Gloria Steinem is the latest face of the newish beauty company the Lipstick Lobby, endorsing a lip balm called In the Clear. “I never wear lipstick,” the feminist activist told Vogue. “But I can support a lip balm.” All profits from the product will go to her chosen charity, the unPrison Project, which works with incarcerated women in the US to improve their lives and prospects during and after imprisonment. Steinem chose the name In the Clear, she said, because “we all have a right to feel ‘in the clear’ regardless of our past”.
Steinem is just one of a number of famous figures endorsing the self-described “social justice movement” brand. Its other products include the lipstick shades Kiss My Pink (its launch, inspired by the election of Donald Trump, with profits going to Planned Parenthood) and Fired Up (which donates to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence).
We live in an era when corporations are desperate to be seen as having a social conscience in order to shift their products, whether that means banks, cars or fast food. In 2017, a Mediacom report suggested that 49% of people (and 60% of those aged 18 to 24) would pay more for brands supporting causes that mean something to them. This kind of bargaining can bring out the most cynical of exercises in self-promotion, such as the time Kendall Jenner fixed racism during a Coachella-esque protest march by offering a policeman a can of Pepsi (the ad was withdrawn in 24 hours).
It can also sit in the background as a kind of self-satisfied hum, doing little other than giving the appearance of being concerned. All summer, corporations have used Pride’s rainbow flag to give their logos a colourful boost, but every time I see it, I wonder where they are publicising which LGBT+ charity they’re donating to.
When every brand is trying to look as if it has a social conscience, it can be harder to see the ones that actually do and those that are cashing in with cheap marketing jobs, and those that are sitting in the middle of those two camps, as many are.
What I like about the Lipstick Lobby is its simplicity and focus. Its founder, Davida Hall, has argued that, far from trivialising political issues, buying cosmetics that give profits to charities focused on women’s issues doesn’t bypass activism, but is, instead, a quick and easy way to show support. A complementary colour, if you like.
Steven Tyler – putting Trump between rock and a hard place
I’m fairly certain this will be low on the list of Donald Trump’s legal priorities right now, but Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler has issued a cease and desist letter to the president after the band’s 1993 single Livin’ on the Edge was played at a political rally in West Virginia.
It’s tempting to use the remaining word count here to simply type out the lyrics to the song – “Tell me what you think about your situation/ Complication, aggravation is getting to you… You can’t stop yourself from fallin’” etc – but Tyler has insisted his objection is not a partisan move, only a point he has long been trying to make about songs being used for political purposes without permission. “No is a complete sentence,” he tweeted, though if that were the case, the “is a complete sentence” part of the sentence is, surely, a bit unnecessary.
La Roux was similarly outraged when she discovered that Fox Business channel had used her song Bulletproof to accompany a segment promoting backpacks for kids lined with hard ballistic plates, in case of school shootings. “I have never and would never approve my music to be used in this way,” she told Billboard.
Musicians lose control of how people interpret their songs as soon as they’re out in the world, but it’s easy to sympathise. Ed Sheeran was forced to say that anti-abortion campaigners’ use of his song Small Bump before the Irish referendum “does not reflect what this song is about”.
It must be deeply frustrating to not only be misunderstood and misinterpreted, but to then find yourself used as an endorsement as a result of that, too. My favourite response remains that of Johnny Marr after David Cameron, when he was prime minister, had mentioned his love of the Smiths. “Stop saying that you like the Smiths, no you don’t,” Marr tweeted. “No you don’t” is a complete sentence too.
Pete Doherty – talk about excess all areas
Celebrity Masterchef is finally back on BBC1, to end the temporary and painful gap in Masterchef programming that summer brings. But life has been conspiring to produce its own version in real time. Pete Doherty of the Libertines has had, quite literally, a big week. His famous appetite for consumption found a new target in the form of the mega breakfast challenge at a cafe in Margate, where he now lives and where the Libertines are working on a studio and hotel (if there are electrical problems, at least there will be Music When the Lights Go Out, thank you).
Doherty found himself splattered all over the news with a satisfied post-fry-up look, after demolishing a mammoth pile of sausages, burgers, bacon, beans, and his own bottle of milkshake, in under 20 minutes, winning a place on the wall of fame and the entire thing for free. Perhaps he might now follow in the footsteps of fellow foodie Snoop Dogg, who announced his first cookbook last week, From Crook to Cook. “I’m takin’ the cookbook game higher with a dipped and whipped collection of my favourite recipes, ya dig?” I dig. I hope the Celebrity Masterchef producers are paying attention, with one eye on casting for the 2019 series.
• Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer journalist