I’ve found myself deep into the habit of thinking about celebrities’ money-making strategies. The other day, for example, I watched a Cardi B interview in which she says, “you wanna hear about Fashion Nova?” and “You wanna know something? Fashion Nova is one of like the only things that could really, just… that fits my body. These high-end designers, I love them, but none of these jeans fit this ass… none of them.” A lot of the comments on the video, the first time I checked, commented on how she was making money from the gig. Of course, this makes sense. People with high degrees of fame often are recruited to do promotions.
Personally, I’ve been paying more attention to companies like Fashion Nova and Flat Tummy Tea, because they’re on Instagram. I’m interested in ways that ‘individuals’ (because that is what social media has constructed them to be) and brands use social media, and specifically Instagram, to exchange capital–economic and social. Aside from my interest in the basic social media marketing aspect of the matter, I’m interested in the ways that people construct their public images. Instagram funnels each person into an individual with the agency and expectation to brand themselves as somebody. Whether intentional or not, this is often a process in which somebody self-promotes a personal aesthetic, brand, or conceptual image. For some, this image is somewhat coherent in concept and/or aesthetic when each separate Instagram image is pieced together; and, for others, perhaps not so much.
Much of this has to do with identity. So, my interest in what could be called the ‘social media marketing’ of celebrities is about just that: identity. Fashion Nova is an interesting case when thought about through this lens. The brand is often promoted by Black celebrities as an everyday brand that is more accessible to the multi-class public than other brands worn by highly visible people. So, in Cardi B’s interview, when she promotes Fashion Nova by claiming that it fits her unique body type as a cisgender (cis) woman with curves, she is speaking to a specific demographic of consumers.
But, I just recently learned that Fashion Nova is not owned by a Black or Brown non-male person. It was founded by Richard Saghian, a white, Jewish, presumably cis man, who is recruiting the most famous celebrities on the most popular visual-oriented platform to help sell clothing to Black and Brown non-men and cis women.
This semester, I am working on reading a book by Oyèrónké Oyěwùmí called The Invention of Women: Making an African Sense of Western Gender Discourses. The book discusses the way that western discourses rely on the biological, founded upon a prioritization of the sensory visual, to construct gender. Her book also comments on a general western fixation on the visual to construct cultural images.
Saghian’s marketing strategy with Fashion Nova has been highly effective in selling products to satisfy images of beauty constructed by social media. Now, although Fashion Nova is selling their products at lower prices that are more affordable to their mainly person of color (POC) market, they are also continuing a historical trend of white cisgender men profiting off of POC in order to further their personal mobility (rather than redistributing their wealth in a meaningful way). It’s valuable to pay close attention to dynamics of power as they reveal quite a lot about the reasons why vast inequalities remain much after marked historic periods of oppression.