Estée Lauder's top executive just lost his job in a pretty contemptible way. let's just say — Sesame Street, Chingy, and racism forced him out of a job.
On February 21, John Demsey, Estée Lauder Companies' executive group president, posted a since-deleted meme on Instagram, which included Sesame Street characters wearing masks, a reference to the rapper Chingy, and the N-word.
The executive, who has been with the company for over 30 years and reportedly racks up a $10 million salary, was placed on suspension without pay shortly after deleting the post.
Of course, he posted a lengthy apology, adding to the long (and growing) list of bosses who expressed their "deepest regrets" following racist behavior — go figure.
"I'm terribly sorry and deeply ashamed that I hurt so many people when I made the horrible mistake of carelessly reposting a racist meme without reading it beforehand," Demsey wrote. "There are not enough words to express my remorse and sorrow."
It's rather incredible to imagine that Demsey didn't read the single line of text in his unfunny meme but a legion of blue-checked (and mostly white) followers took to his comments to express support as if Demsey suffered some kind of unavoidable tragedy.
Of course, social media had a few thoughts for Demsey and Estée Lauder Companies. Beyond the outrage at this white exec with a history of toxic management strategies posting an image with the N-word, commenters were baffled by Chingy's random involvement.
The meme's creator even appeared on Reddit to share the backstory to the picture, explaining that he's a Chingy meme connoisseur and briefly touching on Demsey's ousting from Tom Ford and Clinique's parent company.
"Chingy" even began trending on Twitter, prompting a response from the "Right Thurr" rapper himself.
In a statement, Estée Lauder's executive chairman William P. Lauder and president Fabrizio Freda stated that John Demsey's time with the company is up — well, sort of.
John Demsey "must leave the company, effective this week," Estée Lauder Companies' statement said, which is a apparently decision made as a result of "his recent Instagram posts, which do not reflect the values of The Estée Lauder Companies."
Demsey has a history of posting fairly unfunny, elderly "memes" on his Instagram page and this wasn't his first controversial post, though it was the worst by far.
Anyways, notice that ELC didn't use the words "fire" or "terminate." This is important.
Per the New York Times, a spokesperson from ELC confirmed that Demsey wasn't fired. Instead, he merely agreed to retire, presumably with a healthy golden parachute.
In 2020, employees across the beauty and fashion industries exposed toxic company cultures and racist practices.
Employees pressed ELC with a petition for a $10 million donation to fight racial injustice and fire Ronald Lauder — who allegedly supported and donated to former US President Donald Trump — from the ELC board.
Estée Laundry, an anonymous Instagram-based beauty collective, has closely kept up with the John Demsey situation and ELC's shaky structure.
Described as the Diet Prada of beauty (except way better), Estée Laundry clocked the executive for fatphobic and anti-vaccine comments in recent years, all under the roof of a company that purported to focus on diversity and inclusion efforts.
A user-submitted Estée Laundry tipoff hinted that Demsey will be entitled to a severance package since he wasn't fired but forced into retirement.
It's all cool to watch but it's alarming to think that monetary success overshadows the things that matter, the ethics, and values — doing what's right.
Two years later, you barely hear those same brands mention the progress of their so-called progressive initiatives.
Things like Demsey's comfy slide out of the ELC company structure make you realize how weak those commitments really were.