hellorousseau

an eloquently warped point of view from the tongue of a cartoon character.

Tag: Cosmetics

Pandora’s Purple Box: Part Two

PPB2

“All the makeup in the world won’t make you less insecure… Silly girl… ”        –Melanie Martinez, Sippy Cup


Tatiana Janovcik sits in the small, bustling Starbucks in Winnipeg’s Osborne Village district. Behind the 23-year-old student, the summer sun dips below the boutique shops, painting a vibrant sunset across the Canadian city.

Janovcik’s eye makeup is light and warm. A thin, steady line of eyeliner emphasizes her curled lashes. Her eyeshadow is neutral, but catches the coffee-house’s mood lighting with flickers of gold.

Despite her fresh face of makeup, Janovcik doesn’t wear any lipstick.

“I added up how much I lost,” she says after a sip of her drink. “It was $2,200. It was around that number.”

Janovcik’s long blonde hair is pulled behind one ear, brightening the dim shadow from across her sharp, blue eyes. In one hand, she holds a piece of paper; a letter.
A letter she’s read more than once.

Dear Tatiana Janovcik,” starts the note. Printed plainly on wrinkled, white paper, it bares a stark contrast from the sender’s normally neon attitude. “Lime Crime is writing to inform you of an incident involving personal information you provided…

tat

Janovcik sits with her Lime Crime letter and a rough tally of what was stolen after the company’s security breach.

For Janovcik, it’s not news that from October 2014 to February 2015, Lime Crime Makeup, a company owned by notoriously colourful & quirky CEO Doe Deere, faced a massive security breach that compromised the personal and financial information of thousands of their customers around the world.

Search ‘Lime Crime Scandal’ on Google, and you’ll be able to read the almost perfectly catalogued mass of hysteria & panic users faced when they realized their accounts had been allegedly drained;

or in Janovcik’s case, used to buy luxury plane tickets around the world.

“I got the first email for a flight confirmation in February, and I was like, ‘Well, this is really weird, but maybe it’s just spam,’” says Janovcik, who had only purchased her first– and last– Lime Crime product just a month earlier. “But then I had a friend over, and I was like, ‘Look how weird this email is!’ and he was like, ‘Okay, but does your credit card number end in blah, blah, blah?’”

Her lips curl into a smile and she lets out a light laugh, looking out the Starbucks window. The sun has left the sky, and the cosy Winnipeg neighbourhood is dark.

“I was like ‘Oh, fuck. Yeah.’ Then I suddenly remembered… the letter, and right away I was like, ‘Holy shit.’”

She purses her naked lips before looking down at the note.

“I lost it. I started crying. I kept saying, ‘This is what it is! I know this is what it is!’”

But Janovcik says there were no red flags– no warnings, no negative reviews, no backlash– that she saw before purchasing the $20 tube of Cashmere that ended up costing her over $2,000.

“Most of the people I followed [on Instagram] raved about [Lime Crime’s] products on their beauty accounts,” says Janovcik. “They thought the brand had awesome colours, and that it was a decent product. That’s kind of why I went for it.”

And while in hindsight Janovcik says she was naive for not researching more before falling in love with Lime Crime, over 2,000 miles away, in sunny California, 28-year-old Polly* shared her similar thoughts.

“Honestly? To tell you the complete and honest truth? I never knew about these things, about the backlash,” says Polly over the phone. “The only thing I had heard of was that their stuff wasn’t actually vegan, and obviously because I was such a fan of them, I thought ‘Well they could be lies,’ and, ‘people always have haters.’”

Polly was hired by Doe Deere to work in Lime Crime’s customer service; a job she got not only because of her qualifications, but because she mentioned she was a massive fan of Deere.

“They say ‘if you have haters, you’re doing something right.’”


xxxxxxDollhouse

“Hey girl, open the walls, play with your dolls…”

Even though Polly talks to me over the phone, I can hear the smile in her voice.
She says it was a dream come true.

“Could you imagine? It’d be like Makeup For Ever calling you and being like, ‘Yo,’” laughs Polly sharply. “It was so cool and so exciting. Honestly, it was the best day ever.”

It was a few months after a friend would put in a good word for her that Polly got the phone call. She had been working in product development with various cosmetics companies, and after leaving her prior job due to the brand’s financial issues, she received her first message from Lime Crime.

“The first interview I did, I did it with Mark (Deere’s husband). [Mark and I] chatted a little bit– it was a very informal interview, like at a local coffee shop– but they were pretty impressed with my credentials,” says Polly.

She hesitates.

“They also really liked the fact that I was a long time Doe Deere & Lime Crime fan.”

Polly says she let them know of her fondness of Deere; that she followed her blog, and admired her unique style since her early entrepreneurial days online. “[I used to] look at all the original Lime Crime stuff with its original packaging. They loved that.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 1.04.24 AM

A photo from Deere’s personal Instagram account allegedly shows the CEO dressed as an angel at Lime Crime’s head office.

The second interview took place at Lime Crime’s offices in California. Polly waited momentarily before being escorted to her meeting with Deere. 

“… We’ll be a perfect family.”

“Same thing happened; we chatted, and it was kind of informal, but we quickly got down to the nitty-gritty and she asked me similar questions [to Mark] like, ‘What are you doing? What are you looking for?’ blah, blah, blah,” says Polly. “I told her the same things, that I was a fan. She really, really liked that.”

In fact, Deere liked Polly so much that the 28-year-old started her job at Lime Crime the next day.

“When you walk away, is when we really play.”

She recounts her excitement as the news sunk in a brand she admired for so long had picked her to work for them. Deere herself had personally chosen Polly to work alongside.

She was ecstatic. 

It was Polly’s first ever customer service job, and while she hadn’t heard about the negativity surrounding the brand at the time, her glimpse into Lime Crime’s dollhouse-like world as a serious makeup brand perplexed the young woman.

“Everyone thinks that we’re perfect.”

“They’re very big on having lunch together every single day, and doing whatever [Deere] wants to do,” says Polly. “I remember one day, I went to lunch by myself, and it was like a big deal to them. They were like, ‘What? She’s not eating with us?’ because you’d always have to do what she wanted.”

When Polly came back from her break and joined the small group of employees, she says Deere and a girl with neon hair turned and left without speaking to her.

“[Deere] and one of the other girls got up and sat somewhere else. Like, so Mean Girls’ high school,” says Polly. She pauses on the other end of the phone before speaking; her voice breaks a little.

“She’s one of those people where it has to be all about her, and if you want to do your own thing, it’s not really acceptable.”

Polly claims that although there’s a small number of people in the company, they’re very united and private. “I’m pretty sure they’re just her closest friends as well as her employees,” says Polly. “It kind of felt like a high school type of thing where there was just a few of them, and you either fit in and follow their unspoken rules, or you’re out.”

“Please don’t let them look through the curtains.”

Unbeknownst to Polly, her time at Lime Crime had a fast-approaching expiry date.

“I wasn’t there that long [before I was let go], but what I was told by her husband was that I did not fit in with the culture of the company… that I just don’t have the right style,” says Polly.

But she was upset, and pointed out to Mark that they had more than enough time to change their minds about hiring her. Polly also noted that when she was fired, she had no interaction with Deere, the woman who had ultimately made the decision to hire her.

“I said, ‘You had 2 interviews with me, and you’re telling me I don’t have the right style?’ and he was like, ‘Yeah, it sounds like a dick move, and I feel really bad, but I’m willing to be a personal reference for you because you’re really smart and you do really good work! But, you know, Doe just kind of has a vision.’”

Polly lets out a weak laugh.

“Throw on your dress and put on your doll faces.”

“All I said [to Mark] was ‘… Are you joking me?’ I knew Doe had to approve your outfits when you go to trade shows, and I think she was kinda hoping that maybe one day I would just walk in with purple hair or something but… I’m sorry, in the real world, people don’t want to look like you,” laughs Polly.

“They’re not trying to be up your ass.”

So Polly left Lime Crime and went on her way, but despite working so closely with Deere, she says she never caught wind of negativity– even while working in their customer service department, an experience she is forced to keep confidential due to the brand’s strict non-disclosure agreement (although when asked about what it was like working for Lime Crime’s customer service, Polly answered with a loud laugh.) 

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 1.06.01 AM

“Once I started working for her, I had a friend who owns a hair Salon down in San Diego, and she was telling me, ‘Haven’t you heard about the Tumblr site?’” says Polly in reference to Oh Dear, Doe Deere! “Literally right after I stopped working there, I started to do my research, and I was like, ‘Ah, shit. She is a piece of crap.’”

“Ha, you’re blinded by her jewelry.”

Months after the hack, Polly watched from afar as her former employer dealt with the security breach that would allegedly cripple hundreds of customers financially across the globe. While she says the hack could happen to any company, she feels like Lime Crime’s response showed the brand’s true colours.

“It’s all about your delivery, and Doe’s delivery sucked. Any point she might have had has just gotten lost,” says Polly in reference to the CEO lashing out at customer’s through social media. “The fact that things went private, like [Lime Crime and Deere’s] Instagram pages, I-I just can’t… I… I honestly can’t. Any company with respect and dignity…”

Polly’s voice trails off on the other end of the phone. She lets out a sigh.

“I mean, isn’t the customer always supposed to be right?”

“No one ever listens, this wallpaper glistens…”

Polly, *whose name has been changed to protect her from backlash, still works in product development with cosmetics. She follows her favourite brands & makeup artists on Instagram, much like Janovcik did when she was first influenced to buy from Lime Crime.

“Social media is BIG,” states Polly, who believes that the #BoycottLimeCrime movement could be effective if more people with bigger clout begin to speak up against the brand.

“With all these names like Jaclyn Hill, Jefree Starr, and whoever else with massive amounts of followers [against Lime Crime on social media]… it is THE form of communication that reaches the masses, and I feel like because of this, they might go down and not be able to get their reputation out of the gutter.”

As for people who are still considering buying Lime Crime?

“At the end of the day, you have to make whatever choice is right for you, but there are better options out there that are true to what they say… I mean, why waste your time supporting somebody who’s never going to support you?”

“I see things that nobody else sees.”


xxxxxxPity Party

“Did my invitations disappear?”

“One of my favourite makeup companies has always had rather… difficult reputation,” starts 20-year-old Tanja’s, aka Rose Shock’s, open letter posted to her blog. “For years, I have been supported by them, and I have absolutely loved their products.”

The Helsinki, Finland makeup artist continues, her tone shifting. “Slowly but surely I was seeing the evolution of this brand, and it was one downfall after another. For awhile I was afraid to use their products because people would attack me…” says Shock. “There is absolutely no reason why I should stand for a makeup company that makes me feel guilty.

Or scared even.

“Why’d I put my heart on every cursive letter?”

“Everyone keeps asking me about my thoughts on Lime Crime and their disgusting owner…” says Jeffrey Lynn Steininger, aka, Jefree Starr, in a lengthy Instagram post to his 1.2 million followers.

“Long story short: I befriended her in 2013 and had no idea how delusional, psychologically disturbed, and sad this girl was. She only wanted to be ‘friends’ so I would promote her brand and she would get attention. Fast forward to NOW…

All of the horrible things she as done have finally caught up with her.”

“Tell me why the hell no one is here…”

Meanwhile, on Snapchat (and also in Instagram comments,) style icon and makeup guru Jaclyn Hill, who has recently teamed up with BECCA Cosmetics, publicly posted her 10-second boycott pledge:

The backlash continued from more major players:
“In short, I will no longer be promoting/using @limecrimemakeup products or supporting the company in any way,” began the post to Samantha Ravndahl’s, aka SSSSamanthaa’s, 1.7 million Instagram followers.

“Along with many other artists, I truly feel this is what’s right. @Roseshock definitely said it well – regardless of truly enjoying Lime Crime products, I am often wary to post about them, and makeup shouldn’t be something you feel guilty about. I avoided getting involved in this controversy for a long time, but in light of recent events… I began to realize something,” wrote Ravndahl.

“I have been recommending these products. I could have been the one to push you to pick up that velvetine that consequently compromised your card.

And that’s simply not okay.”

“Tell me what to do to make it all feel better.”

Since Lime Crime’s security breach, which started in October 2014 & allegedly continued until February 2015, makeup influencers both big and small have used their social media platforms as a way to educate others about the brand.

While some have called for a boycott of the brand at events like IMATS, others have encouraged followers to do their own research and dispose of their Lime Crime makeup.

People like Lauren Curtis and Carli Bybel, who have made somewhat of a career from Youtube makeup videos and artistry, have nearly 7 million subscribers to their channels combined, so when one of them takes to Twitter to post their distaste with a brand, people listen.
curti

“Thanks for saying something or I never would’ve known!” writes one user in response to Curtis’ followup tweet asking her followers to Google the boycott.

“THANK YOU FOR SPEAKING OUT!” writes another in response to a similar tweet from Bybel. “Please help everyone who was affected also! [Deere] is trying shun… the problem.”

“Maybe it’s a cruel joke on me…
Whatever, whatever.”

And as people continue to point out, the problem not only stems from the initial security breach, or the drama & dishonesty that allegedly preceded the brand in Deere’s early years, but from Lime Crime’s treatment of their customers– or their ‘BFFs,’ as their self-proclaimed manifesto states (see below.)

Lime Crime’s Manifesto, posted in their California head office.

“Social media presence in this day is extremely relevant… [with] tech being what it is, anything can be quickly captured and shared in a second. That’s how the boycott has managed to succeed and not get bogged down,” says Quinn* who runs the popular boycott account, @RIPLimeGrime.

“If this were a few years ago, I guarantee D’oh (Deere) would have been able to shut us down like everyone else. But now, things are moving too fast and too quick for her to control it.”

“Just means there’s way more cake for me,
forever, forever.”

Quinn, *whose name has been changed to protect her identity, started dedicating her time to the boycott after witnessing how Lime Crime was responding to the hack while ignoring its panicked customers.

“I felt like something needed to be done, and they needed a voice as Doe wasn’t listening… [She was] making it difficult for them to be heard,” says Quinn. “So I started the boycott account.”

@RIPLimeGrime thrives mainly on Instagram, but also keeps an updated Twitter and Tumblr that reaches out to its 5,000 or so followers. The accounts are updated regularly, showcasing recent, almost daily examples of Lime Crime’s treatment of customers, including their habit of allegedly deleting comments, not giving due credit to original posters, or editing other’s personal product photos.

“The length and breadth of the boycott is very interesting to say the least. It’s touched so many people on so many levels and walks of life. It really is astounding,” says Quinn, who works for a major cosmetics company as a professional artist when she’s not managing the account. “It’s brought people together.”

“It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.”

As she points out, the #BoycottLimeCrime hashtag is pushing 8,000 posts and counting. It has support from big-name makeup artists with thousands (or even millions) of followers, down to average Jane’s with 2 or 3 hundred.

“Too many people have been affected [by Lime Crime]. They’re all pissed and speaking out, and it’s too much for Doe to control anymore,” says Quinn.

“We’re like whack-a-mole or a hydra; cut 1 head off, 2 more spring up-” and there are certainly plenty hydras being decapitated, because a quick search yields countless accounts under names like @boycott.lime.crime, @limecrimelies, @limecrimeboycott, @boycott.limecrime, @limecim3_criminals, @lime_crime_liar, @limecrime_sucks, and plenty more across all social media platforms.

“I’ve seen a lot more comments on Lime Crime’s posts on a regular basis now; almost every post will have boycott related comments on it, so it’s difficult not to see it,” says Quinn, who adds that Deere allegedly deletes most negative comments, but either chooses not to get them all, or misses some.

“Maybe if I knew all of them well,

A glance at Lime Crime’s Instagram account typically yields dozens of customer comments ranging from some cursing the brand and calling Deere evil, to others expressing curiosity over claims of cold sores, severe medical reactions, product inconsistencies, and, of course, the boycott.

“More people are getting bolder and more vocal for sure,” adds Quinn.

And it appeared that those people’s voices had been heard,
because on July 29th, 2015,
via overnight delivery,
the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) sent a warning letter directly to Doe Deere and Lime Crime Makeup.

Dear Ms. Deere,” starts the note. I picture it printed plainly on crisp, white paper, baring a stark contrast from the receiver’s normally neon attitude.  “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has reviewed your product, Lime Crime Velvetines Liquid Matte Lipstick (red velvet)…

I imagine Deere reading the letter over and over like Janovcik did with her letter from Lime Crime.

“Cry if I want to
(Cry, cry, cry)”


 

xxxxxxSoap

“Think I got myself in trouble,
so I fill the bath with bubbles.”

Across the Atlantic Ocean, in the city of Birmingham, UK, 23-year-old Aimee Alcock recounts the first time Lime Crime’s Velvetines allegedly made her sick.

“At a first look, my doctor thought I had got my mouth in contact with some form of chemical agent that would cause this [reaction],” says Alcock. She alleges that after using her tubes of Riot and Wicked for the first time, her health began to deteriorate.

“I feel it coming out my throat…”

“As the day went on [after applying Riot] I slowly lost my voice and had a really sore throat.” Alcock claims she wore the lipstick the first time for a girls’ night out one weekend. “After 4 days, the sore throat subsided and I started to get back to normal. Again, I went out for a weekend with some friends, and I decided to give Wicked a go.”

This time, her reaction was much more severe.

While Alcock reasoned that perhaps her first symptoms could have come from a night of drinking and getting rowdy with friends, the second, more aggressive reaction started to raise questions about what exactly was causing her health problems.

“God, I wish I never spoke…”

“I had nothing to drink [when I went out], and nothing spectacular happened, so when I woke up the following morning with a sore throat to the point I was in tears, a swollen tongue, and blisters all over my lips, I started to get worried,” she says. “I booked myself in to see my GP (general practitioner) the next day to get a diagnosis.”

After her initial examination, Alcock’s doctor was stumped. He asked if she could have come in contact with dangerous chemicals from her previous job at a funeral home, but Alcock swore she hadn’t worked closely with embalming materials in quite some time.

“After a process of elimination, we came to realize that it could be the Wicked Velvetine,” says Alcock, who says her doctor also told her that there was some form of agent in the lipstick that she was allergic to. Alcock checked the packaging.

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 7.52.43 PM

“There was nothing that immediately stood out to myself or my GP as an aggressive ingredient in them to have caused such an angry rash and reaction,” Alcock says.

“When I got home, I immediately threw away all 3 of my shades. The following few days after returning from my GP, I suffered with flu-like symptoms, a temperature, loss of appetite, migraines and muscle weakness, which my GP also linked directly to the use of the Velvetines.”

“Guess I better wash my mouth out with soap.”

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there are a few chemicals that cause flu-like symptoms similar to what Alcock experienced;
Exposure to Benzene, a natural constituent of crude oil, will initially mimic cold symptoms before getting aggressive and deadly. 2-butoxyethanol, a colourless liquid with a sweet, ether-like odor that’s used in domestic and industrial products, will also imitate qualities of a stomach bug before attacking major organs like the kidney and liver.

And while the list of potential chemical culprits could extend across the Atlantic to Alcock’s front door, there are 2 that have been linked back to Lime Crime directly– and depending on who you choose to believe, the issue is either simply a misprint, or a serious, unapproved, cosmetic catastrophe.

Velvetines Liquid Matte Lipstick (red velvet) is an adulterated cosmetic because it bears or contains a color additive which is unsafe…” reads the FDA’s official letter addressed to Deere. “Specifically, according to your product label, Velvetines Liquid Matte Lipstick (red velvet) contains ferric ferrocyanide and ultramarines, which are only permitted for use in coloring.

“I’m tired of being careful, tiptoe…”

Ferric ferrocyanide, also known as Prussian Blue, has been used as a pigment in the cosmetics industry with artists since 1704. It is widely considered to be the first modern, synthetic pigment, and while ferric ferrocyanide is FDA approved for cosmetic use, the chemical is not specifically lip-safe.

“Prussian blue works using a mechanism known as ion exchange. [Chemicals] that have been absorbed into the body are removed by the liver and passed into the intestine and are then re-absorbed into the body,” reads the FDA’s breakdown of the chemical. “Prussian blue works by trapping [chemicals] in the intestine, so that they can be passed out of the body in the stool rather than be re-absorbed.”

The FDA’s official website also states that a common side-effect from ferric ferrocyanide stems from stomach pain and mild, flu-like symptoms. While there are no recorded, consistent reactions from reputable sources like the FDA on ultramarine’s direct effects, those who have seen adverse reactions to the pigment have reported everything from rashes, itching, cystic acne, extreme skin sensitivity, and more.

“[Ultramarines] have been synthetically produced in labs since the 70s,” writes beauty blogger, The Soap Pixie, in a post addressing the difference between micas, ultramarines & oxides. “The FDA decided that natural oxides were too contaminated with dangerous minerals (lead, arsenic, mercury, antimony and selenium). Since then, only ‘cosmetic grade’ synthetic oxides & ultramarines have been allowed.”

When news of Lime Crime’s FDA warning letter broke in August– from major, credible news sources like The Huffington Post, Fashionista.com, The Glow, Style Blazer, and more– it was no surprise that frightened customers flooded the brand’s social media demanding answers.

“Any comment on the FDA letter?” writes one user on Lime Crime’s Instagram account. “I mean, it’s on the FDA website… Hard to lie about that…”

“You guys should address this FDA issues in detail. I order a lot and I’m so confused right now,” writes another.

“Is it true about some of your velveteens not complying with the FDA standards?” a customer asks. “Can you clarify the issues going on with the FDA?”

However, rather than addressing their customer’s concerns, users allege that their posts were deleted intentionally. As some begged for the brand to make a formal post about the FDA’s claims, curious comments began to allegedly disappear from Lime Crime’s social media. User’s whose panic wasn’t removed either found themselves ignored, or blocked.

“Uh-oh, there it goes, I said too much, it overflowed.”

But besides allegedly silencing customers, Lime Crime was quick to defend themselves.

On the brand’s social media, Lime Crime told customers that the FDA violation wasn’t because of unsafe chemicals; rather, the panic was due to a simple misprint on the packaging.

“The Velvetines are safe to use, however there is a misprint on the label which we were asked to fix. We are doing this right now,” reads one response from Lime Crime addressing a customer’s question before the brand asks one of their own: “If you don’t mind us asking, what is the source that is talking about this?”

In other replies, the brand responded with a variety of answers:
“Just so you guys are in the know, the ingredients in question… are NOT harmful. They are approved for lips in Europe,” read another post from the brand.

“I understand. But Europe and the US have different regulations,” starts one user in her response. “All I really want is for Lime Crime to make a formal post regarding this… looks like you don’t care, and that’s what makes me most uncomfortable.”

Another user then joined in: “[It’s] still unprofessional to address this in a comment.”

It took around 9 days after the letter went public for Lime Crime to formally address the FDA’s warning. As customers waited for the brand’s official statement, others speculated whether Lime Crime would adhere to the FDA’s 15-day strict response period:

Please notify this office in writing within fifteen (15) working days of the receipt of this letter as to the specific steps you have taken to correct the stated violations,” reads the FDA letter. “Including an explanation of each step being taken to identify violations and make corrections to ensure that similar violations will not recur.

Since the warning, Lime Crime has posted a response to their website at http://www.limecrime.com/fda (it is noted that there is no direct way to get to the article from the brand’s homepage.)

“Why do I always spill?”

Lime Crime received a warning letter from FDA in reference to the cosmetic pigments Ultramarines and Ferric Ferrocyanide printed on the Velvetines box. The letter was a request for clarification as to whether those ingredients are in the product, and the FDA does not claim to have tested the products for the presence of these ingredients in the formula,” reads the brand’s public statement. “In fact, those ingredients are not in Lime Crime’s Velvetines products.

But what about Alcock’s aggressive symptoms?
What about her doctor’s diagnosis?
Or the fact customers alleged other boxes besides just Red Velvet were found to have ferric ferrocyanide printed?
And if it was just a misprint, why did Lime Crime continuously point out that the chemicals were approved in Europe if they weren’t even used in the first place?

Lime Crime has been in active communication with the FDA regarding the letter and following their instructions to resolve it as quickly as possible,” continues the statement. “As per FDA, Lime Crime is providing documentation demonstrating that these ingredients are, indeed, not part of the Velvetines formula and it’s a simple labeling error.

“Threw a toaster in the bathtub…”

What about customers who have posted photos to social media of their alleged reaction from Lime Crime’s makeup?
And if it was a simple labeling mistake– a simple misspell– why such a big one?
If Deere was as hands-on with her cosmetics as she claims,
why was it not corrected earlier?

Like many others, I had questions for the brand.

I reached out to Deere via email after the news of the FDA letter broke. Once again, I received the same, cookie-cutter message from Lime Crime that I normally did, so I decided to ask my questions on Instagram.

“Hi! I’m the Canadian journalist who wrote Pandora’s Purple Box–”

My account was blocked in less than 2 minutes.

“I’m sick of all the games I have to play.”


xxxxxxCry Baby

“You seem to replace your brain with your heart.
You take things so hard, and then you fall apart.”

Since the FDA warning, Lime Crime has continued to sell its product to its passionate, dedicated fan base.

Deere and her team have released new cosmetics– the most recent announced today– a lipstick called Eraser, “an Urban Outfitters exclusive new cream matte lipstick shade that was inspired by the eraser on the classic # 2 pencil.” (quote taken from Lime Crime’s Instagram.)

As one boycotter put it, “She named it eraser because she loves to delete/erase any comments she doesn’t like.”

The brand even teamed up with singer/songwriter Melanie Martinez a few months back, a 20-year-old, top six contestant from The Voice Season 3.

Together, they released Cry Baby, a bright blue lipstick shade that some have either pegged as the brand’s response to Jefree Starr’s shade Jaw Breaker that was released earlier this summer, or a close version of the brand’s already existing lipstick, No She Didn’t.

But despite the release of the new, neon lipsticks,
unique, mouth-watering colours,
and innovative, pretty, delicate packaging,
Taiana Janovcik says she’s done with the brand.

Janovcik sits in the small, bustling Starbucks in Winnipeg’s Osborne Village district. From across the stained coffee table, she hands me her letter from Lime Crime.

“It was nice of them to type up a letter, but how long did that take?” asks Janovcik before taking a sip from her drink. I expect a ring of lipstick to stick to the mouth of the cup, but remember she isn’t wearing any.

“You try to explain but before you can start,
those cry baby tears come out of the dark.”

“I feel like it would have been forgivable if it was an honest mistake that was dealt with literally the second they found out, but to hear that Doe Deere was responding with hateful comments, blocking people… Like, that’s… I actually don’t even know what to say about that,” says Janovcik. “I’m just embarrassed for her, honestly. I’m embarrassed for her.”

She glances out the window. The city is dark.

“They call you cry baby, cry baby,
but you don’t fucking care.
Cry baby, cry baby,
so you laugh through your tears.”


Pandora’s Purple Box is a series written and researched by Canadian journalist, bestselling author, and award-winning blogger, Cella Lao Rousseau.
The 2-part series focuses on Lime Crime Makeup and their security breach that took place in 2014, as well as their recent FDA warning in 2015, and features real-life stories from victims of the hack, boycotters involved, and an exclusive interview with a former Lime Crime employee.
Deere was contacted several times for an interview. She declined to comment or participate.
Music and lyrics by Melanie Martinez.
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Pandora’s Purple Box: Part One

“They gave Pandora a box… She opened it. Every evil to which human flesh is heir came out of it. The last thing to come out of the box was hope. It flew away.” ― Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake


It started with the order of 2 Lime Crime lipsticks.

It ended with a credit card hack, the theft of $3,000, the loss of her job, the deterioration of her health, and the slow decay of the rest of her life.

“My life is ruined for two tubes of lipstick,” says Eva*, whose name has been changed due to the severe backlash she’s received from telling her story. “I can’t even stomach it.”

While Eva’s case in particular may seem like an extreme horror story, it’s actually the harsh and terrifying reality for allegedly hundreds of people across the globe who decided to order Lime Crime makeup since at least October 2014, when a massive security breach compromised the financial and personal information of the companies’ clients due to poor security on their site–

something that people claim Lime Crime knew about for months, but did nothing to fix.

“I don’t think that they were hacked… [They] knew what was going on,”says Eva. “I am disgusted.” 

Before her first online order, the 22-year-old from British Columbia, Canada, says a friend who worked at Sephora told her to check out the brand because of the bright, unique colours. Her friend had compared them to another popular lipstick company, and Eva was excited to try something new.

“Because every girl needs mint lipstick, right?” jokes Eva lightly.

That was when Eva first came across Lime Crime Makeup, an independent cosmetics brand that launched in October of 2008 by colourful, quirky CEO Doe Deere– whose real name is Xenia Vorotovaa woman not only praised and emulated for her doll-like beauty and fairy tale lifestyle (with an entire Instagram account dedicated to showing off her elaborate home), but also her “kick-ass, true-to-color, cruelty-free cosmetics.” (LimeCrime.com/About)

ddeeere

(Instagram.com/DoeDeere)

From neon yellows and blues, to opaque pinks and greens, Lime Crime’s perky purple packaging, and cutesy, glitter-iffic designs caught (and continue to catch) the eye of many makeup artists and makeup-addicts across the globe.

The original collection didn’t include lipstick. Instead, it featured eye shadow, glitter, blush, primers, and brushes. It wasn’t until a year later that the brand would launch their lipsticks, a move that would put them on the makeup world map.

From there, Deere’s vision for Lime Crime took off at a steady pace. The brand focused on releasing its unique product through its online site, www.LimeCrime.com, while major retailers like Urban Outfitters and Dolls Kill (and later, Sephora) scrambled to scoop up and sell the ‘one-of-a-kind’ cosmetics in store.

It also helped that, for years prior, Deere had made a name for herself online, and snowballed a following that trekked alongside the colourful young entrepreneur from one creative endeavour to another (from Thunderwear! DIY clothing, to her first CD “I Believe in Fairytales” with her band SkySalt, to her LiveJournal community, LittleBigGirls.)

As the brand grew, so did the product selection. Lime Crime launched brightly pigmented, individually packaged glitter, electric eyeshadow palettes, and liquid to matte lipsticks the brand labeled as ‘Velvetines,’ a “lipstick inspired by rose petals” (LimeCrime.com/Velvetines) that promises not to falter during long-wear use.

Check out Lime Crime’s Instagram account (which doesn’t just act as a way to promote the brand, but also as a sporadic vessel of primary communication between the company and its 1.5 million followers) and you’ll see dozens of beautiful supporters sporting matte lipstick in everything from Lime Crime’s electric purples (Pansy, Rave), to pitch black (Black Velvet), to muted browns (Shroom, Cashmere) and pinks (Pink Velvet).

In fact, it was the Velvetines that first caught Eva’s eye. After ordering a tube of Black Velvet for herself, her sister asked Eva to buy her Wicked; a deep, burnt red colour.

“When she received the product, she wasn’t impressed with the formula,” says Eva, who claims she liked her first tube of Black Velvet, but wasn’t super thrilled with the quality. “When I tried [Wicked], it seemed like the tube was half empty already, and when I put it on, it felt like there was dirt or something on the brush.”

Unlike her first tube of Lime Crime’s product, this one didn’t seem right. The formula went on differently, and was much more drying. After removing the product, Eva was horrified at what she saw around her mouth.

“I developed huge, cystic bumps along my lips and I had to get them professionally drained,” alleges Eva, who says the process was long, tedious, and incredibly painful. “This was only with the Wicked shade. The other colour (Black Velvet) seemed just drying.”

But even though Eva was disappointed, she was still very curious;
the reviews she had read online up until that point were mainly positive. They praised the company for its innovation and bold, “unapologetic” cosmetics.

With a quick internet search, Eva checked to see if there was anyone else who had experienced similar issues.

“I was looking around to see if anyone else found [the Velvetines] super drying, and to see if there were any tips [for dealing with the dryness,]” says Eva.

“I then found out about the scandal.”

xxxxx

xxxxxxPandora’s Purple Box

It first came in a purple box.
A purple box with white details– dotted stars, delicate trim, and fine white cursive.

“It’s not about what’s natural, or even looks best…” reads a simple cartoon banner hidden under a fold of the lid. “It’s what feels right at the moment!”

Inside the box, colourful tissue cradles small, glittery boxes of product. Ingredient lists are lacquered with metallic finishes. A ‘vegan & cruelty free’ placard is pressed to the top.

They are glamorous, eye-catching, and bright. Neon, electric, and long-lasting.

Lipsticks that promise to break the boundaries.
Cosmetics for unique, the quirky, the outsiders;
The Unicorns.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 1

(Instagram.com/LimeCrimeMakeup)

“What if makeup did more than just cover up imperfections? What if it helped you express your personality?” reads Lime Crime’s About portion of the website.

“If you like to live unapologetically, Lime Crime is for you.”

If you were to search ‘Lime Crime’ on your browser, the first result that comes up is a link to the brand site and product store. The third is a link to their Facebook page, and the fourth is to Dolls Kill’s online Lime Crime shop.

The second result, however, is out of place;
a blog called ‘Oh Dear, Doe Deere!

In fact, if you begin to type out ‘Lime Crime’ in your search bar, the first suggested option is not ‘Lime Crime reviews’ or even ‘Lime Crime products,’ but rather ‘Lime Crime scandal.

Just like many others, Aimee Alcock found out about the scandal through social media.

“I found out about the security threat over Lime Crime’s Instagram. No email, no public statement, nothing. Just a post on Instagram that has since been deleted due to the enormous amount of complaints the company has received on that post,” says Alcock, a 23-year-old living in the UK, who was affected in more ways than one by the “unapologetic” brand.

On the left, Lime Crime’s Instagram account immediately following their security breach (‎11-23-2014). On the right, Lime Crime’s social media now (07-15-2015)

Alcock had sought out Lime Crime products after hearing about their vegan guarantee, something that has been questioned and argued over due to the presence of beeswax in the lipsticks and other alleged product inconsistencies.

“At the time of looking into Lime Crime, I couldn’t really find anything negative about the brand, just that they were a little on the expensive side, but they had a wide variety of ‘weird and wonderful lip colours that are bright, vibrant and highly pigmented,’” says Alcock.

“At this point I knew nothing of Doe Deere, and therefore had no knowledge of her now apparent shady background.”

Though Lime Crime Makeup started in 2008, Deere had made her mark online years before in the early 2000s through a series of creative entrepreneurial endeavours, including fashion design and music.

In fact it was her fashion design that would, in 2003, drive Deere to open the invite-only LiveJournal forum LittleBigGirls. She wanted to create a community for do-it-yourself eBay designers that would allow them to advertise, but just 2 years later, the tight-knit group fell apart.

“I was one of the very first members. In the beginning there were 10–13 of us maybe…” reads a LiveJournal post from former LBG member Miss Megan Maude. “Over time, we started to nominate new girls into the group. One of us would make a nomination and everyone else would vote. In the end, I think it was Xenia (Deere) who made the final vote… the only real vote that mattered…”

Maude recalls Deere allegedly targeting members she didn’t ‘like’ before kicking them out. At first she would consult the community, but her decisions quickly became about what she wanted.

“People were kicked out without ever getting a chance to redeem themselves… No warnings… No friendly suggestions… If she wanted someone gone, they were gone,” adds Maude, who says things took a turn when Deere decided to kick out original group members and supporters.

“On top of asking us to leave… She made character attacks and personal attacks that were completely uncalled for. She made it seem like we’re all complete losers even though we all have awesome things we do online and in real life that are not eBay,” writes Maude. “I miss the days when I felt like I had some camaraderie in LBG… like I was part of a great group of girls who supported me and who I was proud to be associated with.”

Deere was also accused by others of allegedly using duct tape to hem and hold her clothing together:

“My Mum bought a dress from her and when it arrived we were shocked to find it was hemmed with Gaffa tape,” reads a post by makeup artist Lillian Low on her blog, Lillian Funny Face, regarding her experiences with Deere’s designs.

“Xenia commented on [a post about the dress] defending herself, which was fair enough, but said (I’m paraphrasing as she deleted her comments,) ‘I sold a shoddy dress. Someone bought it for $100. Who’s the real asshole here?’” claims Low, who went on to say that Deere never apologized for the alleged duct taped dress, or her comments.

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An alleged response from Deere to a user’s comments regarding the ‘poor quality’ of Lime Crime makeup (Deere denies posting this comment.)

Early in her career, Deere also allegedly threatened to sue a 13-year-old girl, claiming online that the girl didn’t credit her images without permission, and that an official legal source within LiveJournal had informed her of copy-write infringement:

“The law was broken way too many times in this community for LJ to ignore it…. LJ contacted me and asked me what’s up. What was I supposed to tell them? That everything was cool and I wasn’t feeling persecuted the least bit?” writes Deere in a response to the 13-year-old’s confusion. “Now everyone who’s ever posted in [this forum] [talking about the issue], anonymously or not, is busted.”

“Busted for what…” asks one user. “Some people had shared their opinions honestly and weren’t ‘persecuting’ you… some even defended you… What are they busted for?”

“Well, let’s see…” starts Deere’s response.

“1. Copyright Violation
2. Promotion of illegal activity
3. Personal harrassment (sic)
4. Invasion of privacy
5. Threats
6. Impersonation
7. Hate speech

Nice list, no? All legal reasons, too. Ouch!”

But others were quick to call her bluff;
“Why don’t you cut and paste the email that you received from LJ Legal dept. Then we’ll all believe you,” wrote one user to Deere directly. “Of course that would be impossible… Because you are a lying liar who lies a lot, and now you are getting caught!”

The user, who went by the screen name Meanest_Bastard, continued to challenge Deere until she left the conversation.

“It’s sad to see you lashing out, when you should be at home mending your wounds… or trying to make a new fake community for pre-teen age girls to adore you,” wrote Meanest_bastard before dealing a final blow:

“One last thing… There is no way that you are sorry for this. You tell so many lies, I think you are starting to believe your own shit!” (It is not clear if Deere ended up suing the 13-year-old girl.)

At the same time LBG flourished, Deere befriended original member Amy Doan, who sold clothing on eBay under the moniker Shrinkle, (and went on to start her own cosmetics company, SugarPill.) It was then that people began to see similarities between Deere and Doan’s designs, colour palettes, and overall neon style. Their friendship ended shortly before Lime Crime clothing shut down in 2006.

In April 2006, Deere began to allegedly sell repackaged glitter on her site. She changed her style, rebranded herself, and focused more on her makeup/cosmetic tutorials. She also began allegedly reselling children’s party favour, heart-shaped glasses as if they were adult sized ones for $14 (“Rare to find, adult size Lolita hearts. Pretty and lightweight, you’ll love ’em! Made in France,” reads one photo caption on a picture of Deere in the glasses.)

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A user on Facebook asks why a mirror sold by Lime Crime bares nearly identical similarities to a less expensive product sold elsewhere.

Though Deere’s offences seem petty and more annoying than genuinely detrimental and damaging, a deeper search into Deere’s past begins to showcase the neon skeletons the CEO has stashed at the back of her closet.

“[Like] how she dressed up like Hitler [for Halloween]. As a Jewish woman, I was disgusted,” says Eva, who referenced photo Deere herself posted to her blog, doedeereblogazine.com in 2008 which has since been removed (although Deere allegedly defended herself in another post that has also been removed, claiming her actions were not meant to be offensive because her “grandmother is Jewish.”)

“My entire family moved to Canada from Russia to give me a better life. I identify as a reformist Jew– and I felt like I had a lot in common with Doe,” says Eva, as Deere herself is a Russian immigrant. “I understand everyone makes mistakes, but after seeing the pain my Father went through leaving his family to give me a better life, and how he grew up during the Cold War, and how that country is still so war torn, how on earth she could even remotely think that would be okay [is beyond me!]”

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A screenshot shows Deere calling a customer a dumbass for asking about Lime Crime’s vegan guarantee.

And the skeletons kept tumbling– after the discovery of the Hitler photograph, in 2009, Deere was called out on online forums for allegedly selling her repackaged product which she addressed in a post;
a post that would bare strikingly remarkable, unmistakeable similarities to comments Lime Crime would make surrounding a massive security-breach the brand would encounter less than 5 years later.

“I have learned that a group of people is engaged in an online campaign to harm my company. They deliberately spread rumors and re-publish false information that I ‘defraud my customers’, call them ‘idiots’, have poor customer service, etc,” reads Deere’s November 17th, 2009 post, which has since been removed, but that can be found here.

“Everybody knows I bust my hump to ensure everyone is happy! But that’s not all. They also began posting instructions encouraging people to file fraudulent PayPal claims and commit mail fraud,” Deere’s post continues.

“Everyone has the right to express their opinion – I am exercising it right now, by posting this message. But just because you are doing it online, anonymously, or in a different country, doesn’t exempt you from the responsibility for your words.”

xxxxx

xxxxxx Sephora, Social media, and the Security breach

It only took a week for Sephora to pull Lime Crime products from their online store.

In November 2014, shoppers could browse both the brand’s Velvetines and Unicorn Lipstick, but now a search for Lime Crime yields nothing.

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Confused customers ask Lime Crime on Instagram what happened with their Sephora orders. It is still unclear as to why the global makeup-juggernaut stopped carrying the brand.

Less than a month after Lime Crime disappeared from Sephora, the complaints about the security hack began. Like Alcock, Eva found out about the security breach through social media.

“I first heard about it on Instagram. I had 2 different credit cards hacked, not even just used but FULLY DRAINED,” alleges Eva.

And Eva wasn’t the only one. Hundreds of customers took to Lime Crime’s popular Instagram page to ask about strange, sometimes extreme charges on their cards, and the drained/missing money from their accounts.

“My credit card info was leaked from lime crime (sic) in November…” writes one Instagram user with a frowny face. “They really should pay more attention to stuff like that.”

“My card info was leaked too and re-occurring charges kept being made to my account,” wrote another.

“This is not just a rumour, many people have experienced fraudulent activity over the past 3 months since purchasing from Lime Crime using their debit/credit card,” one user posted on Lime Crime’s Instagram.

“Please people! Watch out before using your credit card on their page… The info of not my credit cards was leaked and it’s [been] a nightmare… [It’s] not worth it.”

While some users were quick to defend the company, comparing the hack to that of Target and Sony while scolding others for using their credit card and not PayPal, other users decided to fight back.

“First off, who uses their BANK CARD online? Credit card sure but your actual bank card?! DUMB and the fact that they (Lime Crime) are being honest should be enough. THESE THINGS HAPPEN PEOPLE especially with smaller start-up companies. BE PATIENT!” wrote one user, only to be countered by a number of unhappy customer’s backlash.

“Literally hundreds [of] people have said it happened to them after ordering from [Lime Crime] and had their CREDIT CARD INFO stolen! It’s not just bank cards…” wrote one user.

“A lot of people use their bank card online, me being one of them. It isn’t dumb at all,” wrote another. “Plenty of young people don’t actually own credit cards? Yes these things happen, but [you] can’t expect people to just let it go and chill out when they’ve had £200 taken from their accounts.”

Soon, Lime Crime’s Instagram page became less about the company’s lipsticks and glitters, and more about the company’s security breach.

Hundreds of angry customers voiced their warnings and despair and expressed anger towards the brand, only to be ignored or have their comments allegedly deleted, something that Lime Crime has been suspected of doing with less than favourable comments across their social media (though as one Reddit user points out, a recent post from Lime Crime about keeping posts “positive” and keeping feedback “respectful… and constructive” online could very well be the brand’s justification for deleting negative comments.)

Following the hack, Lime Crime and Deere’s Instagram pages switched from private to open as the flood of angry comments rose, while follower counts dropped.

“I was also one of the victims of the data breach and obviously thought ‘it’ll never happen to me,’” says Alcock from the UK, who is still trying to recover from Lime Crime’s security breach over 6 months later.

“My first fraudulent charge on my card was one for £230 for a games company in America and luckily, my bank noticed it had been approved and called me immediately to let me know,” claims Alcock, who considered herself lucky at first.

“One thing I hadn’t realized, though, was I have a savings account linked up to my regular debit account and somehow the security breach had allowed money to be taken out of my savings account,” she says. “In total, I lost £1,000 in savings that I am never going to be able to get back, despite every avenue I have taken with my bank and external sources. I have since had to close my accounts and get new ones issued.”

Eva alleges that after the security breach, her bank refused to believe that she was hacked.

“I am over $3,000 in debt,” says Eva. “Now, after a rough battle with ovarian cysts and a miscarriage, I have lost two jobs in a row, [and] with mounting debt, and bills to pay… I’m so fucked, to be honest.”

It wasn’t until February of 2015, almost 3 months later, that Lime Crime acknowledged that the security breach happened at all. The brand started notifying people– not with an official email, or a direct letter to customers, but with posts on their various social media platforms.

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Two of Lime Crime’s social media posts directed towards their security breach which have since been deleted.

But customers were upset, and very, very vocal.

It had taken the brand months to mention anything about the theft of their client’s information. While panicked users posted their desperate concerns online, it appeared that, to Lime Crime, nothing had happened at all.

“I love all the cute emojis they used when telling their customers their information was stolen!” wrote one user on a Jezelbel article detailing the hack. “Teehee! Totes professional… it really gives me the impression they’re taking it seriously! TOODLES #makeup #vegan #we’readorabledon’tbemad!”

Online, the brand continued to showcase colourful pictures of their product, promote other makeup artists wearing their cosmetics, and share updates across Lime Crime and Deere’s personal accounts. 

“I think there are a million-and-one other ways Lime Crime could have handled their security breach. Companies have them, no matter now secure they are, but it’s all about how you help your customers remedy the problem and help them get compensated for their troubles and privacy violation,” says Alcock.

“Lime Crime and Doe Deere did NOTHING other than put [a few] posts on an Instagram page. How ridiculous can that be? Not everyone that purchases their products follows them on social media and even if they do, they don’t check every day.”

Alcock points out that Lime Crime would have every customer’s billing address, and that sending out a letter would have been better, something Lime Crime says they eventually did.

Eva disagrees.

“I STILL have not gotten an email, or a letter, or anything. All my questions have gone unanswered,” says Eva. She claims she’s stopped commenting and asking questions on Lime Crime’s social media because of fear of backlash and getting blocked.

But a letter was sent out, and those who received the generic message were informed that the security breach happened in October 2014, not November.

The letter was also not signed by Deere, but President Mark Dumbleton, her husband– a move that made some wonder why Deere, who casts herself in the spot-light over and over, didn’t sign the apology herself.

xxxxx

xxxxxxDear Deere:

In the months since the hack, social media has been used as a powerful tool for both the security breach’s victims, and Lime Crime.

The brand continues to post and feature their products to their 1.5 million followers, releasing new Velvetines and hyping the brand through its various popular online platforms.

On the other side of the spectrum, multiple boycott accounts have also taken to social media to educate and inform potential customers about the company’s history, issues, and alleged ongoing discrepancies.

These accounts have created hashtags like #friendsdontletfriendsbuylimecrime, #flushyourglitterdowntheshitter, and #50shadesofcashmere (in reference to a Velvetine shade that allegedly appears to change colour and consistency in most pictures) to act as creative avenues that educate others about Lime Crime.

“[I started the boycott] to stick up for the consumer. To give them a voice,” says one of the boycotters, who wishes to remain anonymous, in an interview.

Some boycott accounts boast thousands of followers with hundreds of posts that exhibit evidence of alleged photoshop, questionable screen-capped comments from the brand’s social media, and the desperate pleas of customers who all share the same question: What happened?

Unfortunately, for some like Eva and Alcock, it seems like their questions will never be completely answered.

I asked both women what they would say to Deere if they ever had a chance to meet the quirky, colourful CEO of this “unapologetic” brand in person.

Eva’s response is simple:
Go fuck yourself.

“She has no idea how badly she’s screwed up so many lives… I’d kindly tell her to go fuck herself,” says Eva, who is still struggling to get her life back on-track. “I have no job, no means of income, no credit, and she sits in her little fucking palace, ripping off people and pretending to be culturally sensitive; pretending to care. Words cannot describe how upset I am. How this has effected my family.”

Alock’s response is similar:

“To Xenia Vorotova, a.k.a Doe Deere. I do not know who you think you are. I’m trying to construct this small message to you in a way that will not result in me completely and utterly losing my head…”

“How dare you?” Alcock asks. “How dare you be so blasé about your customer’s suffering, and turn it around for it to seem as though it is their fault, or their fault for purchasing items from you and your company in the first place?”

Alcock continues; “Your little empire is crashing around you, and if all is right with the world, you will go down with it, and your name will never, ever be associated with a beauty brand or any form of business ever again. You’re seen as a joke in the eyes of your customers, competitors and peers.”

As for people potentially looking to buy from Lime Crime now?

“Don’t do it. Honestly even with PayPal. I see all these girls still falling over Cashmire and the Venus palette… and I get so so so mad. Like full body rage goes over me. How could you be so ignorant to ignore all of us who are trying to [warn you about] the danger? They just act like we are some huge hate cult,” says Eva.

“I wont be able to get a house, I can hardly afford food, I have people calling my phone day and night, demanding money from me.

My life will never ever be the same now.”

lc

“Hope is what makes us strong. It is why we are here. It is what we fight with when all else is lost.” – Pandora’s final words


Pandora’s Purple Box is a series written and researched by Canadian journalist, bestselling author, and award-winning blogger, Cella Lao Rousseau.
The 2-part series focuses on Lime Crime Makeup and their security breach that took place in 2014, and features real-life stories from victims of the hack, boycotters involved, and an exclusive interview with a former Lime Crime employee.
Deere was contacted several times for an interview. She declined to comment or participate.

Around 760 Days Ago

bcd

“The most beautiful makeup of a woman is passion. But cosmetics are easier to buy.” ― Yves Saint-Laurent

Around 760 days ago, I walked into St. Vital mall with a crumpled resume, overly filled-in eyebrows, and a very uneven haircut.

A week before, I was being told by my friend’s mother that the retail job I was at was inappropriate for ‘someone like me.’

“You’re selling crappy bags to crappy people, and those stupid frog hats,” she said, nodding to the fluorescent-green, bug-eyed toque I had bought one shift as a joke. “You need to work somewhere better.”

She mentioned high-end places for me to apply at; retail boutiques and designer stores, but I kept saying I was fine. I felt like after quitting my job as a cashier at a grocery store, I had hit the jackpot in finding an overly-chill mall job.

I mean, there was little to no traffic at the location I worked, the bosses and employees were relaxed, and the majority of my shift would be spent playing Magic: The Gathering with a Scottish red-head in stretch-pants, or shooting elastic bands over luggage racks.

And it was fun right out of high school, but after a year of mediocre sales, a shitty secret-shopper on the day after my 18th birthday (guess how that went?) and a move to a more… What’s the word… Sketchyasfuck mall, I decided I had enough of the ‘lax life. I wanted a challenge- a job with structure where I could actually learn something.

The new location I was at was tucked into the corner of a desolate, cavernous maze of unkept faulty fountains and excessive extra security. Someone stole something at least once a day, a woman on the bench outside the store once pulled out her gun in a daze, and I was spit at after being told I needed a ‘facial’ by a giggling teenage girl.

“But you’re creative!” my friend’s mom would say as I sat in denial, thinking about the old bitch who had tried to rip me off the week before with doctored receipts for a $16 handbag. “You need an exciting, fun retail job.”

Super Cool Fact: Retail is rarely ‘fun’. Retail is always war.

The next day, I printed off my resume, watched a dozen YouTube makeup tutorials, and mentally prepared myself to drop off my envelope of qualifications at a little black-and-white store in the mall.

They were supposedly hiring.

I stopped in twice the week before handing in my resume, picking up makeup I had read about online (yet having no idea how to use it) and reading about the history of the company in late-night web binges.

Originally founded in 1969, France, by Dominique Mandonnaud, Sephora started off as a small perfumery called Shop 8, but the owner had bigger ideas. Mandonnaud wanted to run a new slice of cosmetic heaven- a store that actually let customers try on products before making a purchase- and that was something that was unheard of at the time.

In 1970, Shop 8 became Sephora, but it wasn’t until 1995 that Sephora began producing its own cosmetics, and it wasn’t until 1997 that Louis Vuitton and Moët Hennessy (LVMH) purchased the chain from Mandonnaud.

Since being bought by the world’s leading luxury group, Sephora has gone global, operating approximately 1,900 stores in 29 countries worldwide, with an expanding base of over 360 stores across North America.

So you can guess why, around 760 days ago, when I walked into St. Vital mall with a crumpled resume, overly filled-in eyebrows, and a very uneven haircut, I was nervous.

You can guess why, around 760 days ago, when I approached a thin shopgirl in hot-pink lipstick and crisp eyeliner, my voice shook as I asked to speak to a manager.

You can guess why, around 760 days ago, when I sat down for a group interview across from all-black visages and glottal-fried answers, I thought about my responses and tried to reply thoughtfully.

And you can guess why, around 760 days ago, I vomited up my chicken souvlaki pita and cried with excitement when I received a phone call telling me I was hired on to work a seasonal position.

But I knew I couldn’t work with smeared mascara, so I took a minute to get my shit together.

Eager, I moved from cash, to greeting, to late-night restocking. I was a cheese-ball at the register, cracking bad jokes and poking fun at awkward boyfriends who didn’t understand the difference between concealer and foundation (HA. N00bz.)

From the sidelines, I observed the store’s staff dynamic.
There was Josh, who had resting bitch-face so intimidating that I didn’t talk to him for months out of fear. Shayla, the seemingly soft-spoken red-head who reminded me of a sassy Little Mermaid. Becca, my fellow big-boobed, in-your-face, powerhouse, and Shalla, her Kardashian-obsessed mentor and other half (who doubled as the store’s tender mother figure).

In the back, there was Lacey with her inappropriate jokes and toothy grin. In the front, there was Lauren, the tatted-up ~*cool kid*~ beauty, Brooklynn, a fellow newbie (and babe) who went on to be my boss (which reeeally isn’t as awkward as it sounds), Raquel, a yoga-loving party gal’, Alysha, a bubbly, gel-nail princess, and Jess, an out-spoken realist with a personality double her size.

I quickly bonded with Nichole as we talked about Arrested Development and our love for Marc Jacobs, learned plenty from quick-witted fragrance specialist Morgan, shared constant giggle-fits with cheeky Kaela, and got play-by-plays of the day-to-day from fierce, red-headed leader, Trish.

Slowly, I blended with the group, and made my mark as the loud, foul-mouthed, big-haired new chick who tried to watch every brand video in existence, all while learning that primer is actually supposed to go under foundation, and that perfecting liquid liner comes from practice, not selling your soul to some master of a demonic underworld.

#BrowGameTooStrong

Soon I was matching foundation and filling in eyebrows, learning the difference between under and surface tones, and watching in amazement as Josh tacked on pair after pair of false lashes without breaking a sweat.

I delved into a world of lipstick, finding my comfort zone in dark, gothic reds and browns rather than the pinks and corals I had always been told I should wear to look ‘feminine’ and ‘cute’. I started applying bronzer strategically, not all over my face, and repositioned my blush to accentuate my cheekbones rather than flood product across my profile.

I grew into myself, gaining confidence with every educated brushstroke and wand-swipe within the walls of the black-and-white makeup store, forming bonds with employees and clients alike.

On one day, a blue-haired teenage girl in a wheelchair entered the store with her boyfriend.

After helping her pick out some eyeshadow and lipstick, I chirped a lyrical goodbye to them as they moved towards the exit. She paused and stopped her boyfriend, calling me over before lifting the sleeve of her baggy black sweater.

Lining her thin, pale arm, were dozens and dozens of hand-beaded bracelets, each with their own unique patterns and colours. She slipped a purple and green one off her wrist and held it out to me.

The girl explained that she had cancer and that she didn’t have long to live. She wanted to say thank you to all the people in her life, regardless of how long she knew them. To her, I was no more than a shopgirl who helped her with her makeup.

She held my hand as I touched the bracelet and pulled me down for a hug. “You’re so beautiful,” she whispered with a smile as I froze, tears streaking down my face. “Thank you.” I couldn’t respond; I would choke on my words.

I never saw her again after that.

Life at the little black-and-white makeup store prepared me for the challenges that can come with human interaction, and the patience needed for successful, genuine, and thoughtful connections with others.

Life at the little black-and-white makeup store allowed me to grow and learn in a fast-paced, overwhelming environment of constantly updated knick-knacks and techniques, all while keeping me grounded, trained, and set in reality.

Life at the little black-and-white makeup store gave me the chance to meet and interact with some of the most incredible, talented people I know, and whether I knew you for a chapter, a page, or a sentence, your mark on my life has been effective and sincere.

Around 760 days ago, I walked into St. Vital mall with a crumpled resume, overly filled-in eyebrows, and a very uneven haircut. I was looking for a job: something new and challenging, but more importantly, a place where I could fit in and be supported regardless of whatever ridiculous path I decided to follow.

Around 760 days ago, I found that job,
and around 30 days ago, I left it.

Not because I outgrew the fragrance wall, the intricate gold packages of YSL, or the soft melodic crunch of folded red tissue paper, but because I have the chance to grow elsewhere, and follow yet another ridiculous path.

So thank you, Sephora St. Vital.

Thank you for everything.