Letters to animal-testers

For the past couple of years, I have been absolutely horrified by the number of companies that have resumed testing their skin care products on animals. As incomes in China have grown, large beauty companies began drooling over the dollars they believed were to be found in the East. The fact that China requires skin care products to be tested on animals for “safety reasons” wasn’t even the slightest barrier. Not with the promise of such large profits. Company after company has quietly removed anti-cruelty statements from their websites. Hoping their existing customers wouldn’t notice.

I’m not sure what we can do to stop this horrible trend, but in the interim, I started emailing the CEO’s of the “big boys” to try and change their minds. Not one has ever replied. I guess that says a lot in itself.


Emails to Jean-Paul Agon, Chairman of L’Oreal

From: Claire Gutschow <claire@meldlabs.com>
Date: November 6, 2012 8:41:40 AM PST
To: corporatepress@dgc.loreal.com
Subject: Attention Jean-Paul Agon (or anyone else important that can make a difference)

Dear Jean-Paul (or maybe I should say Mr Agon? I’m not sure if its ok to call gazzilionaires by their first names?) Sorry if I’ve offended.

I know it would be better if I wrote this in French. You being French, and running a French company and all. I was going to try, but my French Rosetta Stone was mauled by my basset hound (true story). Which I thought was kinda ironic, seeing that bassets are a French breed and all. Maybe she wanted to stay all dark and brooding and misunderstood? You know, like a doggy version of Nina Simone?

I should probably introduce myself in case you think I’m a stalker or something. I have a small (tiny in comparison to yours) skin care company. And I’m pretty damn proud of the product we make and how we make it. And I was wondering whether you can say the same? Of course you’re super successful – you probably bath in champagne and sprinkle rose petals on your bed each night. For the record, I’ve done that (the rose petals, not the champagne) and I gotta say, its overrated. Its a bi%^ch to get them off the sheets. But I guess you have a housekeeper for that? Maybe she can send me some cleaning tips on Pinterest?

Anyway, I digress. What I would like to know is this… when you go to sleep at night, and the lights are off, and you have only your thoughts for company, are you proud of what you do? Really?

Because what you do hurts animals. And I know I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing that. Even if I had rose petals and a champagne bath. Maybe you take lots of sleeping pills? That must be it. I took one once and I forgot everything. Even the 2lb bag of bite size Kit-Kats I somehow ate in the night.

Well next time you’re in your champagne bath, all groggy from your sleeping pills. And you get shampoo in your eye, and you’re groping for a wash cloth, and cursing “Zut alors, zut alors”… think about how much it hurts, and then think about how much your company hurts animals every day.

And hopefully that day, you’ll take the first step to making the world a happier place instead of a sadder one.


And then again on November 16, 2012

Dear Mr Agon,

I’m following up on my last email, since I never had a response from you. Is it because I wrote in English? Just to clarify… I’m from America, not England. I know French people have a long history of war and fracas with the English and I would hate for you to think I was part of that. Just thought I’d clarify.


And AGAIN on November 19, 2012

Dear Mr Agon

I still haven’t heard back from you – thanks for making me feel like a stalker. As a rule, I am always open to new experiences, but I’m not sure I like this one. It reminds me of the time I first tasted Natto (Japanese fermented soy beans) and hated it. But then, after trying it a few times, I learned to ignore my friends’ gagging across the table, and realized it was quite delish. Is stalking the same? Is it an acquired taste? Just so you know, I have no plans to stop emailing you. Not until you stop animal testing. So I guess we’re in this for the long haul.

You know what, you’re right. I am kinda starting to like this. Its like Natto all over again.

Okay, now that we have that out of the way. I was reading the other day that L’Oreal donated $1.2 million to abolish animal testing earlier this year. Okay, is it just me or is that the weirdest thing ever? Here’s an idea… instead of donating money to the US Environmental Protection Agency to stop animal testing, why don’t you stop animal testing yourselves (since you are one of the largest companies doing it)? It would be like if Mel Gibson donated money to the American Jewish Committee and then used it as an excuse to carry on screaming Jew-hate on live TV. Not okay.

And by the way, I got conditioner in my eye again over the weekend. I was in a hurry because my friend from Sydney was coming to visit and my son was brandishing a carving knife like a sword and the basset was shredding through a box of crayons like a wood chipper. Anyway, it hurt like a bi%&*. Stop doing that to animals. Not okay.


Emails to Fabrizio Freda, CEO of Estee Lauder

From: Claire Gutschow <claire@meldlabs.com>
Date: November 21, 2012 2:52:59 PM PST
To: ffreda@estee.com
Subject: Fabrizio Freda… are you out there???

Dear Fabrizio

You don’t know me. Well, of course you don’t. What are the chances you would know the founder of a skin care company so small we probably make less than you spend on cupcakes in a year? Okay that’s not fair – anyone with a Pinterest account knows that macaroons are the new cake pops are the new cupcake. Regardless, I think it suffices to say that we’re a pretty insignificant player compared to you. What difference can we make in the world? Blah blah blah. But here’s the thing… we’re super-tough. We have (to put it bluntly), balls of steel. We’re kinda like the Terminator, if he had a pink bow and wore stilettos periodically. And if he cared. A lot. And if he was trying to make the world better, while simultaneously running a business and removing ketchup stains and explaining the meaning of life to a 4-year-old.

And the one thing we just don’t get is how you can still test on animals? We’ve wracked our brains to think of a way to try and stop you. To make you see how extremely… well… dumbass it is. And short of Terminator-tactics (which we don’t believe in, despite how much we want to rip out a bazooka sometimes), we can’t think of anything. So we’re sending you this email. Hoping that maybe you read it. That maybe you care just a little what people in the real world have to say.

How do you sleep at night knowing you hurt animals? Don’t you think its more important to get a good night’s sleep than run a company that’s worth, like, a gazillion dollars? I guess not. Otherwise you’d be one of those hairy PETA canvassers outside Whole Foods. You know… the ones we all run away from because they smell like over-enthusiastic lentil soup? Don’t worry, we aren’t asking you to grab the nearest clipboard and jump on a ship destined for the Antarctic. What we’re asking is that you somehow develop a freakin’ conscience. And at least try to make the world a better place than it was before you joined it.

Dude, seriously…. enough already. You need to stop this. Being rich does not make it okay. Not anymore.


And then again on December 19, 2012

Dear Fabrizio

Did you get my last email? I wasn’t sure since I didn’t hear back from you. I just want to clarify… I’m not crazy or anything. I actually think I’m very very sane (but I guess that doesn’t make you feel any better – crazy people probably claim sanity all the time). Actually I’m a lot like you. I run a business and I’m scared of hairy PETA people too. And Greenpeacers. But, unlike you I also know we need them, even if they do smell kinda lentilly. We need their angry intensity. Don’t you remember being young and believing you could change the world? Being all intense and opinionated and passionate. Like the time I planted mung beans in my cheating ex-boyfriend’s shag-rug while he was away on vacation.

But I digress. What I do want to say is that you can still make a difference. You don’t have to join a movement or grow deadlocks or join a commune. By simply signing one single piece of paper, you can stop hurting animals. You can change the world.

Just do it. I have a bag of mung beans and I’m not afraid to use them.


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Help us change skin care forever

A few months ago we traveled back to South Africa to visit the children’s homes we support there. As always, it was a soul-wrenching, uplifting and unforgettable experience. So unforgettable in fact that it prompted us to start a campaign to encourage other beauty companies to follow our lead and give back. If the US beauty industry allocated just 1% of our advertising budget to helping others, it would result in $60 million in donations. Just imagine the difference this money could make in the lives of people and organizations that really need it?

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Visiting the kids in South Africa… and loving it!

Last week I flew back to South Africa to visit the children’s homes we support, and to find a few more organizations to help. And what a worthwhile trip it was.

As always, I left with a clear list of “business” objectives (ever practical me… can anyone say OCD?):

  • Check on the children in the homes we already support
  • Deliver copies of my book and educational donations to the homes ($5 from every Fei’d purchase is used to buy items for the kids)
  • Meet with the organizations that run the homes and pinpoint their evolving needs
  • Visit new homes, review their financial and business records, and meet their staff
  • Select some new organizations we will be supporting moving forward

And yes, all this was achieved… tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.

But the trip ended up being about way more than just that. It was about spending time with regular, happy, jumpy kids. Kids that are no different from my son here in the US. Kids that love making funny faces and eating marshmallows and reading books and playing dress-up. And that is why I keep going back to visit them, time and time again. Yes, I need to make sure that our donations are ending up where they are supposed to. And that the kids are getting the care they need. And that we are sending them items that that are really useful. But mostly it’s just to spend time with the children.

Because when it’s all said and done, I’m a mom. Not necessarily the best mom in the world, but I’m a mom none the less. And if I know one thing, it’s that all moms are on a quest to make the world a happier place. We can’t help it, we just want the world to be pink and fuzzy and happy and brimming with love. And of course it’s not – far from it. But that doesn’t stop us from trying. And when I go back to spend a day at a children’s home 10,000 miles away, I get happy and pink and fuzzy. And joyous. And I feel grateful. I feel like I’ve helped make the world a better place for my son, just a little bit.

PS: Big thanks to Chris Geils for the amazing photos. To donate to the children’s homes, visit www.homefromhome.org.za/

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The exciting launch of Fei’d, and we publish our first ever children’s book!

Our lives are a flurry of activity right now. Actually “flurry” is the understatement of the century. It’s probably more accurate to say our lives are manically crazy beyond comprehension. But in a good way. Our first skin care product, Fei’d™, launched a couple of weeks ago and we’ve had nothing but great reports so far. Thanks to everyone that helped us along the way. And to the bloggers that have shown it nothing but love… wooooot!

And, like a new product launch isn’t enough, we also self-published our first children’s book for the kids at Bathandwa Children’s Home this month. We have a policy at Meld Labs never to run any advertising. Beauty advertising is mind-dumbingly boring at best, and we think our time and money can be better spent helping kids-in-need. So we focus on creating or donating items to the kids we support. Our book is African, with African animals and an African setting. But the lesson it teaches is universal – being the best you can be. Because the way we figure it, if we can help teach kids to love themselves, then we have given them one of the biggest gifts of all…. self confidence. And in our own small way, we’ve helped these kids more than a beauty ad ever could. It feels amazing!

I travel to visit the kids in Africa in June to deliver the books and our other donations. I can’t wait!

Over and out…

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Here’s the video of our visit to the children’s home in Cape Town, South Africa. Please watch it, it will melt your heart!

Thanks to Justus from 2C Productions for producing this video.

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We went to spread the love and ended up getting so much more in return

Last week, we were lucky enough to visit the Bathandwa Children’s Home in Cape Town, South Africa. And it ended up being a life-changing day for all of us. We knew it would be, but the sheer extent of it came as a surprise. We went there thinking we’d be the ones giving, and instead we got so much more in return. I’m almost embarrassed, like it should have been more hard work, more of a sacrifice somehow. But it wasn’t, we had a blast. Isn’t that the amazing thing about love – it multiplies. I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true.

We played the songs to the kids that we collected from our friends and family in the US. And the kids loved them – singing and clapping and laughing like only kids can. And then they sang back, so proud to be performing their routines in front of a video camera. I can’t wait to post some of their songs, so watch this space.

In the meantime, here are some photos of our day. Yes, I know I look frizzy and frazzled and completely unglamorous. But somehow that doesn’t matter. The day was joyful and real and piled with hugs. And that’s what counts.

So thank you kids. Thank you for trusting unquestionably, despite living through unspeakable horrors. Thank you for opening your hearts. Thank you for being role models for all of us. Thank you.


These photos were taken by our friend Bruce at Flyinghorse Photography.

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The big day has finally arrived

It’s a drop-dead beautiful day here in Cape Town. In fact, it couldn’t be a more perfect setting for giving back.

We’re heading to the children’s home this morning to meet the kids and play them the songs we collected back home in the US. Our whole team is super excited – the trunk is packed with toys and hot dogs and cookies. We feel a bit like a group of Santa Claus’ and it’s fantastic!

Thanks to everyone that helped make this happen, and most importantly to the people that sent us songs. It’s going to be a life changing day for all of us…

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Video deadlines

A few people have asked about the “deadline” for video submissions. There isn’t really a deadline per se – that just sounds WAY too high pressure. But we leave for South Africa on 26 September, so it would be great if we could have all the videos submitted before then. Hope that’s doable? Happy singing and all that good stuff….

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Help us spread the love

Did you know that 22.4 million people are living with HIV/AIDS in sub Saharan Africa? That’s the equivalent to the entire population of Texas. That one in three kids in South Africa has been sexually abused before they reach 18? That there are over 3.5 million orphaned children in South Africa?

With that in mind, Meld Labs has decided to pay a visit to Bathandwa Children’s Home in Cape Town, South Africa. This home houses 31 children ranging from newborn to 18 years old. Many have been orphaned by HIV, but others have been abandoned, neglected, abused or simply just forgotten by the people that are supposed to love them.

We’re travelling to visit the children’s home in September, and we want to show the kids we care. That we may live far away in the US, but that we always have them close to our hearts. And they are in the hearts of other Americans too.

So we need your help (don’t worry, it won’t cost you a cent).

We’d like you shoot a home video of yourselves and your family singing a song to the kids. It can be any song you want – happy, sad, caring, fun… we don’t mind. Here’s an example:

Just upload your video to our website, YouTube or any other video site, and email us the link. And we’ll play it to the kids when we visit them in September. Imagine their joy when we play them a video of an American family singing a song… made especially for them. And we’re going to film the whole thing, so you’ll be able to see their faces when they watch your video. Isn’t that an awesome way to teach your kids the joy of pure giving?

We’ll keep you updated during our trip on this website, Facebook and Twitter. And we’ll send you the footage of the kids watching your video once we’re back in the US.

So please help. We’re looking for 15 families to send us videos. That’s it. No cash, no cost to you. Just give us some time and a whole lot of love and we’ll do the rest.

Thanks guys, we love you…

So if you’re keen to be involved, here’s what you have to do.

Step 1

Shoot a home video of you and your family singing their favorite song. Happy, sad, caring, fun… we don’t mind.

Step 2

Upload your video to our website, YouTube or any other video site, and email us the link. Make sure you leave us your details so that we can send you the footage of our trip once we’re done. We won’t use your details for anything else. Promise.

Step 3

Follow us on our website, Twitter or Facebook. We’ll keep you updated on our trip preparations, and on our movements once we are actually in Africa.

Step 4

Once we’re back in the US, we’ll send you the footage of the kids watching your video. Then you can show your family and friends what a difference you made in these kid’s lives. They’ll feel good. You’ll feel good. Everybody wins.

Click here to upload your video

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