Adam Fitch: Valkyrae’s RFLCT controversy is a chance for her to take responsibility
Popular content creator and 100 Thieves co-owner Rachell ‘Valkyrae’ Hofstetter unveiled her much-hyped new company, a skincare line called RFLCT, on October 19. After two years of hard work bringing it to life, the reaction that followed from fans and industry figures alike, highlights the perils of being an ‘influencer’.
The financial benefits of being a popular user on the internet have only really paid off in a significant way over the past decade or so, and now many of these influencers and content creators are establishing additional ways they can cash in on their large audiences and authoritative positions in the industry.
From Matthew ‘Nadeshot’ Haag starting his very own esports organization to the likes of KSI and Jake Paul launching lucrative boxing careers, big names are becoming fully-fledged businesspeople. Valkyrae, the so-called “Queen of YouTube” herself, is the latest major creator to start her own business as a means of owning something larger than herself.
“It’s the skincare collection for everyone who uses a screen,” Valkyrae said of her new venture, RFLCT, in the official announcement video. “It’s designed to protect your skin from blue light that is emitted from all digital screens.” The line currently contains products like a ‘Lip Guard Moisture Balm’ and a ‘Screen Shield Defense Face Moisturizer’, all of which are designed to provide “protection” from, and “repair” damage done by, blue light emitted by screens.
RFLCT: a “scam” or the real deal?
Just one day from launch and RFLCT have been labeled as a scam countless times, but is that the case? I could link to plenty of studies that dispute and disprove RFLCT’s claims but, instead, I feel that the responsibility should be on those who believe the marketing stance of the company to provide quality, peer-reviewed papers from scientists that demonstrate blue light damage on skin is legitimate. If they’ve done their research and are certain there’s a purpose for the product then there’s every reason to believe that proof will soon be on the way, right?
While the gaming and influencers spaces certainly aren’t always the best realms for scientific discussion to take place, this wouldn’t be a problem if Valkyrae and her business partners didn’t decide to lean in so heavily on what appears to be pseudoscience.
Let’s take a look at RFLCT’s own terms of service to see their stance on their marketing copy and overall product strategy. It’s clear from the text that follows, which is from the company’s own official website, that they have to disqualify everything they’re claiming and using to sell products just to ensure they’re not engaging in marketing malpractice.
“We are not responsible if information made available on this site is not accurate, complete or current,” it says on the RFLCT website.
“The material on this site is provided for general information only and should not be relied upon or used as the sole basis for making decisions without consulting primary, more accurate, more complete or more timely sources of information. Any reliance on the material on this site is at your own risk.”
Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest updates on Esports, Gaming and more.
What does this say about Valkyrae and other influencers?
I’d be remiss to not discuss why it’s potentially harmful that Valkyrae’s promoting such products. The products aren’t overly expensive and as long as they don’t produce adverse reactions from customers then this is all pretty harmless, right?
‘Stan’ culture is rife in the entertainment world these days, the label is taken from Eminem’s song of the same name about an obsessive fan — a stan is an overzealous, stalker-esque supporter that, in a lot of cases, has established a parasocial relationship of a particular public figure. In Valkyrae’s case, she streams for hours on end and a subsection of her viewers now feel as if they’re friends with her; they defend her honor and obsess over every move she makes and every tweet she sends.
It’s not going to be too hard to sell something to ‘fans’ of this ilk. They effectively worship the ground she walks on so when they’re given an opportunity to support Valkyrae, a creator they trust who’s not only promoting a company but is a co-founder of it, you best believe they’ll get to buying.
While she, or any other creator, isn’t directly responsible for the behavior of those who obsess in such ways, they surely have to take some ownership of their own actions and what they choose to advertise to them. Valkyrae can’t stop someone from buying her products, but she can ensure that she’s only promoting products in good faith and that they are what they say on the tin.
Not only are fans of Valkyrae happy to be served up with products with DNA that’s interwoven with literal bullshit, they’re flat-out defending the products. This is a problem. What’s worse is that other prominent influencers — her 100T teammates Nadeshot and BrookeAB, QuarterJade, and FaZe Kalei, for example — have all effectively given RFLCT their stamp of approval, signaling to their audiences that it’s worth purchasing.
There’s nothing out there that makes me believe Valkyrae is a truly bad person. She is generally a positive influence and appears to simply enjoy playing games and hanging out with her friends. However, it’s hard to have sympathy for this latest venture. If she didn’t know that her entire company is based on a premise that’s not been proven in any significant manner then that’s on her, especially if it’s been a project she’s been working on for two years.
If RFLCT was a standard skincare or makeup company then there’d be no issue here, it wouldn’t be anything new in the influencer space at this point. But it’s the claim of the additional benefit of blue light protection that crosses the line.
As far as I can tell, she has two choices: either scrap two years of invested time, energy, and money and then try significant damage control, or continue selling these products using, at best, pseudoscience, to make some cash off of her ardent followers. This then boils down to whether she truly cares about her followers and wants to take some responsibility for what she promotes to them, or she’s looking to get even richer.