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.