New BBC Two show uncovers bullying in the beauty industry

A new BBC Two Victoria Derbyshire programme is shining a spotlight on bullying and bad practice in the British beauty industry. 

The broadcaster’s latest investigation saw reporter Ellie Costello speak to people who work in the beauty industry who claim to be victims of bullying and abuse, ranging from company directors right through to department store MUAs.

These people have claimed accusations of abuse, blackmail and psychological bullying, and many told the BBC they have suffered from anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts as a result.  

What are the claims?

Many of the people the Victoria Derbyshire programme spoke to had signed non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), which are usually part of a deal where the employees are offered thousands of pounds for their silence. 

But two women said that, despite signing, they still wanted their stories to be heard but with their identities disguised.

One claimed that while working a senior role at an international beauty brand she was bullied by her boss, stating that they told suppliers she was sharing their confidential information. 

“After that I was only given junior roles within projects and I was taken off the projects that I had been working on very successfully for two years. I was ignored by HR and the board of directors. They treated me like I didn’t exist,” she told the BBC. This woman has since left the company.   

Another person, who also wanted to remain anonymous, claims that while working as an executive for a major beauty brand she was “pushed out” after telling her bosses that she was pregnant. 

She told Costello: “I was left out of meetings, wasn’t given information, they stopped cc’ing me into emails, and then within 10 weeks of me returning from maternity leave, I was told I didn’t have a future at the company and I should just leave.”

She added: “I was in floods of tears, sick to my stomach and I couldn’t get out of bed. I was absent as a parent. I basically believed everything they told me, I believed I was a bad person. I was diagnosed with depression, stress and burnout. I spent time in a facility.” 

Meanwhile, make-up artist Zak, who appears on camera, claims he witnessed a situation where his friend, who was working at the same boutique as him, was asked not to work on the front desk because “they thought she was too ugly and too fat, and it would stop people coming in,” he said. 

What’s happening now?

The British Beauty Council is now calling for an independent body to investigate the claims, especially as the sector has no trade union. 

“It’s heart-breaking to think that an industry that we’re trying to really pull together is so at each other’s throats,” Millie Kendall, chief executive of the British Beauty Council, said in the BBC programme. 

“It does fall on the Government as this isn’t just a beauty industry-related issue, I think this is a sort of nationwide issue. I think there needs to be some sort of ombudsman or independent body set up so there’s a safe space for people to go.”  

Watch the BBC Two “bullying ‘rife’ in the beauty industry” Victoria Derbyshire show. 

Have you experienced bullying in the industry? Tell us your story below.