When Selena Gomez launched Rare Beauty back in 2020, the message was simple: break down previous notions that everyone must be perfect, and shine a light on mental health issues.
While this may have broken every budding makeup brand’s dream, brands like Fenty Beauty shared similar, groundbreaking mission statements: bolster inclusivity in the makeup industry and force all brands to do the same in the process.
Inspired by her 2020 album, Rare, Rare Beauty began with the basics: 48 foundation shades, lip balms and matte lip creams, eyebrow definers, and the icon, liquid blush. Four years later, it’s hard to imagine a more viral, innovative celebrity makeup brand that remains in stride with Fenty.
Quickly, the Rare Beauty Soft Pinch Liquid Blush became TikTok’s go-to staple product. And no one can deny there is no blush on the market that is as pigmented, easily blendable, and long-lasting as this one. Selena Gomez has proven herself a bonafide content creator with her charismatic social media posts for fun Rare Beauty launches like an under-eye brightener, an SPF-laden tinted moisturizer, and lip combos.
Not only is Rare Beauty inclusive in shade range, but the spherical shape of the top of their products is disability-friendly.
As of 2024, Rare Beauty is a $2 billion company. But what sets this company apart is their attention to detail and true dedication to bettering the world. The same year that Rare Beauty was founded, the Rare Impact Fund was also created.
What Is The Rare Impact Fund?
In a statement by Gomez on the Rare Impact Fund’s website, she states,
“The Rare Impact Fund is committed to expanding access to mental health services and education for young people everywhere. We work with a strong network of supporters and experts to bring mental health resources into educational settings to reach young people.
Because no one– regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, or background - should struggle alone.”
Upon their start, the Rare Impact Fund committed to raising $100 million by 2030. Along with corporate sponsorships and donations from individuals, 1% of proceeds from all Rare Beauty sales go towards the charity as well. By 2021, they had donated over $1.2 million in grants to eight mental health institutions including Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.
In 2021, the Rare Impact Fund launched a GoFundMe for their new Mental Health 101 initiative. According to the GoFundMe,
“Mental Health 101 advocates for more mental health in education, empowers our community, and encourages financial support for more mental health services in educational settings through the Rare Impact Fund,”
Promising to match up to $200,000 in donations, to date the GoFundMe has raised over $500,000 and has donations from less than six months ago.
How The Rare Impact Fund Works
By leveraging both Selena Gomez’s millions of social media followers and the four million people who follow Rare Beauty on Instagram, the Rare Impact Fund quickly trickles into visibility. Suddenly, fans of the brand and Gomez alike can help make a difference by donating even a few dollars in honor of their favorite actress-singer extraordinaire.
As of 2023, the Rare Impact Fund helped grantees like UCLA Friends of Semel Institute, Batyr, La Familia, Mindful Life Project, Black Teacher Project, and Trans Lifeline. According to the website, they have raised $6 million in contributions and distributed $3 million in grant support so far.
Rare Beauty and the Rare Impact Fund alone are blazing a trail for all brands: you can make a change while still distributing high-quality products — and it pays off.
Is biohacking as scary as it's been made out to be?
Keoni Gandall, an 18-year-old research fellow at Stanford, has eschewed video games and team sports in favor of using advanced lab equipment to perform DIY gene editing. Using the widely available CRISPR/Cas9, Gandall wants to clone DNA and eventually make full genomes at home. The availability of this technology represents a new democratization of science, a science that can be performed anywhere by anyone relatively cheaply. That said, there's always a price associated with this type of freedom.
As barriers to entry to the scientific community are torn down, the world is exposed to the ideas and experiments of people outside of genetic science's traditional university setting. That said, more ideas don't necessarily mean better ideas. Biotech firm Ascendance Biomedical seemed committed to proving this point when their CEO Aaron Traywick injected himself with a DIY herpes medication in front of a crowd in Austin this February. This is the same company that urged Tristan Roberts to inject himself with an untested gene therapy to treat his HIV. Neither of these experiments worked, but they do paint an interesting picture of what we can expect in the future. Ease of access combined with relatively lax FDA standards about testing experimental medicines on oneself will eventually give rise to more companies like Ascendance Biomedical. Sure, this may present a sort of minor competition with Big Pharma with regard to curing certain diseases, but the danger of injecting oneself with a mystery cocktail created by someone with a few thousand dollars worth of gene-editing technology cannot be overstated.
Traywick injecting himself with his DIY herpes medication.
Still, incompetent gene editors like Traywick are a bigger danger to themselves than others. The real concern with the dissemination of this technology is the potential for it to be used in the manufacturing of homemade biochemical weapons. Recently, researchers at the University of Alberta were able to recreate Horsepox, an extinct relative of the smallpox virus. It only cost them $100,000, and it took about six months. While this price point will keep hobbyists like Gandall from reproducing extinct diseases, the lack of government oversight regarding the University's experiment is frightening. Genetic science is improving at a rate faster than legislation regulating DNA experimentation can be churned out. In the wrong hands, the dangers associated with viral editing are incalculable.
Back in 2016, researchers at MIT invented a programming language that allows them to design and edit DNA. Supposedly, anyone fluent in this language is able to generate and edit a DNA sequence from their computer. Before this language was invented, advanced gene editing required years of experience. According to scientists at MIT, now anyone with some programming skills can create, edit, and model DNA. According to MIT professor Christopher Voigt, "it is literally a programming language for bacteria." The medical applications are seemingly endless, but there are concerns regarding accessibility. If every person with a computer has the ability to design new genetic material, biological attacks won't just increase in number, their origins will also become more and more difficult to trace.
Analysis of DNA's nucleotides
While the growing anxiety surrounding biohacking is certainly warranted, there are plenty of professional geneticists out there who don't seem to be worried, and most of them don't believe that DNA sequencing is anything like a computer language. Synthetic biologist Sarah Richardson believes that this line of thinking has given bioengineers unrealistic expectations saying, "any analogy that ignores or downplays the fundamental rule of biology — that a cell makes imperfect copies of itself — is going to lead down a frustrating and unproductive path." According to her, we haven't even learned what some of our genes actually do, and that those worrying about the rise of biohacking are being tricked into fear. Scientists are quick to admonish the risky and often outright stupid Garageband biohackers out there, because as of right now, there's still a ton that our top geneticists don't know. We only finished mapping the human genome 15 years ago. Hell, it's only been 65 years since we discovered DNA. We're just not at the point where people with little-to-no real lab experience can accurately sequence and edit DNA from their basement. Still, the time is coming when this type of DIY genetic editing will be possible and accessible, which is why many in the bioethics community are arguing that t we need to start having the conversation now–while biohacking is in its infancy–so we can draw up preemptive legislation. One can only imagine the damage Aaron Traywick's could do if this technology were more advanced.
Tech is changing the way we use maps and get to our destination. Are we better off?
The first time I was part of a cross-country drive was in a '78 Oldsmobile station wagon, often from the rear-seat vantage point looking backward out on the open road. It was 1980, the family trekking from our Billings, Montana home to sunny Southern California. I still remember so many anachronistic details: Billy Joel's The Stranger on 8-track, ashtrays in the armrests, and a glove box stuffed with fold-out gas station maps. The very maps that, once unsheathed, would never return to their original rectangular origin, and were known to drive anally-retentive drivers to the brink of madness.
Throughout my younger days, I criss-crossed the United States multiple times. I eschewed the fold-outs for the handy-dandy Rand McNally Road Atlas, the first of which, known as the "Auto Chum," was published in 1924, when a Model T could be had for $290. As cars became commonplace, the road trips soon followed. Getting the motor running and heading out on the highway became a staple in pop culture be it Nat King Cole, Jack Kerouac, or Clark W. Griswold. Going out looking for adventure is an American rite of passage, and it used to mean always having a map at the ready.
In 21st-century America, road atlases have been replaced by the smartphone. It's useful, but it isn't a map. Typing in an unknown address for Siri's soothing guidance on a quick A-to-B trip can be a godsend, but unfurl a bigger picture view, and it's plain as an Interstate how much is lost without the cartographic complexity of a map. There's the obvious reason maps are superior, nobody ever says, "My atlas is about to die." Maps don't require batteries, plugs, roaming charges, Wi-Fi, or any level of "g" connectivity, and they aren't ruined if dropped on the blacktop, or in a toilet.
There are also deeper reasons, both intellectual and spiritual, for putting the technology where the fold-outs used to be. For one, maps are literally making us smarter humans. "Spatial Orientation" is the brain's ability to help its owner "move around in an environment using an innate sense of direction." It's an essential skill for navigating through unfamiliar territories - as well as the literal dark - so we, as a species, can keep moving forward. Learning to read and understand maps is a primary way to build spatial orientation. Neural pathways are formed as more mental maps are created, so the brain is actually getting bigger. Map reading is a hugely important but underutilized skill for kids as well. A 2013 National Geographicreport concluded, "A student who has acquired robust spatial thinking skills is at an advantage in our increasingly global and technical society."
Kids recognize something else grown-up drivers tend to forget: maps are fun. An atlas contains endless possibilities, whereas a GPS is strictly a means to an endpoint. Maps open up the world and give the sense of vastness, screens shrink it down to a route that only matters to the driver. As Guardian writer Thomas McMullan notes in this astute essay on maps giving way to GPS, is that now, "we are by default the center of the world." It's yet another example of the collective being lost to the individual. Scale is reduced to only the path of the blinking blue dot, which means people will only get where they need to go. Wanderlust, the strong desire to travel, will still exist, but to wander lost may not.
One of the innate joys of maps are opening them up and eyeballing alternate routes. Not for efficiency, for beauty. The roads less traveled offer the wonderment of having no particular place to go, and maps will help get you there. The chance to tool around aimlessly, free of the omnipresent technology shackles, among this country's pastures, forests, deserts, mountains, plains, shores, and cities is one of life's greatest pleasures.
Today I live in Brooklyn, haven't owned a car in nearly two decades. When I feel a bit of wanderlust, even if it's only in a daydream, I pull out my tattered dog-eared cover-falling-off Rand McNally Road Atlas. GPS is the destination; Maps are the journey.