Pillbox

Former Deciem CEO, Brandon Truaxe, dead

Deciem founder Brandon Truaxe was found dead in Toronto, Canada on Jan. 21, 2019. The National Post reported that "it is understood he fell from a condominium building near Toronto’s downtown." Truaxe's boyfriend and current Deciem employee Riyadh Sweedan confirmed, stating "I don’t think he jumped. I think he fell." He was 40 years old.

The Ordinary's approach to skincare was just as the name implied. By dedicating its budget to research and development instead of traditional marketing, the low price tag and the simple, almost pharmaceutical-looking packaging that houses the product don't appear to be much. However, The Ordinary had been able to pump out inexpensive products that got both everyday skincare fanatics and online influencers singing praises.

The Ordinary is a brand owned by skincare company Deciem, both founded by former CEO Brandon Truaxe, who was born Ali Roshan. Although Deciem has been successful holistically, The Ordinary has earned the most critical acclaim. The company prides itself in being "the abnormal beauty company." Deciem sells their products at a mere fraction of its competitor's prices, baffling both everyday skincare aficionados and online beauty gurus alike. Seemingly every review online expresses disbelief that a product could blow drugstore prices out of the water yet perform on-par with luxury brands. "If we have one goal as a group, it's to add accountability to the beauty business. People assume it's a scam, but the world evolves and things get better and better," Truaxe is quoted on the front page.

However, things quickly took a turn. Throughout 2018, founder and then-CEO Brandon Truaxe had an unnerving presence on The Ordinary's Instagram profile, so much so that his usage of Instagram had been likened to President Donald Trump's erratic usage of Twitter. Controversies ranged from disrespecting users in Instagram comments to allegedly insinuating a dark-skinned customer bleach her skin to posting troubling videos on Instagram saying "almost everyone at Deciem has been involved in a major criminal activity, which includes financial crimes and much others... it's all ending now."

In response to the spiraling series of controversies, the Internet did what it appears to do best: publicly boycott the brand. "Anti-haul" videos, those where certain influencers and consumers explain what and why they will not be purchasing certain products or products from certain brands, added Deciem's brand to their list. Some former consumers posted videos of them burning their Deciem products in protest. In May, Sephora, which had previously carried The Ordinary's products, silently pulled the products off their online shelves despite the products' wild success. Ultimately, Truaxe was cut off from Deciem on Oct. 12, 2018. The website and stores were closed down until Oct. 15. Since then, the company picked up where it left off. Both online and brick-and-mortar stores have been running since, and Sephora started phasing The Ordinary back in stock starting December.

However, removing Truaxe from Deciem was not enough to remove him as a controversial figure. On Oct. 20, he posted screenshots of graphic and threatening emails he had sent to one of Deciem's earliest shareholders, Estee Lauder. "I'll be in your hometown in a few hours," the email read. "Please advise if you prefer silicone-based or water-based lubricants for my approach into your criminal, destructive c***s, for the most politically-correct wording. You have now illegally removed access to my phone, email, and social channels. I’m confident that you know the world will have never seen a downfall greater than that of the fraudulent empire ELC, the Lauder family, and those related have built." Consequently, the brand filed a restraining order against Truaxe, which was successful. Truaxe later admitted that the email sent was "admittedly very impolite" and that he was "very angry and confused."

Even while the series of events were unraveling, it was clear that Truaxe was a troubled man. Although he denied having problems with his mental health, the Financial Post shared Truaxe's history of psychiatric hospitalization and diagnosis as psychotic and presumptive bipolar disorder. Additionally, doctors in London revealed that Truaxe was receiving treatment for abuse of crystal meth and magic mushrooms. The eccentricity that once created Deciem's success ultimately led to his partners considering him "a liability."

After a tumultuous 2018, it appears Deciem will spend 2019 recovering. Although I watched Truaxe's mental health deteriorate from afar, seeing the news pop up on my beauty chatter forums came as a massive shock. However, the company did themselves and him a disservice by trying to treat the consequences of Truaxe's mental illnesses as a general PR crisis. Furthermore, the online realm of beauty seemed to gorge in what was considered "drama." Drama channels would "spill the tea" on the issue, laughing at Truaxe's mental instability. Watching the responses without context, an outsider might be left to believe that they were watching gossip spread in a high school movie. Although Truaxe was receiving help, the worldwide lack of mental health resources and awareness failed him. That all being said, Truaxe's behavior was inexcusable on various instances and should not be condoned. However, I hope that this can serve as a reminder of how much work needs to be done in understanding the human mind, both in the medical and humanitarian sense.