How Instagram willed a MAC X Aaliyah collaboration to fruition


Three years ago, fans of the late music artist Aaliyah began calling for a collaboration with MAC. An onslaught of social media posts sent the idea trending online — there were even product mock-ups — and when more than 25,000 people signed a petition asking for a limited-edition MAC collection, the makeup brand couldn’t ignore the buzz.

On Wednesday, MAC will unveil MAC X Aaliyah, a tribute to the singer who, nearly 17 years after her death by plane crash, continues to impact modern-day music, fashion and beauty. The collection consists of four lipsticks ($18.50), two lip pencils ($18), four lip glosses ($17.50), an eye palette ($32) and a bronzing powder ($28), all of which are inspired by Aaliyah’s music videos and most popular looks.

“Virtually every single one of our Instagram posts for the past two years leading up to the announcement that we were going to do this collaboration last summer had at least one comment about bringing the Aaliyah collection to life,” said Catherine Bomboy Dougherty, senior vice president of global communications at MAC. “We get a lot of consumer requests through our global Instagram and Facebook to bring back products or ideas for collaborations. Of all those consumer requests for collaborations, half of them were related to an Aaliyah collection.”


MAC worked closely with Aaliyah’s family to ensure the collection would live up to fans’ expectations while staying true to her aesthetic. Aaliyah’s brother, Rashad Haughton, brought MAC lipsticks straight from Aaliyah’s makeup bag to a meeting at MAC’s offices. Dougherty said Rashad “wanted each product to represent a part of her” and that he particularly wanted to offer multiple lip glosses and a lip pencil, as Aaliyah often wore both of those.

“When we were in meetings with him, you could tell he was a big brother looking out for his little sister. He wanted to make sure we brought her dream of having a MAC makeup line to life, but at the same time, balancing that with pleasing all of the diverse fans and paying tribute to them because they’re the ones that pushed for this,” said Dougherty. “That first meeting left an impression on all of us — how genuinely grateful and kind Rashad was. His mother even sent a team gift because she couldn’t make it to our offices.”

The product names are inspired by Aaliyah songs — “Try Again,” “More Than a Woman” and “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number,” for example — as well as her place of birth, Brooklyn, and her nickname, Baby Girl.

The collection isn’t the first posthumous collaboration MAC has released — it dropped a Selena collection in 2016 — but it was the first time a fan base had been so vocal about demanding one. According to Dougherty, MAC’s Aaliyah Instagrams generate four times more engagement than others and attain a 30 percent higher reach in impressions. On Facebook, the posts average 40 times more engagement.

“At MAC, we’re always looking at leveraging these platforms and in this case, it really brought a collection to life,” said Dougherty. “This is a tribute collection, but I think you could also say this is a Beauty Icon collection. Even two decades after her passing, Aaliyah has this really positive, noticeable effect on pop culture. She embodies a MAC girl. She’s the perfect fit for us. She was a lover and user of the products and she continues to be a role model for a lot of people globally.”