by Jessica Gray
Curly Nikki recently released her interview with the ultimate natural hair idol, Tracee Ellis Ross, but the response was not quite what was expected. The natural hair community loves to fawn over Tracee’s lovely locs so any Tracee feature promises to bring in some heavy traffic. As soon as Curly Nikki made her announcement about the interview, many naturals rushed to the site to read Tracee’s hair story; however, many were disappointed to find what is suspected to be a plug for a Soft Sheen Carson product right in the middle of the Q&A session.
Tracee talks about her relationship with her hair at different stages in her life and how she finally mastered the look of her luxurious curls that she rocks now. When asked about her hair care routine she discussed how often she washes her hair and her go-to styling options, all without naming a single product or brand that she prefers. Then it happens. Tracee spends two healthy-sized paragraphs talking about Optimum Salon Haircare 6-in-1 Miracle Oil and Miracle Oil Hair Moisturizer, a couple of new products from Soft Sheen Carson. Why does this warrant a raised eyebrow? Curly Nikki has also been promoting an event in NYC featuring Tracee, which is sponsored by (surprise!) Soft Sheen Carson. While many people were still overjoyed to get the scoop on Tracee’s oh-so-coveted hair, there were others who found the mini advertisement distracting from the rest of the content.
Of course, this is not the first and only instance of celebrity influence being used for in-your-face product placement and the natural hair care industry is not the only place where this happens. This incident simply rouses a topic that surfaces regularly. Companies have made celebrities the faces of countless advertising campaigns and this has been a go-to method of persuasion for years. But are people starting to see through it? We are seeing similar tactics being used with popular or “celebrity” bloggers–specifically natural hair bloggers in this case.
I am a natural hair blogger. Companies send me products all of the time–some that I don’t bother with, some that I try and love, some that I’m indifferent about and some that make me fall to my knees pleading for help from the natural hair gods. Regardless of what happens, I know that people come to my blog to read about my honest opinion on products and compromising that integrity can really ruin my relationship with my readers. I make it a point to disclose how I received the products and hopefully that openness is a step in maintaining trust. But at the end of the day, all a blogger has is their word.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with being compensated for your opinion. Your influence is valuable. And no, just because you are paid for a product review does not mean the product did not work as awesomely as you claimed. It simply becomes difficult to trust someone who raves about something they are paid to try, especially since they probably don’t even bat their eyes toward the products again once they publish the sponsored post. It can also be difficult to separate when it is truly the blogger’s words and when it is the money talking.
On a site as popular as Curly Nikki’s, any product that gets a little shine flies off the store shelves and into the regimens of hopeful naturals who long for hair that rivals Nikki or Tracee’s gorgeous manes. The product placement for Soft Sheen Carson in Tracee’s interview with Curly Nikki was pretty obvious, but does it matter? Tracee may really use and love the products, but the timing seemed to be wrong for some readers, making her rave review seem disingenuous. Are you giving the side-eye to anyone who accepts some form of compensation for a review? Can you really say it is fair to make that judgment? Companies wanting to break into the natural hair scene are going to take advantage of any situation where they can get extreme exposure very quickly and it is up to each blogger to decide how much of a role they want to play in that game. Thinking about the power of the dollar, can you really trust your favorite natural hair blogger?
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