These Selfies Are Raising Controversy About Grief on Social Media

June 21st 2016

Lucy Tiven

After the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, people in the U.S. and around the globe expressed their solidarity in supportive social media posts. But one form of online grief is raising eyebrows in the LGBT community — rainbow makeup art.

The posts — which are "sometimes referred to as "tragedy makeup," Broadly reports — are selfies of rainbow makeup and nail art, as well as themed tutorials published by makeup artists.

Though the posts appear well-intentioned, some members of the LGBT community argue that they are primarily inspired by self-promotion rather than actual social activism.

"What I see here is a willful erasure of this tragedy's specific relevance to queer Latinx safe spaces that hinges on the absurd," Rishy Kashyap, a social media intern for Honey Soundsystem, a San Francisco based gay DJ-collective, told ATTN: via email. "There are far more productive ways to process this tragedy, such as protecting existing queer Latinx spaces and ensuring that more flourish, to make a powerful statement that homophobia will not succeed."

The vlogger NikkieTutorials shared a rainbow eye tutorial three days after the tragedy, and experienced major backlash on Twitter.

Broadly reported:

"While Nikkie also originally stated on Twitter that 'ads would be turned off' so that she wouldn't profit from these tutorials, the description on the YouTube video page was later changed to say that all ad revenue would be donated, along with a link to the official Orlando GoFundMe campaign."

One Redditor created a thread to discuss the trend after seeing this Instagram post.


Others joined in, and discussed why they considered the "tragedy makeup" troubling.

Reddit Tragedy Make Up

Some Reddit users found posts that tagged the brands of makeup used — a relatively common practice for makeup artists on Instagram — particularly insensitive.

Reddit Tragedy Make-Up

One Redditor said they found the responses "especially irritating" as a resident of Orlando and a member of the LGBT community. They asserted that the effort used to take supportive selfies would be better utilized to raise money for victims or encourage people to call their lawmakers.

Selfie Activism Reddit

As the backlash points out, the line between solidarity and self-interest can become blurred on social media.

These posts were certainly not the first time self-identified LGBT allies shared rainbow inspired beauty and nail looks on social media, and most of the time, those posts don't draw much attention or criticism.

Yet, a video explaining how to put on rainbow eye shadow to mourn LGBT victims of a mass shooting means something different than one shared in celebration of an upcoming Pride parade.

In the context of the Orlando shooting, these gestures can take on a more self-serving note — particularly when they slap branded labels and price tags on their message, or appear to benefit someone's social media career more than they benefit the tragedy's actual victims.

[h/t Broadly]