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UGLY BEHAVIOR

A beauty blogger’s rant against “servants” has cost her corporate sponsors

By Sangeeta Singh-Kurtz

A Kuwaiti social media star, Sondos al-Qattan, is facing international backlash following comments she made on a new law expanding Filipino domestic workers’ rights—including provision banning employers from confiscating passports from their maids, nannies, and cooks.

Al-Qattan, who has 2.3 million followers on Instagram, lost several beauty brand sponsors after she posted a video attacking the law. “How can you have a servant at home who keeps their own passport with them?” she said in Arabic in the now-deleted video. “What’s worse is they have one day off every week.”

She added in a follow-up post that she has never “mistreated, degraded or in any way mistreated” an employee, but maintained that employers should be allowed to retain workers’ passports. She then declared she was finished with the topic. “No one bring it up to me, because it is not important,” she said in a video. “There are more important things in life. Like Botox.”

The law itself—which follows the brutal murder of a Filipina maid whose body was found in a freezer and a diplomatic crisis that led to a ban on Filipino workers traveling to Kuwait—requires domestic workers be allowed a one-hour break for every 12-hour work day, a personal cell phone with internet, one day off a week, and an annual holiday of 22 days paid for by the employer. It also requires that workers retain their passport at all times.

As Al-Qattan’s comments provoked online outrage, several international beauty brands including Max Factor Arabia, MAC cosmetics, and US-based Anastasia Beverly Hills, as well as several European boutique cosmetic brands, have cut ties with the blogger, who was paid to endorse them and use their products in her beauty tutorials.

Al-Qattan responded by releasing a video on Twitter threatening to rally her followers in a boycott of the brands, the National reports (her Twitter account is private). She also insisted that the criticisms of her remarks were an attack on “hijab-wearers, the Muslima (sic), the Gulf nationals.”

This latest controversy has brought international attention to the two nations’ increasingly fraught diplomatic relations. Authorities in the Gulf nation expelled Manila’s ambassador in April after footage surfaced of Philippine embassy staff helping workers escape from employers accused of mistreatment.