in this statement on their website (released at least 5 days after this was brought to their attention) they claimed that it was a simple clerical oversight. That they had signed on to JP’s partnership and video without knowing that his content had become controversial.
That might be believable if this had been the first video they had sponsored, but they also sponsored one in October. Or if this was the first video he created that was controversial (it’s not…controversy is his brand). Although his earlier videos were perhaps not as politically extreme as more recent ones, his early content is also offensive, particularly to both wellness and spirituality and I can’t quite fathom why they would have chosen to align themselves with him at any time. I have also been sent screenshots of the Primally Pure brand + employees interacting with his content for months leading up to this as well as other highly problematic accounts (I have not independently verified these, but trust the sources that shared them).
You see, when I made an error on my client’s behalf, I was given grace, but we were transparent and bold in our response and it was honest. Imagine if we had claimed to not having read her anti-choice caption, but then people found proof that our account had been liking and commenting on her anti-choice rhetoric for months? Or worse yet, also partnering with and paying her to create harmful content in months prior? That would be evidence not just of a momentary oversight, but of systemic problems within the brand and its alignment
While this may be a learning experience that Primally Pure can bounce back from, I cannot in good conscience continue to work with a brand that so blatantly tries to toe the line with content that further promotes these conspiracies and divisive messages that are currently creating dangerous and deadly situations across the US. This has not been about liberal versus conservative views for a long time. This is, quite simply, about taking a stand when blatant Fascism marches through the doors of democracy and taking responsibility for the role you may have played in promoting content that supports it.
A note to my fellow affiliates who have worked with Primally Pure: Their affiliate network is robust and is a huge part of their success as a brand. When given the opportunity to be transparent with us they chose to instead deliver a canned statement to our entire network hoping the situation would be swept under the rug. Their emails and statements have not been transparent, they have not been bold, they have not directly condemned the conspiratorial and harmful nature of the content they sponsored and helped put into the world. It was not enough for them to distance themselves from him, they should have strongly condemned his words. While it is up to each of us to choose which brands we work with, I would personally be wary of putting my name behind a company that when given the opportunity, chose profit over people.
I would also suggest that you proceed with caution. Primally Pure aggressively blocked at least one affiliate who held them to account and spoke out publicly about this situation. I have also gotten several messages about other problematic partnerships they have had in the past, but since I wasn’t able to verify some of the information at this time I chose not to include it in this post. And unfortunately, due to the complete lack of transparency on their part, we are left to assume the worst and act accordingly.
If we are fortunate enough to have influence, it is also our job to also use that influence to pressure the brands we work with into doing the right thing. If we don’t, we don’t deserve that influence.
I want to align myself with brands that also align with my core values. Or at the very least, will take responsibility for their actions and dedicate themselves to progress. I have not seen that from Primally Pure and therefore am not comfortable recommending their products through my site or accounts. (as of 2023…the video from JP Sears is still live online, and still contains their advertising. I assume if they truly regretted it, they would have demanded he remove it.)
Several affiliates who have already cut ties with them have committed to donating their final commission checks. This is an important and worthwhile step toward righting this wrong. My monthly affiliate earnings across all partnerships from my favorites page (or blog) are always donated each month through my Shoes for Activists or Personal Pledge program. And so, my final earnings from their affiliate program will be donated to direct community care and causes I align with, just as all previous ones have been. You can learn more about each of these on my Giving Back Page.
I am not one of their all-star fans or affiliates. I have a tried-and-true skincare routine I have used for nearly a decade — and not even Primally Pure’s robust affiliate program or high commission rates could have gotten me to recommend their products over my trusted routine. However, there are three products of theirs that made it onto my favorites page — deodorant, dry shampoo, and a face roller. I have removed them as of today. The search for a great non-toxic deodorant continues!
Thank you for reading, and thank you to those who sent messages to bring this situation to my attention. I am sorry that any of us have to be thinking about or dealing with things like this in the midst of the current national crisis and global pandemic. If there’s one thing I know for sure it is that now is not the time to align ourselves with brands that choose to remain “neutral”. There are plenty of brands who are sticking out their necks to stand up for what is right, and those are the names I want next to mine.
I’ve been asked to share any other brands I recommend connecting with. Here are my suggestions, and each of these are brands I have authentically used and supported for years, not just an off-the-cuff recommendation:
One Love Organics: my entire face routine consists of their products. Full disclosure, I managed their social media for several years so I’m perhaps biased, but even after I lost my employee discount I never abandoned their products despite trying out plenty of others. They’re that good.
Osmia Organics: founded by an ER doctor turned skincare guru. Try their whipped body mousse (rosemary is my favorite) and Lip Doctor Balm! Their Instagram account is also one of my favorites to follow.
Jacq’s Skincare: BIPOC owned. I connected with them when they were first getting off the ground and it’s been so fun to see their incredible growth! They have great bundles that will give you an entire all-natural skincare routine based on your skin type.
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