Follower counts, views, and engagement have become some of the most important metrics in the creator economy. While these numbers may ebb and flow, there is one thing an influencer must keep consistent: the trust of their audience.
Given the nature of TikTok and the culture the app fosters, trust tends to be fleeting. Each viewer holds different expectations of their favourite creator, often projecting their experiences and identity onto the influencer’s public persona. When a creator veers off course, it’s only a matter of time before allegations surface, accusing them of “changing” or “selling out.”
Viral culture enthusiasts have seen many influencers go through this cycle, with Mikayla Nogueria being one of the latest.
After skyrocketing to viral fame in 2020, Mikayla became known for her authentic product reviews, easy-to-follow tutorials, and her signature Boston accent (even though no one really knows if it is legitimate). She has since become a major player in this new era of the beauty community, effectively carving out a space for short-form beauty content.
Mikayla grew her social media presence quickly, amassing 1.7 million followers within her first six months on TikTok. In just four short years, she has built an audience of over 15 million.
Mikayla had more opportunities to work with brands and celebrities as her fan base grew. Though this helped legitimise her presence in the industry, her reputation on TikTok suffered.
After a string of dishonest brand deals (looking at you, Lashgate) and “cash-grab” collaborations, Mikayla seriously lost the trust of her followers. Once considered the blueprint— praised for her unfiltered honesty and authenticity—her credibility soon waned, and the hate toward her intensified.
YouTubers of years past found themselves in similar circumstances, with longtime beauty community enthusiasts likening Mikayla to Jaclyn Hill.
While both women have been accused of failing to disclose paid content, things are different for Mikayla. Not only have audiences been burned by their favourite influencers time and time again, but blowing up on TikTok comes with its own set of expectations. Being a social media platform that values authenticity, honesty, and relatability, it has become clear that transparency (especially in brand deals) reigns supreme.
But after a year of relentless criticism, things seem to be turning for Mikayla.
Over the past week, Mikayla has found herself at the centre of controversy— but this time, the court of public opinion has found her innocent. It all started when the CEO of Illusion Bronze, Matthew Stevens, accused Mikayla of putting the company out $10,000.
Illusion Bronze is an indie tanning company offering customisable self-tanner blended to suit hair, eye, and skin tones.
Matthew first reached out to Mikayla in October of 2023. In a TikTok video, he asked the beauty guru to review his product after a multimillion-dollar company seemingly knocked off his idea.
Mikayla reviewed the very brand that “copied” Illusion Bronze four days later. She subsequently contacted Matthew, saying it was an “absolute coincidence.”
“I wanted to reach out because I saw your recent video and wanted to apologise,” Mikayla writes in a DM to the Illusion Bronze founder. “I had absolutely no idea about the situation… I am extremely sorry for this, though it would never be my intention to hurt a small business.”
She also added that she had been sent the Illusion Bronze self-tanner and planned on trying it for her TikTok.
Mikayla has previously noted that indie brands tend to sell out after she reviews them. As a result, Matthew bought $10,000 worth of products to prepare for Mikayla’s eventual review.
However, when Mikayla told Matthew she had used the Illusion Bronze tan, she didn’t post a review. Instead, she only mentioned that she had self-tanned in a GRWM for a wedding.
“When she finally posted, she clearly had a tan on, but it was hideous. I genuinely didn’t understand, with how my product line works, how she could turn out looking like that,” Matthew says of Mikayla’s video.
He even alleged that she didn’t use Illusion Bronze self-tanner and that she had spray-tanned instead.
Weeks passed, and Mikayla still hadn’t posted a review for Illusion Bronze. With $10,000 worth of product waiting to be purchased, Matthew finally reached out to explain the situation. Mikayla admitted that she hadn’t had the time to review the tan but remained eager, writing, “The good news is you’ll have the stock when the video is posted.”
Matthew shared a video exposing Mikayla five days ago, and she has yet to share her review.
“She said she was posting it ASAP in October, [in] the first week of December, she said [she is] posting the review tomorrow… She doesn’t care about me, my mental health, my finances, my stress…” Matthew concludes.
Considering Mikayla’s reputation, it’s no surprise that Matthew’s video quickly accumulated over 10 million views. Viewers soon flooded Mikayla’s comments, urging her to rectify the situation.
She has since posted a TikTok, hoping to clarify her perspective. The 25-year-old first prefaced the video, admitting that she likes Matthew and that they have had “good conversations” over the past few months. She then claimed Matthew lied when he said she hadn’t used Illusion Bronze before sharing that she has “never” had a spray tan. As for why she often appears “orange” in her videos, she explains that she uses colour-grading on TikTok.
While apologising for skipping the review, she also states that it was Matthew’s sole decision to spend $10,000 on product. She had not signed any contract and had no obligation to promote his tanner.
“I am completely in the wrong because I should not have told Matthew that ‘Oh, I’ll do it tomorrow,’ when tomorrow came, and I couldn’t do it,” Mikayla reflects. “[But] he cannot rely on me for the success of his brand. He just can’t. I don’t know what to do in this situation, but I am sorry.”
Initially, many TikTok users criticised Mikayla; however, the overall sentiment appears to have shifted. Scrolling through the comments shows a considerable number of users expressing their support. That being said, many agree that Mikayla shouldn’t have promised a review without following through— especially after four months had passed.
“This was really well said. It was just a miscommunication issue, which happens to everyone. Here for you, Mikayla,” one user shared.
“No contract = no pressure,” another wrote.
It’s not uncommon for TikTok users to shift their stance on an issue, but watching them rally around a creator like Mikayla is. There is no denying that the beauty guru has built a robust fanbase, but in doing so, she has also garnered a fair share of critics. A quick visit to Reddit, specifically the r/MikaylaNogueira subreddit (proudly labelled “NOT a fan page”), has a membership of over 25,000.
The animosity toward Mikayla has only intensified amid the anti-influencer sentiment that has gripped the digital world in the past few years.
Social media users have become increasingly frustrated with some of their favourite influencers who, in showcasing their privilege and lifestyle, often seem detached from the struggles faced by the “average person.”
Charli and Dixie D’Amelio were at the centre of this conversation at the end of last year. The sisters “cosplayed” as Walmart workers to promote Be Happy Popcorn Snacks, one of the latest ventures from D’Amelio Brands. Many viewers saw the promotional campaign as “demeaning,” claiming that the D’Amelios trivialised the struggles of working a minimum-wage job.
Mikayla found herself in a similar situation back in 2022. In September, a resurfaced clip began circulating where Mikayla complained about how hard she works as an influencer.
In the original video, Mikayla replies to a comment that told her to “report to a job 9-5”. In her response, she offers insight into her daily routine, explaining how she spends her mornings making content before taking meetings. Mikayla then declares that she “just finished working” at 5:19 that day and challenges her viewers to “Try being an influencer for a day, try it.”
Of course, this sound bite went viral.
Mikayla wasn’t exactly innocent in this scenario, but this scandal was the beginning of the end for the beloved beauty guru. It was one of the first times her relatability façade— the very thing that made her famous— started to falter.
Whether he meant to or not, Matthew used this to his advantage, leveraging Mikayla’s untrustworthy reputation to boost his following. Since posting his video last week, he has gained over 270K followers, according to Social Blade. With his follower count skyrocketing from 71K to over 346K, Illusion Bronze has gained substantial exposure throughout this period—potentially surpassing what Mikayla could have provided with a review.
As many internet users tune in to the drama, TikTok’s anti-influencer sentiment and “receipt culture” allow smaller creators to capitalise on the distrust of influencers (like Mikayla) for clicks and views. But it is a risky move.
As Matthew’s following grows, the whole ordeal seems to have worked in Mikayla’s favour. She has regained sympathy in the public eye and new supporters in the process.
Despite TikTok users generally disliking sponsored or brand-related content, many see Matthew’s exposé of Mikayla as a (relatively transparent) attempt to gain clout. They are rallying behind the beauty guru because it feels like she’s getting an unfair shake—even though this comes off as hypocritical with the general attitude toward influencers at the moment.
While the users supporting Mikayla through this scandal may not become longtime fans, it could very well mark the dawn of a new era for the beauty creator. TikTok hates nothing more than a clout chaser, making this a perfect moment for Mikayla’s shot at redemption.