Is It Her Opinion or Her Job? The Blurry Relationship Between Celebrities and Their Endorsements

August 20, 2012  |

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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  • The product shout in the interview didn’t bother me any. People gotta make money, that’s just the reality & the way of the world. Doesn’t necessarily mean I’m running to buy said product simply because she’s endorsing. I read & move on. Whether or not she actually uses the products or if it’s her actual opinion, we can never know. I DO know my hair will never look EXACTLY like hers- OR Nikki’s or ANY blogger/celeb with or without kinky hair like mine for that matter- just by using an endorsed product. People are about their money, it is what it is. I ain’t mad.

  • Just Saying

    is it that serious though? Lol so she’s mixed? Why you mad? Lol get over it people! Just slap some water on your kitchen, puff & go!

    And if she plugged, she plugged. Don’t like it, skip that paragraph. Tracee is a business women & often times, business & pleasure cross. It’s life. The end.

    • UnflinchingSpirit

      Sigh. You are missing the point. People who aren’t mixed want products for our hair as well. Water? That isn’t enough for coarse hair. Yes, it needs water but it also needs other things. If you don’t understand, then don’t post. But that has to be the most ignorant and bad hair advice I have heard in a long while.

  • laneshe

    I don’t see how it’s surprising that if the company is a sponsor of an event hosted by Nikki and Tracee that Nikki would interview her and she would mention the company’s products. Perhaps this may not seem strange to me because I work in marketing.

  • NikkitaMichelle

    There are plenty of biracial people who have kinky hair, its hit or miss when those genes start mixing. Tracee is more on the curly side. She has no more control over who her parents are and how her hair grows out of her head than the next sister. It seems like some folks are hating on her hair texture. Love what God gave you because that’s what you have to work with. If you only want to see people with similar natural hair types to your own, why are you tuning in to see Tracee if hers is nothing like yours?

    • UnflinchingSpirit

      But isn’t that the point? That we are being inundated with images of people with Tracee’s hair texture to represent people who don’t have her texture. Meanwhile, those of us who don’t have her hair texture do not have any support or guidance. Just because I want products to address my hair texture doesn’t mean I don’t love my hair. Also, the only way I can learn how to do my hair is by looking at people with my texture. It is pretty common sense. I don’t understand why you even have a problem with it.

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  • CurlyNuGrowth

    I personally haven’t read Tracee’s interview but I am a Blogger and companies do reach out to me to review products but I think its important to give honest opinions.

  • I am continually disappointed to see, when asked to name natural hair idols, the most frequent answer a person (beautiful and talented) who happens to be biracial. I think it says a lot coming from women who have kinky, not curly, hair. Texturism reigns now in the natural hair community. Look at how Solange was skewered for not always manipulating her hair texture. Sister, you don’t always need a twist out!

    • karen

      Dont you know its all about that “GOOD HAIR”!! Sad, but true….the most coveted is the most curl, soft, fine, almost straight white white….again that good old GOOD HAIR debate..

    • calixteliss

      Thank you so much for saying this! Part of my reasoning for going natural was to sort of free myself from all of the conventions. But even as natural, i cant do that. I always have the “biracial girl with the good hair” supposedly representing me. On the next advertising campaign for whatever company, i want to see naps, kinks, kitchen and the whole shebang. I want to see what the average natural woman is dealing with, not freaking twistouts all the time!

  • Cristine

    I disagree, I thought the interview was great, probably the most detailed Ive ever read on a celebrity hair regimen.

    • noneya

      You must of missed her interviews with Kim Wayans, Nicole Parker, Keesha Night Pulliam, Michelle Williams, India Benet and Melissa Perry to name a few…

  • karma

    I read Tracee’s interview on CN and peeped the product endorsement, too. As soon as I saw it, I sighed. Yes, it seemed disingenuous…and I kinda lost the glow after reading. I agree with MLS2698…TER’s father is white…she is biracial. I am not biracial, thus, my hair will not look like hers no matter how much product or conditioner or Denman brush strokes I use.

  • noneya

    I will admit I was disappointment with interview. CurlyNikki fans have been waiting 4 yrs for her to get Tracee “on the couch” since she is the Queen of natural hair. Her styles as Joan Clayton inspired most naturals. She didnt give much details on her products or styling methods, the only reason CN got the interview is because of the sponsored meet up by SoftSheen, so the interview was like sex with no orgasm…left readers wanting more…

  • MLS2698

    Tracee’s father is white, so I don’t care what product she uses, my hair will never have her texture. Even the average hair shampoo commercial uses models with mad length/extensions and false/misleading images. Famous faces sell products, and it does not mean the celeb actually uses said products. I’m no celeb, but for two years straight before I went natural, I never even washed my own hair, but instead, took weekly trips to JCpenny salon, and I don’t know what the hell my stylist used, but it was on point weekly.

    • Karen

      Heck there are black people who dont have hair like mine….and they arent mix!!!