Each year, the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences presents the Webby Awards, which honors excellence in digital media (from websites and apps to videos and podcasts). This month marks its 24th annual ceremony — and we have big news: Refinery29 is nominated for our original beauty docuseries, Shady, which uncovers the dark underbelly of the beauty industry and the people advocating for change.
I'm Lexy, the host of the series, and last January, I traveled with producer Iris Xu and cameraman Jack Pearce to India to investigate one of the beauty industry’s darkest secrets. After an overnight flight into the capital of New Delhi, we met local journalist Rohit Gandhi and boarded an overnight train for a 12-hour ride to the city of Koderma, then drove on dirt roads for three more hours into the eastern state of Jharkhand, a region where running water and electricity is limited and poverty is widespread.
A vote for our video will send a strong message to companies around the world that this topic can no longer be ignored.
Shady host Lexy Lebsack
Exhausted and nervous, we arrived at the first mine unsure what we would find — and then we saw them: Children as young as five years old risking their lives to mine raw mica, the mineral that’s processed into the delicate shimmer found in highlighter, foundation, eye shadow, and tons of other common consumer products, including things like car paint and toothpaste.
There are many reasons why this violation of child rights is happening today in 2020 — many of which we explored in our investigation — but a lot of them come back to location. India’s “mica belt” is so remote, few journalists and activists have the resources to travel there to document it. It’s estimated that 22,000 kids continue to risk their lives in these dangerous mines in this region, which is tied to a murky supply chain few know about.
It took us two years to produce this video, many months of which were spent obtaining Indian travel visas (for which we were rejected many times), working with journalists on the ground to secure access, and navigating the nuances and dangers of filming in the region.
Since our documentary came out last May, other outlets have covered this topic and some have done their own investigations into mica mining. More brands have begun to respond as well and take a stand on this human rights issue. We weren’t the first to report on this on the ground — Reuters thankfully broke this story open in 2016— and we won’t be the last, but a vote for our video will send a strong message to companies around the world that this topic can no longer be ignored, and that consumers will demand for safer, ethical, and more sustainable sourcing practices in the products they consume.
Please take a moment to read and watch our investigation, then vote for Refinery29’s Shady: The Dark Secret Behind Your Favorite Makeup Products in the Best Fashion & Beauty Video category by following this link. If you can, consider also donating to the non-profits on the ground fighting against child labor, like the Kailash Satyarthi Children's Foundation.
The Webby Awards voting is open until Thursday night at 11:59pm PST — and every vote counts.