Who is Kat Von D?
Here’s a quick primer: Kat Von D is a tattoo artist and celebrity, known for her 2000’s-era show “LA Ink.”
Kat Von D is the owner and face of a successful luxury makeup brand, Kat Von D Beauty.
Kat Von D makeup is synonymous with pigmented, lasting, high-quality makeup with an edge.
And as of four days ago, Kat Von D is the catalyst of another national conversation about vaccines and the center of a major controversy.
Von D, who was married last week to Rafael Reyes, with whom she is expecting a baby, posted a lengthy Instagram comment this week about the way the couple plans to raise their child. Von D expressed frustration over the constant criticism she and her husband have fielded for decisions like hiring a midwife instead of a doctor, having a water birth, and raising her child vegan. And one last thing — her child will not be vaccinated.
I knew the minute we announced our pregnancy that we would be bombarded with unsolicited advice. Some good and some questionable - unsolicited none the less. I also was prepared for the backlash and criticism we would get if we decided to be open about our personal approach to our pregnancy. My own Father flipped out on me when I told him we decided to ditch our doctor and go with a midwife instead. If you don’t know what it’s like have people around you think you are ridiculous, try being openly vegan. And, if you don’t know what it’s like to have the entire world openly criticize, judge, throw uninformed opinions, and curse you - try being an openly pregnant vegan on Instagram, having a natural, drug-free home birth in water with a midwife and doula, who has the intention of raising a vegan child, without vaccinations. My point being: I already know what it’s like to make life choices that are not the same as the majority. So your negative comments are not going influence my choices - actual research and educating myself will - which i am diligently doing. This is my body. This is our child. And this is our pregnancy journey. Feel free to follow me on here if you like what I’m about - whether it’s tattooing, lipstick, Animal Rights, sobriety, feminism, ridiculous gothiness, black flower gardening, cats, or my adorable husband. But if you don’t dig a certain something about what I post, i kindly ask that you press the unfollow button and move the fuck on. So before anyone of you feel inspired to tell me how to do this, I would appreciate you keeping your unsolicited criticism to yourself. More importantly, for those who have amazing positive energy to send my way, I will gladly and graciously receive it with love! X
A post shared by Kat Von D (@thekatvond) on
Von D’s announcement made headlines and caused a stir in the beauty world — a global community and massive industry that has been mushrooming in size. Von D received support from many fans who appreciate her confident nonconformity, and censure from others, including beauty guru Caroline Hirons, who hit back at Von D with a story of her son’s near-death from mumps.
Now some Jews and leftists across the Internet are calling this controversy hypocritical. They claim that Von D is a known anti-Semite.
The earliest and most serious accusation against Von D is unproven — in 2008 when the artist was fired from the TV show “Miami Ink,” Ami James, her Jewish former employer, alleged that Von D left him a signed headshot on which she wrote, “Burn in hell, Jewbag.” TMZ reported that another “Miami Ink” employee witnessed the exchange, and that TLC, the network supporting “Miami Ink,” had experts run a handwriting test and concluded that there was a 99% chance it was written by Von D. TLC put out a statement that “insufficient evidence existed” to implicate Von D, and that artist fervently denied any connection to the photo. Von D released her makeup line with Sephora the same year.
Von D drew anti-Semitism accusations again when she dated motorcycle seller and public personality Jesse James on and off from 2010 to 2011, becoming engaged and then ending their engagement. Before and during this time, images of James dressed in Nazi garb and performing a Nazi salute were circulated in tabloids and on the internet. Though James’ lawyer claimed that the Nazi hat was a “a gag gift [from] his Jewish godfather,” and that James once “vacationed on a kibbutz,” both James and later Von D were both implicated.
Last year Von D, an outspoken vegan, posted a video to her Facebook promoting veganism by comparing the factory farming system to the mass murders of the Holocaust. Though, as Von D noted in her post, the film features a Holocaust survivor comparing his experiences to the meat industry to make a point about animal rights, Von D was accused by some of anti-Semitism. Others, including some commenters who identified as Jewish, found it inspiring.
In another murky example of her alleged anti-Semitism, Von D apparently developed a lipstick color called “Selektion,” a German word that is now considered taboo because Nazis used it to describe the process of selecting prisoners for death in concentration camps. This claim has proliferated in the underworld of beauty, on social media and blogs, but not on mainstream sites, though Von D’s own Twitter shows an image of the shade (seen above.) Photos of the “selektion” shade, which appears to have been renamed “beloved,” can also be seen on Instagram and Reddit.
Von D’s announcement that she will not vaccinate her child has resulted in some calls for boycott and speculation that her brand could be financially impacted. Von D clearly suffered no lasting negative effects after the anti-Semitism claims, so why this? Why now? Why vaccines but not a religious and ethnic minority? Certainly, Von D’s anti-vaxx stance is clear, while her anti-Semitism was only speculative. And Internet culture (not to mention culture culture) has shifted between the time Von D was accused of telling a Jew to “burn in hell” and today.
Some Jews see the recent criticism of Von D as a sign of hypocrisy — that people will hold celebrities and brands accountable, unless the issue involves Jews. There seems to be some truth to that. But any fury we feel — that a major influencer prospered in spite of significant unproven accusations against her — should also guide the way we look at accused sex criminals.
I wonder if the same Jews who think Kat Von D should have been scrapped for her alleged anti-Semitism also think alleged sexual harassers are having their reputations unfairly savaged and should not be tried in the court of public opinion.
Something to think about.
“Beautiful sabbath,” Von D captioned an Instagram post two days ago.
“Looking good!” a commenter wrote. “Be glad you didn’t die of polio.”
Jenny Singer is the deputy Lifestyle editor for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny