The Tarte TikTok Controversy, Explained

What do technologically primed race cars, makeup, and TikTok influencers all have in common? During the Formula 1 (F1) race in Miami, Florida, over the first weekend in May, an influencer brand trip went horribly awry in a horrendous way that has left social media users absorbing drama left and right.

The precipice of the unfolding events began prior to the commencement of the trip when content creator Bria Jones, a Black influencer invited on the Tarte Cosmetics brand trip for the F1 Miami race, realized that the details of her flight schedule to and from Miami didn't align with the race itself. On her TikTok account, Jones told her nearly half a million followers in a now-deleted video that her arrival in Miami was scheduled for May 4, 2023, and her departure was set for May 6, 2023. That may not seem of note going merely by the dates because she did indeed receive roundtrip plane transportation to and from the host city of the event, except that the F1 race was scheduled to take place on May 7, 2023. 

The conversation is abuzz on social media, with users calling out the ways in which Black influencers and content creators are often treated differently than their non-Black peers.

Drama rooted in discrepancy and discrimination

What Bria Jones had to say lit up the flame icons on TikTok and brought Tarte Cosmetics into a mass dialogue on the platform. Realizing that she wouldn't be present at the race itself after confirming her flight details, Jones did some investigating of her own. She contacted Caucasian influencers invited on the trip, all of whom had been given flight schedules arriving into Miami on May 5, 2023 and departing May 8, 2023, permitting them to attend the F1 race and the main event of the brand trip.

Jones has been both applauded and harassed for speaking out through the utilization of her TikTok account with a reach of over 400,000 followers. Through her platform, Jones revealed the discrepancy in her air travel compared with her peers and announced that she would not be attending the brand trip because of the discrimination, as she felt like a "second-tier person," reveals Insider

"Creators should not feel tokenized or ranked," says TikTok user @che.march, who has been both an influencer director for several makeup brands and simultaneously works as a content creator herself. She makes a note of saying that she has been on both sides of the influencer brand trips to events like Formula 1, so she understands how it works as both an invited content creator and as a member of the brand team working to organize the logistics for the group of influencers invited on behalf of the brand.

An apology made things awkward

After Bria Jones spoke out, content creators and users alike began creating stitch posts with her video addressing how the disfavored travel plans highlighted critical dialogue around the ways in which Black influencers aren't delivered the same treatment as their white counterparts. CEO of Tarte Cosmetics Maureen Kelly then delivered an apology that added discomfiture to the ongoing dialogue. Posting to TikTok in a video that has since been removed, Kelly referred to the difference in travel logistics for Jones as a miscommunication, shares Insider. The apology intensified the saga on social media, with Jones ultimately receiving such intense harassment and hate-fueled comments that she deactivated her TikTok account. 

Though Jones took a break from her social media followers after the harassment, she revealed several days after the F1 race in Miami that Kelly and other representatives from Tarte had reached out to her to engage in discussions that she felt clarified miscommunications on both sides of the brand partnership. Jones has since reactivated her TikTok, with her most recent video addressing her followers with a statement reiterating the miscommunication with Tarte.

Miscommunication or not, the discussion about how Black influencers are treated is ongoing and critical for transparency and diversity in the industry, as Kelly concurred in her own statement. Tarte certainly had the spotlight over Miami F1 weekend, though the brand may not have gotten the sun-kissed South Beach glow it was hoping for.