An Instagram account operated by a group of former Beautycon employees is demanding that chief executive officer Moj Mahdara step down.
The @BeautyconnedbyMoj account, which appeared late Thursday afternoon, features screenshots of the company’s negative Glassdoor reviews, an IGTV video by influencer Patrick Starrr calling the festival “a hodgepodge mess,” and disparaging comments allegedly made by Mahdara to former employees. WWD’s previous reporting on the company’s recent struggles is also highlighted.
“We are a collective group of people who have worked with Moj in some capacity through Beautycon over the last 5+ [sic] years,” an administrator of the account said to WWD via DM. “The purpose of this account is to share our firsthand experiences with Moj and receipts in a format where she can no longer continue to silence our voices and deny her abusive behavior.
“We want to be clear that we love the Beautycon community and festival and hope to see it thrive under new management,” the statement continued. “For too long [sic] Moj continues to scam and bully the people who work tirelessly to give her a platform with no repercussion for her continued dishonesty. We also hope to help educate the key celebrities, investors and other key partners that continue to support Moj because they are unawarely complicit.”
Mahdara did not respond to WWD’s request for comment.
The account’s initial post asserts that Beautycon “isn’t the work of a female ceo who holds herself to high standards, this is the work of an absolute monster.” The post goes on to accuse Mahdara of “emotional abuse, mental abuse, verbal abuse, underpaid staff, missing payments, ZERO [sic] accountability, name-calling, ignored contracts, manipulating new hires to come on board regardless of bankruptcy, pending lawsuits and robbing customers of their money with ticket sales for a festival that isn’t happening,” as “just some of the realities of Moj’s unjust reign — along with her constant berating and belittling harassment.”
The account appears to confirm much of WWD’s previous reporting, published in December 2019 and May 2020. The company, sources said, routinely overspent on operations and a recent delay in new fund-raising is causing mounting financial pressure, even as it lays off employees, delays payment to remaining workers and ignores lawsuits seeking damages for breech of contract.
Sources at the time of WWD’s reporting blamed Beautycon’s fund-raising troubles on a toxic corporate culture finally catching up to Mahdara, a charismatic orator who many said lacks the operational expertise necessary to manage a global events business. “She didn’t have the experience of doing this before, so she delegated to the point of absolution of responsibility — [and when something goes wrong] she starts the screaming and yelling and the negative spiral downturn,” a former employee told WWD.
Glassdoor reviews posted to the @BeautyconnedbyMoj account are presented as proof of more toxic behavior. One review likens working at Beautycon to “working in the Trump White House,” and noted that Mahdara “is only interested in her own personal gain and uses everyone for as long as they can stand it.”
A quote attributed to Mahdara, posted to the account, suggests that Mahdara threatened to essentially blackball workers who left her employ.
While the account mentions a bankruptcy, WWD did not find a bankruptcy filing for Beautycon in the California court system.
Tickets for this year’s Beautycon festivals in New York and Los Angeles, scheduled for Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 and Dec. 5 and 6, are indeed currently available for sale on Beautycon’s web site, despite the fact that both cities just rolled back reopening plans due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The New York festival, which in past years has attracted tens of thousands of attendees, is slated to be held at the Jacob. K. Javits Center, which just a few months ago was being used as a makeshift field hospital. It is not clear whether tickets will be refunded if Beautycon’s festivals are unable to take place in 2020.
The account has materialized just days following an essay published to Medium over the weekend, calling for the resignation of Essence ceo Richelieu Dennis amid allegations of a poisonous work culture for Black women. Dennis, who invested in Beautycon via Essence’s New Voices Fund — though sources dispute this, calling the investment “a bridge loan” — stepped down from his role on July 1.
The blog reads that the “Essence brand promise is fraudulent” thanks to Dennis’ alleged behavior. The company, which outwardly “exalts” Black women, is a toxic place for them as employees.
The @Beautyconnedbymoj account makes a similar claim against Mahdara, who made diversity and inclusion core tenets of Beautycon’s message. “The company stands for something that is incredibly important,” one post reads. “Even though it’s not genuinely believed in by the ceo herself and really only a ploy to get more money and capitalize on the current generation.”
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