Ulta Beauty suspends 7-figure advertising deal with Teen Vogue

On Tuesday I wrote about the mess Alexi McCammond finds herself in thanks to some tweets she posted ten years ago. McCammond is the newly-hired editor-in-chief for Teen Vogue. The tweets coming back to bite her were posted when she was 17 years old. Despite her young age, the perpetually outraged are holding her accountable as though she posted the tweets only yesterday, as a 27-year-old.

McCammond is a former Axios reporter who left that job because of another scandal. She was in a personal relationship with a deputy press secretary in the Biden administration and neither of them disclosed the relationship until a different reporter was on the verge of disclosing it to readers. Even then, instead of coming clean, McCammond’s boyfriend chose to threaten the reporter investigating the relationship instead of manning up and taking the heat for such an ethical violation. Only when White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked about it during a press briefing did the Biden staffer admit it. Frankly, it took the White House longer than it should have to dismiss him. They tried to just suspend him for a week but that didn’t go over well in the press. So, he resigned or was fired, depending on which report you read of the whole thing. McCammond left her job at Axios soon after that.

So, just a matter of weeks later, here McCammond is again, back in the headlines for her personal behavior. The job at Teen Vogue is a plum position for her professional career. I’m willing to bet at this point, though, that she will not last long there. It’s one thing for young staffers to rise up and write a strongly worded letter calling out their new boss. A former editor of the magazine publicly called out McCammond Tuesday during a daytime television show.

On Tuesday, one of McCammond’s predecessors, Elaine Welteroth, joined the publication’s current staff in condemning the tweets, and emphasizing the need for accountability during a segment of CBS’s “The Talk.”

“Everybody knows I was former editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue, so I have to put that out there,” Welteroth, a co-host on the show, begins. “That aside, it doesn’t matter—her tweets and the sentiments behind them were racist and abhorrent and indefensible, period. And I think at a time like this when there is a call for accountability around anti-Asian sentiment and just racist, violent actions against Asian people, we need to speak up.”

Welteroth’s criticism will carry weight with Conde Nast, the parent company of Teen Vogue. She was the first black editor for Teen Vogue and the youngest at that time to hold the position. She was 29 years old when she was promoted to editor. McCammond is the magazine’s second black editor and now the youngest. We know how important diversity and inclusion are in 2021 in the corporate world. The question is will Conde Nast stick with Ms. McCammond or throw her to the curb now that Teen Vogue is taking a huge financial hit?

Popular cosmetics and skincare retailer Ulta Beauty said in a statement to The Daily Beast on Wednesday that it is halting its current advertising campaign with the Condé Nast-owned publication. According to people familiar with the situation, the deal was worth seven figures.

“Diversity and inclusion are core values at Ulta Beauty—and always have been,” a company spokesperson said. “Our current spend with Teen Vogue is paused as we work with Condé Nast to evaluate the situation and determine next steps regarding our partnership.”

While it appears Ulta is the only advertiser to have thus far taken action over the controversy, concern over the fallout was raised at a high-level Condé Nast sales meeting this week. Ulta has been sensitive to criticism of its handling of racial issues after several high-profile, public allegations of racial profiling and lack of diversity over the past several years.

It’s likely that now that Ulta has made this move, others will follow. None of the domestic retailers will want to be seen as complicit with anti-Asian tweets. This case is a little different than the standard social media kerfuffle over racially motivated mean tweets. This is some minority on minority ugliness. Add to that the fact that there is some hyper-sensitivity in woke circles over slams against Asian Americans since the coronavirus pandemic and McCammond finds herself in the perfect storm.

Hoping to smooth over internal tensions, Condé Nast hastily convened a virtual meeting on Monday with Wintour, McCammond, and Stan Duncan, the company’s chief people officer. Still, on Monday evening, Teen Vogue staffers released a statement confirming they sent a letter to their bosses and reiterating their concerns.

“We’ve heard the concerns of our readers, and we stand with you,” staff said. “In a moment of historically high anti-Asian violence and amid the on-going struggles of the LGBTQ community, we as the staff of Teen Vogue fully reject those sentiments. We are hopeful that an internal conversation will prove fruitful in maintaining the integrity granted to us by our audience.”

Conde Nast has not responded to the financial loss from the pause in advertising by Ulta, at least as I write this on Thursday morning. McCammond has been doing damage control.

According to a person familiar with the matter, over the past several days McCammond has been meeting one-on-one with staff individually to apologize and discuss moving forward, and is planning a virtual roundtable on Clubhouse with several Asian-American Teen Vogue writers about issues facing the Asians in America. After the publication of this story, McCammond posted to Twitter a lengthy note addressed to her new colleagues.

Is it enough? McCammond has received support from personalities like MSNBC host Chris Hayes and NBC Peacock’s Mehdi Hasan. She is going the route of so many others, though, and groveling for forgiveness. She was 17 years old. Her tweets were not nice but they were far from some of the worst seen on social media every day. She should have scrubbed her social media to avoid this whole thing. She must have known it would come up somewhere along the line. How many times have past tweets taken down a public figure? I’m still in the camp of those who say she should be cut some slack for her actions as an overly dramatic teenage girl.