2022 was filled to the brim with wild online shenanigans and rogue conspiracy theories. As we move further into 2023, it’s becoming abundantly clear that this year will be no different. First, we had #LashGate, now netizens are up in arms about potentially one of the strangest scandals ever: whether or not an 18-year-old TikToker is lying about having a pretty extensive facial scar.
Annie Bonelli—or as she’s dubbed on the internet, ‘Scar Girl’—first caught the eyes of sceptical gen Zers after they noticed that the facial scar Bonelli proudly showed off in videos was beginning to change. Citing dramatic shifts in colour, shape and size, viewers became convinced that the influencer was purposefully fabricating the scar in order to try and stand out among the sea of creators on the platform.
The changes everyone is referring to involve the scar switching from being rather thin and red to looking much larger and brown. This is something Bonelli claims happened after she sought treatment and was subsequently left with a chemical burn, thereby altering the scar and making it appear drastically different.
In an interview with NBC News, Bonelli explained: “Scars can come in all different colours, all different shapes and sizes, and they can change throughout healing, especially when further injury is done to them. The issue is people don’t understand that there were two separate injuries, which is really more why people are stuck on it.”
Now, rather than approach the subject cautiously and kindly, the internet did what it does best—it went absolutely feral and conjured up a million and one theories regarding not only why Bonelli was lying but analysing practically all of her videos in attempts to categorically prove that her scar is fake. By the end of January, there were already 510 million views on videos associated with the search ‘Scar Girl’ on TikTok.
The devil works hard, but gen Z netizens with a loose hypothesis and a front-facing camera work much harder.
This online conspiracy became so widespread that even TikTok doctors and other skincare and chemical professionals were chiming in with their expert opinions.
Brooke Erin Duffy, associate professor of communication at Cornell University, told NBC that the interest in Bonelli’s scar stems from the online act of “authenticity policing.” This is when people continuously scrutinise a person’s self-presentation as fake or deceptive.
The expert continued: “It speaks to a lot of the ways in which, not just women, but influencers are treated.” “What do you want to do when you attack someone on social media? There’s just this recurrent critique that they are faking it somehow. They’re faking their success, they’re faking their looks, they’re faking their career. And so much of that is tied into the larger culture of social media, where people are trying to suss out what’s real and what’s performed in these spaces,” Duffy continued.
For the most part, netizens were incredibly divided online over whether or not the scar was genuine. While there were a number of people who truly believed the scar was fake—and did provide some compelling evidence for that argument—there were an equal number of others who fearlessly defended Bonelli.
In a supposed attempt to directly respond to the media tidal wave, Bonelli went on the BFFs Pod show and spoke about both the online response and her own story regarding the scar. When questioned over whether or not she had invented the scar for ‘clout’ purposes, seemingly playing up to the idea, Bonelli ironically replied: “I’m just so calculated, I’m four steps ahead of you.”
Sticking with her story throughout, the creator went on to explain that the way in which she got the marking was incredibly personal and not something that she wanted to share online. This of course is incredibly justified, however, unfortunately—in the eyes of paranoid audiences—it backs up their theory of the scar being fake.
Now, we might never know whether or not the scar is real, and in many ways it isn’t our business to speculate. However, in the words of BFFs Pod host Dave Portnoy: “This may be the greatest con in the history of cons.” Regardless of the truth, Bonelli has successfully managed to reach viral status from the controversy alone.
In many ways, the ‘scar scam’ follows the same pattern as some of the most successful influencer marketing ploys. Take the aforementioned #LashGate, beauty TikToker Mikayla Nogueira knew how obvious it was that she’d applied a false lash, despite claiming that the magical mascara wand was the only tool used. In practically tricking us all into kicking up a fuss, Nogueira helped catapult the L’Oréal product she’d been paid to promote into online stardom.
Even Kendall Jenner botched up slicing a cucumber in what appeared to be an attempt to promote her own tequila brand.
The Scar Girl story is inherently very similar to #LashGate, except that in this case, instead of promoting a beauty product, Bonelli is promoting herself. And in this day and age, you can’t really blame someone for that, can you?
Since dinosaurs roamed the earth, beauty influencers have been magnets for drama. From James Charles to Jeffree Star, some of the most vicious (and petty) arguments and controversies online have originated from within the inner makeup sanctum. And now, it seems as though TikTok’s favourite cosmetic creator is under fire for an apparent advertising mishap.
Mikayla Nogueira is a 24-year-old beauty influencer who’s been posting on TikTok for almost three years. She’s managed to accumulate over 14 million followers on the platform made up of a loyal fanbase due to her down-to-earth nature and genuinely impressive makeup skills. However, it seems as though some of Nogueira’s following might be about to rethink where to put their trust.
On 25 January 2023, Nogueira posted a video to her page gushing over the new Telescopic Lift L’Oréal mascara. In the video, she exclaimed how the product “literally just changed [her] life,” adding “this looks like false lashes.”
Now, sponsored videos are nothing new—especially when it comes to the world of beautubers (yep, beauty YouTubers) and TikTok makeup creators. However, it became pretty clear that Nogueira was getting a little more ‘artificial’ help to create such an insane lash look. To be frank, it looked as though she’d added the mascara, jumped off camera and added a false lash on, before then cutting back to being on screen. It doesn’t take a beauty expert to spot a lash line.
Almost immediately after the clip was posted, users began flooding the comments section with questions such as: “Girl, did you add falsies at the end? We can see the length in the outer corner,” and statements like, “Don’t gaslight me right now Mikayla.”
Oh, and if you thought people were simply playing around, the term #LashGate is currently trending on TikTok. The internet is truly a haven for chaotic gen Zers.
I think the reason so many people are not only perplexed by the video, but genuinely frustrated, is because Nogueira is still denying it. Rather than turn off the comments section under the video, like so many other worried creators, the influencer has been actively replying to the accusations, stating: “Noooo omg L’Oréal would never allow that in a partnered post!!! But y’all proving my point.”
Unfortunately for Nogueira, this isn’t the first time she’s been caught in TikTok’s ruthless web. In 2022, the creator received a tidal wave of criticism after posting a video wherein she stated: “Literally just finished working, it’s 5:19 pm—try being an influencer for the day, try it.”
Naturally, audiences were pretty taken aback by the claims. Being an influencer can of course come with its difficulties and struggles. However, considering the insane financial crisis facing millions of people at the moment, alongside the fact that crucial public sector workers are fighting tooth and nail for fair pay—it’s highly tone deaf to lament over the labours of filming a lipstick tutorial.
In regard to #LashGate, misleading viewers is one of the beauty industry’s most valuable strategies. Particularly, because we operate in a time where our favourite influencers are our most trusted advisors. So when they recommend something, we believe them. But it’s important every once in a while to stop and acknowledge the fact that not everything that comes out of their mouth is honest.