MakeApp founder Ashot Gabrelyanov said that despite being deemed a “white supremacist,” “misogynist” and “Putin’s spy” by the US media his makeup removing app has been a smashing success.
Today we launched a new MakeApp version that allows real time makeup application and removal. iOS users (6S and higher) can download the app here https://t.co/hmPyqp8PoJ, and the Android version will be launched a bit later. pic.twitter.com/PfWg69bNUP
— Ashot Gabrelyanov (@gabrelyanov) 28 November 2017
In his Medium post, Gabrelyanov describes how the idea to create the app came to him:
“[…] we were developing a photo-realistic digital makeup technology. While experimenting with it, we found out that neural nets can both apply and remove makeup.
“Hmm, that might be interesting,” I thought and suggested that we tap the market using this feature.”
This provoked a curious reaction:
“All our Russian team members voted in favor of launching this experiment. Only one team member, Pir, my close friend and a US citizen, was against it.
He argued that the US media would dismiss this feature and accuse us of sexism. Having lived my whole life in Russia, I could hardly understand what he was talking about. I could not realize what was wrong with this makeup removal function. I listened to all the arguments and decided to keep this feature and release the app.”
When the app was released, it became a success. First it took Asia by storm, then it tore the charts in Europe.
“Asian media were positive about our project, and Twitter users were really excited too. My American friend’s concerns have proved unfounded. “Asia loves us!” — he messaged me.
Media in China, Japan, South Korea, and Thailand were teeming with very favorable headlines. MakeApp became a bestseller in just one day.”
— IN THE NOW (@IntheNow_tweet) 26 November 2017
“MakeApp took the UK by storm, followed by Germany, Sweden, Italy, and others. The Daily Mail repeated my experiment and tested out the app on stars. MakeApp hit the news headlines.”
The coverage was positive, as opposed to the media reaction in the US, with the first piece published by a major outlet titled “A male ex-Russian propagandist is behind an unflattering AI app that shows how women look without makeup”.
Recounting the correspondence with the author of the piece, Gabrelyanov came to a conclusion:
“My correspondence with Shona Ghosh showed that her primary interest was to hype the clickbait story rather than to investigate the app and technology. “Russian-Kremlin-spy-sexist-racist” — heck, this guy is a dream come true for the yellow press!
From our correspondence, I became aware that her agenda was to make me into a wicked monster and the app into a spawn of hell. Which I mentioned to her.”
Accusations of racism, sexism and being a Russian spy, with an apparent agenda to destroy the beautiful image of the American woman, followed.
“The only thing that seemed to interest them was the “Russian male–sexist–propagandist–who wants to make women ugly” narrative.”
In the end, the US media machine ultimately took Gabrelyanov for a spin: the media got the clicks, and he got free coverage of his app, which earned him nearly quarter of a million of new downloads.
“I must admit that we owe a certain amount of our success to those unprofessional journalists. It was their sensationalist fluff that helped us acquire over 200,000 new installations and top the US App Store ratings over the course of five days of hype. Besides giving us their appreciation, our grateful users also support the project financially. We began to earn thousands of dollars per day.”