A Comprehensive Timeline of Every Bit of Deciem Drama This Year
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.
The words in this video mean more to me than to anyone. I will talk to you beautiful people on our social channels from now on. I'll maintain an email subscription list and you can subscribe to it by simply sending an empty email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll share my thoughts that relate more to life than DECIEM on my own Instagram feed @btruaxe. We are all humans. We are not consumers, races, genders or sexualities. 🌎 Our social team won't respond to any comments on this post because I will respond to all of them personally. Please ask any order or product questions on another post or via DM so that I can commit time to this post. ❤️
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.
Hi :-) You have often asked us why we refer to our team as monkeys. Our lovey @nicolalkilner used to be a buyer at @bootsuk. She once told me that a major beauty brand always hired sales representatives who looked like models because their presence in meetings was impactful. I can't think of anything dumber than choosing people who are to represent your values based largely on their appearance. So I decided that we are going to very specifically not care about our team looking like models (if some of us do, then we are doubly lucky), and instead be so humble to say we are symbolically monkeys, because monkeys are the origin of all of us, whether or not we are models. But I also don't think monkeys are better than any other animal. Animals and us are all together working on this beautiful small planet we call Earth. I fell in love with all animals during my fortunate visits to Africa and South East Asia. I particularly love elephants because my very good friend Gill Sinclair of our caring and patient retailer, @victoriahealth, loves them and because an elephant once let me ride his loving back in Java, Indonesia, near the Borobudur Temple. Lastly, speaking of elephants, I once wrote that one would have to be drunk to overpay for Marula oil which was a distasteful joke that arose from my familiarity with the beautiful brand, @drunkelephantskincare. @tiffanymasterson: I'm sorry. When I met you at the WWD breakfast, I saw a beautiful soul. And you have worked hard to build a beautiful brand. Please forgive me. I have now adjusted that distasteful post and we will donate $25,000 to the peaceful elephant charity that your brand supports: @savetheelephants. Our super-fast and loving @smjr2000 will arrange for this donation to be made this week. Hug, Brandon ❤️ (Update: the donation has been made and elephants are smiling 🐘❤️)
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.
I'll eliminate all plastic including our shopping bags, droppers, foundation bottles (which cost more than glass bottles because they're "sophisticated" plastic). Alessandro and Hajar, please tell our suppliers that this plan will complete by end of 2018. Peter of Mong Packaging, I'm sorry that we won't use plastic any more. You're such a good person. I'll sponsor you and your family to come to Canada if you want and you can work at DECIEM. Alan of Idealpak, this direction means more business for you ❤️🐴 (@apple please add a donkey emoticon because there's no horse in Morocco as far as I can tell). Sorry everyone that I'll repeat this note several times today with different videos. I love you, Brandon. (It's sunny here. ❤️🌕)
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. Truaxe’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.
Riad is our factory manager. His family adopted me when I needed help. His brothers Hashim and Faras run our US e-commerce. His other brother Ammar sells our products in Iraq, where they're from. His youngest brother Omar is coming to Canada to join DECIEM. Astrid and @diafoley, Riad is not my boyfriend (I'm not gay). He's my brother and I love him (and his beautiful mother who's my mother). Because of Estée Lauder's investment, I have been able to give the family a gift of $500,000 in January. They're building a home. And Riad is now travelling the world with me until March. I love you, Riad 🐘❤️🐪. Astrid, see you in Amsterdam to build my baby, Avestan. Our baby, Avestan. ❤️
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.
Hi :-) I had the best time yesterday posting about my day. Many of you love what I did. But a few of you disliked it, criticized it and even unfollowed us. I won't argue with you. I'll listen to you and build a social content management team. We don't have such a team because our social content has always been my doing but it was too curated for no reason until recently. While Mira and our amazing creative team work together to hire this social content team, I'll be in Kenya and Namibia to evaluate the best way to donate $150K to hungry children as promised in our Vitamin C post a couple of weeks ago. I'm also donating $50K of my personal savings for this cause. Random charities aren't the right way to donate but I'll find the right way to donate for us. Meanwhile, our lovely other Brandon will be here with you on social answering your questions and sharing good energy like always. I love you and I'll speak to you soon. I can't wait to meet some of you at our stores starting with Covent Garden. And then I'll go back to Morocco to find the beautiful man who gave me the soap so he can help me share the soap with you. And this soap will be very special because we will donate all of our gross profits from its sales to create good jobs for good people in beautiful Morocco. We are already successful and don't need to profit at all from a peaceful soap. ❤️🐪
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…
Hello @cosmeticsbusiness and the person who is quoted in your headline: It is always an insult to any President of any country to compare him or her to a small, growing entrepreneur who is a citizen of another country (Canada). Any President, including @realdonaldtrump, is working on much more complex issues that affect billions of people in the United States of America and around the world than I (@btruaxe) will ever have to face in my lifetime. I am very simply building a very simple beauty business that happens to be successful because of the love and support our kind followers, or rather our kind observers, have shown me and my team by caring for us on here and by buying our good, affordable products. Whether you agree or disagree with some or all thoughts of @realdonaldtrump, please respect him as the President of a powerful nation and don’t compare me with him. Your comparison would make both of us, and anybody intelligent, angry. Please respect Presidents of countries and founders of businesses in the same way that you would respect your family, your friends, your colleagues and our collective world at large. 💙🦋 -Brandon
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.
The @cosmeticsbusiness “saga” continues. Our loving Human Resources Director, Neha, who manages the many needs of our almost 700 loving employees, not I @btruaxe, terminated 2 members of our team in the United States last month because we don’t yet have a need for a dedicated US PR team in addition to our current one managed by our peacefully-loving @dionnelois who has been with us since we started about five years ago. These 2 members of our team were hired directly by our ex Co-CEO a couple of months before. We have much respect for these 2 loving and lovely girls and told both of them that, once we do organize a US-based PR team in the near future, we will offer them to join us again. They were both offered significant notice payments despite neither US laws nor their contracts with us requiring us to issue such payments. Our “entire US team” minus these 2 individuals are happily running our fast-growing US business. Please visit our cozy stores in NYC to meet them and feel their warmth like I do every time I visit them. 💙🦋 -Brandon
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.
Hi @nicolalkilner (💛🐌). I saw your beautiful soul the first time you walked into the otherwise-corporate lobby of @bootsuk in peaceful Nottingham. I have loved this same beautiful soul until this very moment—because, when you had every chance to share negative energy with @elleusa/@elleuk, you instead chose to give respect to the beauty of what we had shared. Nicola, it’s I, Brandon. Please, please—respect our history and tell ELLE that our goodbye had nothing to do with @drtijionesho. You know that @smjr2000 committed his life since he was 15 years old to help educate the world about HIV. He joined me at DECIEM a year before you did when we had so little money and were struggling to find means to spend on marketing our first products in the UK, because we both knew that such effort would make DECIEM an initial success and would also allow Boots to recognize what an incredible buyer you were at such a young age. When we met at @timleach9’s cozy flat in London in February this year, I offered you kindness and forgiveness for having had forgotten our trust. On this beautiful occasion, you told me that Shamin had told our team that I had psychosis. On the next day, I called you and told you that I would fire Shamin if you were certain that he did indeed cloud our team’s judgement of me—and, yet again, you betrayed the love Shamin has shown all of us at DECIEM from a time before you had joined us—all the while knowing that Shamin would never mean to hurt me, you, our team or our world. Your absence today hurts me, but I cannot invite you back into a loving family whose hard-working, brother-like Shamin you betrayed. I can forgive you for telling ELLE incorrectly that I “stripped” you from your title to be a “coworker” while you and I know that it was your loving decision—but I can never forgive myself if I ever forgive what you did to Shamin. I hugged your beautiful mom in Nottingham last month. You and I both love her—like we love each other. 💙🦋 -Brandon
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.
— Leigh Reedy (@leighr1173) April 25, 2018
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 Deciem 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…
@richardbranson, I’ll forever owe you, possibly without you ever knowing that I do. Everyone—I’m not on “drugs” or “mentally”-incapacitated. I simply love @richardbranson and I am simply telling you and @richardbranson that I love @richardbranson. Simple, complicated matters beside a beautiful Kasbah Tamadot which is across a river from a village that represents the birthplace of the thought of avestan.com about a decade ago. [Ali—the story of Avestan will never change. Wake up please. 🧡❤️🌳]. @richardbranson: 💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚❤️🌳
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.”
The odd thing about our new lab that’s under construction now in Toronto’s beautiful Liberty Village is that it’s larger than our entire current headquarters (or tail-quarters because Brandon doesn’t have a head and we believe in him 😛). It may just seem “odd”, but 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 while we are peacefully, but not gracefully at all, turning the beauty business on its ugly head so it becomes a beautiful business itself. 💚🌳
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.