Since the pandemic started, influencers have been getting into trouble. From Arielle Charnas’ questionable COVID-19 journey way back in April to Bachelor alums breaking quarantine and going on interstate road trips for haircuts, it feels like influencers have been working overtime to get themselves canceled. Or maybe influencers aren’t doing anything different than they were before, and we all just have more time on our hands to examine their behavior under a microscope since we’re stuck at home. Either way, this time, Danielle Bernstein is being called to the hot seat after influencer watchdog accounts @influencerstruth and @diet_prada accused her of copying a face mask design from Second Wind, a Latina-owned small business.
On Monday afternoon, Bernstein announced via an Instagram post that she would be coming out with “sustainable linen masks that have a super lightweight detachable chain”, adding that for every mask sold, one surgical mask would be donated to a frontline healthcare worker. In an Instagram Story, she shared that the masks would be available in three colors (black, white, and a nude), and would be sold for $35, with the option to purchase a separate silver chain for $12.
The masks are cute, and while I personally wouldn’t want to have to disinfect my chain every time I return to my home, I could see why people would be into these. So what’s the problem? Well, the problem is that face masks with a detachable chain are already being sold by a small business called Second Wind, and Bernstein knew about their existence before announcing the launch of her own similar designs. Second Wind currently sells masks made of organic linen with gold chains that are available in a few colors, including black, white, and sand. Second Wind’s masks retail for $65, while Bernstein’s cost $35.
On Monday night, @diet_prada and @influencerstruth both posted about the mask controversy, noting that Second Wind announced their launch of the detachable chain masks on May 30, and were available starting June 1.
Before this controversy started, @bysecondwind had a little over 3k followers on Instagram (they have since blown up to over 30k and counting). Is it possible Bernstein simply didn’t know these masks were out there? No, because as @influencerstruth and @diet_prada revealed, she had actually reached out to Second Wind for them to send her a mask well before the launch of her own face coverings. She did so on June 29th. In case you need a refresher (no shade, time is a construct), today is July 21st.
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Today, Danielle Bernstein launched her line of masks and I thought to myself – Great, she’s not only wearing them now but selling them. Bravo! But actually, it turns out, she just copied someone else’s design. Second Wind is a Latina owned small business that was started during the pandemic. The owner shared her design on May 30. A couple of weeks later, she was so excited when Danielle reached out after seeing one of her friends wearing the mask. She thought it was an amazing opportunity to get someone with a big platform to share her hard work! As the “receipts” show, Danielle gave Second Wind the delivery info on June 29. Then a few days later, on July 2, Danielle reached out and said she would be making her OWN masks but didn’t want her to think she was copying her. All while Second Wind was busy making a rush order for Danielle. Does the fact that Danielle told her she would now be making her own excuse her actions? Why not PARTNER with Second Wind if you loved the design so much? Not to mention the fact that she announced the masks mimicking the picture that Second Wind posted – same type of hat, of course. For someone who’s always preaching to everyone to support minority owned small businesses, this clearly is doing the opposite. As always, I can’t wait for her response to this. But in the meantime, go and support a real small biz – @bysecondwind
A few days after requesting a mask, on July 2 from Second Wind, Bernstein messaged the brand’s owner to let her know she would also be selling face masks with a detachable chain. But she assured Second Wind that she was not copying her, clarifying that her masks are a different shape. She also said she was inspired by sunglasses she owns—not, as it would appear, the very face masks with a detachable chain that she had just been messaging about. When Instagram users started pointing out the similarities between the two designs and the suspicious timing of the messages in comments on Danielle’s post about her masks, they noticed their comments were mysteriously disappearing.
On Tuesday morning, Bernstein went on her Instagram story to address the accusations that she had copied Second Wind’s designs. In the series of videos, she says she went into the production on her masks a few weeks before a mutual friend introduced her to Second Wind’s masks. She says, “I was really excited to support her small business but in the spirit of transparency, just wanted to let her know that I’d already gone into production on linen masks with chains based off leftover fabric from an overall run that we did and chains that are coming out in a future swim collection.”
She then goes on to say, “I told her I still would love to wear her masks and support her business because I think it’s awesome what she’s doing, and there’s a bunch of really cool small brands making masks with chains right now and I’ll definitely be sharing those.” In a following slide, she tagged @bysecondwind and encouraged her followers to buy her masks. In subsequent stories, she also shows other brands making masks with chains.
This isn’t the first time Bernstein has landed in hot water over masks, but usually it’s because she is caught not wearing one. A few weeks ago, she was called out for attending a party in the Hamptons with little to no masks in sight, but later claimed that everyone at the party had been tested for COVID-19. Over the weekend, she caught similar heat after she put up a story of a dinner party in the Hamptons that was being cooked by four private chefs, none of whom were wearing masks. She later took to Instagram story to clarify that the chefs were “personal friends” of her roommate and they had all been tested. New York State guidelines mandate all food service employees wear a face covering at all times, regardless of physical distance.
On April 30, Bernstein launched @wegavewhat, a platform highlighting the charitable initiatives by the WeWoreWhat team. As part of the initiative, Bernstein has partnered with small businesses and creators and raised money for various organizations, including the Food Bank For New York City, and donated thousands of masks to be distributed to NY frontline health care workers. In June, she joined the first American Influencer Council, an “invite-only, not-for-profit membership trade association” that aims to “further legitimize and sustain the influencer marketing industry in America.” The council aims to do things like lobby the Federal Trade Commission to “cooperatively adhere, promote and improve the Endorsement Guidelines,” according to Fashion Week Daily, as well as examine the contributions of influencers to the U.S. through research and analysis.
In an Instagram post on Monday, Bernstein opened up about experiencing her first panic attack, brought on by the stress and criticism that is inherent in her job as an influencer.
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This weekend I had my first real panic or anxiety attack, I’m not even sure what you would call it because it’s never happened to me before. I was at a beautiful dinner in my friends backyard where everybody was very safe and wearing masks, but then something came over me and I started shaking uncontrollably. I felt like I couldn’t breath and ran to the driveway, fell to the floor, started hysterically crying and was gasping for air. I called Stacy right away, Melissa and my boyfriend were holding me. I left immediately not to cause a scene but didn’t stop shaking/crying till an hour later.. There are so many terrible things happening in the world and I know we all feel the sadness, stress, and anxiety surrounding the uncertainty of our future. It’s okay to feel your feelings, it’s okay to talk about it. My attack stemmed from a multitude of things.. I know what comes with the territory of my job. The exposure every day by putting myself out there. I open myself up to you guys and share so much of my life, and that means that it also comes with constant criticism and emotional stress… and lately I’ve just felt drained. We’re all sharing similar types of vulnerabilities, but I want to let you know that what you see on social media is never the full story, never the entirety of someone. It’s also a reminder for the importance of self-care and listening to your body/mind. Let’s be kind to one another, it’s one of the only things we can control right now, and we need to stick together.
The comments on that post, as well as her posts about her face masks, have since been turned off.
Updated: On Tuesday night, Bernstein once again addressed the controversy surrounding the masks. She said in an Instagram Story that since she had been receiving death threats, she decided to post proof that her team had, in fact, been working on a similar concept well before coming into contact with Second Wind.
As the screenshots indicate, Bernstein was communicating with, presumably, someone on her team about moving forward with a design for a face mask with a chain as early as May 19. The correspondence with Second Wind did not happen until the end of June.
Second Wind also posted an update on her Instagram story, saying she is “overwhelmed” by the response regarding the situation, saying, “I only ask that we try to lead with our hearts and be kinder to each other”.
Her follower count has since shot up to over 45k and, from the looks of her stories, she is getting inundated with orders. So it seems like the situation has been resolved. Please remember: No matter where you’re buying your mask from, just f*cking wear one.
This article has been updated to correctly reflect Bernstein’s role in the American Influencer Council.
Images: Christian Vierig/Getty Images; weworewhat (2), influencerstruth, bysecondwind / Instagram