By Lauren Hazlewood
Date July 10, 2018
Over the last year Deciem has built up something of a cult following and the Toronto-based company has exploded globally, opening up stores in major cities like New York, London and Amsterdam. They’re most known for their super affordable skincare line, The Ordinary. But they’re also known for their eccentric founder and CEO, Brandon Truaxe. This year, Truaxe decided to single-handedly take over Deciem’s social media accounts and the events that followed ranged from entertaining to straight up bizarre. The past six months have been filled with drama and we’re here to take you through every bit of it. From public firings to posting pictures of trash, check out Truaxe’s social media journey so far.
January 12: Deciem Shades Drunk Elephant
Our Deciem timeline begins with Reddit after one user spotted a dig at Drunk Elephant on The Ordinary’s website. The shade was buried within the description of their marula oil, “Referred to as a ‘luxury’ oil by some… It’s a fantastic oil in every sense of the word despite its affordability. One would have to be drunk to overpay for Marula.” The terminology here pointed a clear finger at fellow skincare-brand Drunk Elephant, who charges $90 for a 1oz bottle of marula oil in comparison to a $10 bottle of the same size from The Ordinary. The (now deleted) call-out seemed pretty unprofessional, especially because of its placement on the company’s official website.
January 24: Truaxe Begins his Social Media Takeover
Truaxe posted a chatty selfie-type video to Deciem’s Instagram page–the first of many–stating, “I have now cancelled all of our marketing plans… From now on I’m going to communicate personally with you.” Given Deciem’s substantial following, it seemed like a pretty drastic change and a huge undertaking.
January 28: Truaxe Addresses the Drunk Elephant Comment
Two weeks after the Drunk Elephant dig was shared on Reddit, Truaxe addressed the situation via social media. The post, though clearly good-intentioned, was also a very strange rambling of thoughts. Once you get past the musings of monkeys and models, an apology can be found towards the end. Truaxe acknowledges that what he said about Drunk Elephant was a distasteful joke and then casually adds that he will donate $25,000 to Save the Elephants in response. All in all, it was a very sweet way to apologize, but the elaborate (at times, baffling) caption just stirred up more conversation about founder. Back over on Reddit, one user posted, “I remember that one. I also remember thinking, If you got time to write this ‘masterpiece’, you got time to get my 100ml moisturizer back in stock, son.” Another simply asked, “Wtf did I just read.”
February 1: No More Bosses
In his next selfie video, Truaxe announces that he will drop his CEO title and now be referred to simply as a “worker”. “I’ve never liked any of my bosses in my life. So, I don’t want to be a boss, I want to be a friend,” he says.
February 4: Deciem’s Feed is Garbage
No, but actually… it’s literal garbage. Truaxe interrupts Deciem’s usual feed to post pictures of trash. He captions the post with a pledge to go plastic free, and while he’s at it, cuts ties with his plastic packager. He goes on to offer Peter (who has now been publicly fired) a sponsorship for him and his family to come to Canada and work at Deciem. The caption is pretty uncomfortable to read. The four people mentioned in the post probably deserved a meeting or even an email, not an Instagram caption. Triaxe’s offer of sponsorship also feels a little inappropriate for the platform, especially given the circumstances.
February 4: Truaxe Photographs a Dead Animal
In the midst of the garbage posts, Truaxe comes across a dead animal. He then proceeds to kneel next to the body, upload a picture of the corpse to Instagram and then scold his followers, “Stop being so mean to kind animals.” It’s a little confusing given we don’t know if this sheep died of natural causes or not. Truaxe then goes on to say that Deciem will never test on animals and while we praise the brand for being cruelty free, the picture of the sheep and the videos of the garbage feel a bit unnecessary. It’s clear that the Deciem Instagram page is not controlled by a formal marketing team.
February 4: He Also Wants to Mention that He’s Not Gay
In Truaxe’s tenth post of the day (none of which have had anything to do with specific Deciem products) he describes his relationship with factory manager, Riad. He talks about his love for Riad and his family and then tags two people in the post, letting them know that he is not gay. He then casually mentions another massive donation. This time, half a million dollars for Riad’s family.
February 5: Truaxe Promises a Proper Social Media Team
After eleven posts in one day and a reported loss of 5,000 followers, Truaxe addresses his recent Instagram behaviour. “Many of you love what I did. But a few of you disliked it, criticized it and even unfollowed us,” he wrote before promising to build a new social content management team. Once again he mentions his charity work, “I’ll be in Kenya and Namibia to evaluate the best way to donate $150k to hungry children… I’m also donating $50,000 of my personal savings for this cause.” Unfortunately, Truaxe’s constant touting of how down to Earth and charitable he is, ends up making him seem a little more self-righteous than humble.
February 6: Truaxe Fires TJ Esho via Instagram
In another example of inappropriate use of social media, Truaxe publicly fires cosmetic doctor Tijon Esho. Esho, who worked with Truaxe to create Deciem’s lip-care brand, Esho, later told Racked that he was not notified of his firing prior to the public Instagram post. “The formulas were rushed. And almost everyone hated them… Our lovely customers who bought ESHO and hated it, please forgive me.” It’s a pretty savage farewell to one of his co-workers and one that definitely shouldn’t have happened over Deciem’s social media account. The post has since been deleted.
February: Meanwhile on Reddit…
The public ousting of Esho along with Truaxe’s strange series of posts got a lot of people interested in the company. Redditers started digging further into Deciem and found a ton of Glass Door reviews that had some pretty concerning content. From claims of yelling and bullying, to reports of sexism, racism and sexual harassment, the reviews painted a picture of a very unhealthy work environment. One poster, who referred to himself as an embarrassed favoured employee, painted a picture of an oligarchy-style hierarchy. The poster, who was in the favoured group, revealed he received a much higher salary and bigger bonuses. Of course, we do have to take anonymous reviews with a grain of salt.
February 9: Former Employees go on the Record
Three former employees came forward to talk about the growing Deciem drama. The three kept their anonymity but revealed that they had worked at the Toronto facility between 2016 and 2017. The trio confirmed many of the rumours, including reports that Truaxe frequently yelled at employees. They also confirmed allegations of body shaming, with all three noting that factory manager Meena Razach would pinch at people’s stomachs. Riyadh Sweden (previously mentioned in Truaxe’s ‘I’m not gay’ post) was also described as being a “bully” and a “huge problem”.
February 10: Truaxe Reprimands Followers
Five days after Truaxe’s last speech, he once again addresses the disapproval towards his behaviour on social media. “Despite my respect for you, you continue to be disrespectful on this account,” he says into the camera. “I’m going to start changing things because Deciem… I founded Deciem, so our social account is actually my property. I’ve welcomed you, but if you’re going to abuse it I’m going to ask you to leave…” He then reports that Deicem would now be deleting all negative comments.
February 11: Truaxe Accused of Racism
As concern continued to grow over Truaxe’s behaviour, one follower commented, “Brandon are you okay??” underneath a post. He replied, “Yes but you don’t seem so well. Please use Modulating Glucosides when it’s out. Goodbye.” Not only was the response rude, but Affinity reported that the suggested product may have skin-lightening properties. Since his response was aimed at a person of colour, it seemed like Truaxe was basically telling the follower to bleach her skin. The comment created a lot of upset and he ended up giving a statement to Teen Vogue, “Whoever assumed that MG, which calms inflammation, relates to ‘bleaching’ skin is either a hateful person or one who assumes everything and understands very little.” Regardless, the response was pretty rude whether he meant it that way or not.
February 22: Truaxe Lays Off his Co-CEO
Co-CEO Nicola Kilner was let go from Deciem and soon after Stephen Kaplan, chief financial officer at the brand, resigned. In response to the firing, Truaxe told WWD, “It’s my company. It’s my house. If someone doesn’t like how I decorate my house, it doesn’t matter if they’re my mother or a guest, they have to leave the house.” This statement is in stark comparison to Truaxe’s thoughts at the beginning of the month, in which he tells his followers he doesn’t want to be seen as a boss. After the firing, Kilner told ELLE that when it came to Truaxe, “It was never [just about] business. It was much more personal.”
March 25: The Firings Continue
One month later, Racked reported that Truaxe had fired his whole U.S. team. The decision seemed extremely rash and, again, had people wondering if everything was really running smoothly at Deciem.
April 4: Deciem Uses a Homeless Man to Promote Their New Store
This photograph had a lot of followers upset. The picture, which appears to have been taken without the man’s consent, left a bad taste in people’s mouths. It only got worse when Truaxe addressed it. “This person is disrespectful to the Beauty of the library; he is disrespectful to the beauty of Fifth Avenue,” he told Racked. “But this person was so peaceful. He was just reading his book, which homeless people should do more of.” Ouch. The comment is problematic for many reasons and the drama continued when Truaxe posted a screenshot to Instagram of a comment left by an upset viewer. He did not block out their personal information which led to accusations of bullying from other followers. Truaxe then quickly deleted the picture and offered the original commenter $20,000 worth of Deciem products…
April 5: Truaxe Responds to Trump Comparisons
Truaxe posted a screenshot of a Sunday Times Magazine profile that compared him to Donald Trump. In his caption he defends the president and asks his followers to respect Trump in the same way that they would respect their family. It’s not clear why Truaxe chose to start defending the president at this time, especially given that the article he’s referring to was published back in 2016.
April 5: Truaxe Diverts Blame in Firing Accusations
Truaxe posts another media screenshot to his page emphasizing that he is not the one who decides who gets fired. Instead, he directly calls out his Human Resources Director for making the decision. He then denies reports that he had fired his whole U.S. team, saying only two people were let go. His hands-off response to these lay-offs are especially interesting given his previous reaction to Kilner’s firing.
April 8: Truaxe Responds to a Recent Interview with Kilner
In yet another media screenshot (where are the products?!) Truaxe addresses a recent interview between Kilner and ELLE in which she told the magazine,”I truly believe Brandon has good reasons for everything he does.” Truaxe’s emotional response to the article was pretty personal and it seemed out-of-place to casually share it on Intagram, “Nicola, it’s I, Brandon. Please, please–respect our history.” Truaxe also repeatedly talks about Kilner’s betrayal and how she can never be forgiven for some of her actions. “I hugged your beautiful mom in Nottingham last month,” he tacks on at the end. Is all this really appropriate for a company page?
April 10: Truaxe and Kilner Bury the Hatchet?
If there’s one thing Truaxe loves, it’s emojis… and screenshots. He combines both in this amicable exchange between himself and Kilner.
April 25: Truaxe Urges Followers to Call 911
In the most disturbing incident to date, Truaxe posted a now-deleted video to Instagram urging his followers to call 911. He tagged the location of the video as a small airport and there appears to be an issue with his baggage. In the background, a man referred to as Jonathan can be heard saying, “I’m trying to help you, Brandon. You need to calm down. You’ll end up getting killed.” Truaxe, looking directly into the camera, responds, “This is abuse. Please tell them I was getting sued and this is going to go on the Deicem Instagram account in exactly one minute.” In a second deleted video he leaves comments under the post continuing to ask his followers to call 911. In his urgency, he also manages to include tree and camel emojis. He adds, “They have my luggage” and “Call police.”
April 25: Don’t Burn After Reading?
After a pretty terrifying string of posts, Truaxe posts another video later in the day. Still in the same outfit, he smiles widely at the camera and teases some sort of new product. “Don’t burn after reading,” he says and captions the post with an emoji sticking out its tongue. There is literally no explanation or even mention of the previous posts, a choice with led confused followers to become frustrated. “Is this some elaborate performance art? Like, what the fuck,” said one Reddit user in response to the videos. Another commented about Truaxe’s lack of respect for the police, “Why in God’s name does he think it’s ok to clog up the system with 100’s if not 1000’s of his followers calling the police?”
April 26: Truaxe Goes on a Rant
Following the baffling events of the day before, Truaxe returns to Instagram to rant about the criticism he’s received, “I’m just really enjoying reading all the idiots that write on Instagram and all the sloppy journalists that can’t even afford their phone bills who are saying that I’ve got mental health issues.” He then threatens to sue all of the “vultures”.
April 27: The End of the Road?
Racked gained access to a series of emails Truaxe sent to all of his Deciem employees, attorneys and to Leonard Lauder and Estée Lauder executives. In them he writes, “I’m done with DECIEM and EVERYTHING. No need to discuss.” He also posts a video to Instagram telling his followers he loves them and that he is going home.
April 28: … Or Not?
In a post the next day, Truaxe walks around New York City and hurriedly mentions some new products he has coming out. It seems that rumours of him leaving weren’t true after all? He says one of the products is a, “quote on quote bleaching cream”. This references the incident in which Truaxe was accused of racism a few months back. When he talks about it, his eyes go wide and it seems like he’s joking around. It’s a move that seems pretty immature and insensitive. He also spends time talking about Trump Tower.
May 1: Burn After Reading Explained?
In a new video, Truaxe wanders around his hotel room talking a mile a minute. “I don’t support Trump, or whatever, maybe I do,” he says at one point. In a whispery voice he goes up to a wall and says, “Something’s behind this room. I’m going to figure it out with a shot of this pill they gave me… I don’t know, they keep restocking my mini bar.” Then he’s suddenly talking about a movie and hysterically laughing. It seems to have something to do with his Burn After Reading post. It’s all very confusing.
May 23: Problems Beneath the Surface?
In this quick video Truaxe alerts followers that he’s found some “really bad wrongdoings” from some of Deciem’s shareholders. He doesn’t elaborate further but says, “It’s a serious matter. This is not games.”
May 25: Get Your Product Info Elsewhere
With followers continually asking for more product information on the Deciem Instagram page, Truaxe posts a response making it clear that the Deciem page does have info but to ideally go to other sources. “It’s better to find it on other channels, because if you read it here, you probably won’t trust it as much,” he says. Interesting marketing tactic…
May 26: “I’m Not on Drugs”
In a quick post, in which Truaxe professes his love for Richard Branson, he clarifies in his caption, “I’m not on ‘drugs’ or ‘mentally’-incapacitated.”
May 28: Truaxe Calls out a Mystery Competitor
In a post dedicated to Deciem’s new lab in Toronto, Truaxe segways into some sort of weird hypothetical, “Imagine how comical it’d seem if you were a competitor wasting time with a bunch of fake accounts here “bashing” us for no valid reason at all.” We have to wonder which skincare competitor he’s referring to. Who’s out to get him? Where’s the proof? Why post it on this picture? So many questions!
July 3: Kilner Reinstated as Co-CEO
After a month of Instagram calm and a feed full of products, Deciem was back in the news again. This time, however, it was for the announcement of Nicola Kilner’s return. 2018 has been a pretty wild ride for Deciem so far and the year is far from over, but Kilner’s return seems to be a positive step forwards. Even so, speculation still surrounds the Abnormal Beauty Company. From the negative Glassdoor Reviews to the collection of deleted Instagram posts, customers aren’t 100% sure what to believe or think about Deciem. One thing that’s never been in question is the quality of the products, which is perhaps why customers are so involved in all the controversy. At the end of the day, when the head of a company takes over its social media and uses it as their own personal account, there’s almost always going to be drama. And it doesn’t seem like Truaxe is ready to give up the reigns any time soon.Photography via Instagram/@deciem
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