They’re sold under a variety of names, including Bootea, MateFit, and Skinny Bunny, but they’re all basically the same: teas that contain senna, a plant with a laxative effect. Senna is found in FDA-approved products like Ex-Lax, but there’s a burgeoning industry built around what’s called “teatox,” a cockamamie weight-loss plan that involves drinking senna-enhanced tea every day for two weeks. Shed pounds with each trip to the loo! Dubious as this is, teatoxing has gained high-profile endorsements from Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj, Iggy Azalea, and numerous members of the Kardashian clan, especially on Instagram. Chavie Lieber follows the money in an investigative piece for Racked called “Teatox Party.” The article not only offers insight into the rise of the tea business and the importance of celebrity endorsements thereof, but it shows how social media and photo-sharing apps are beginning to trump traditional advertising in the never-ending battle for eyeballs. The future of product promotion may look a lot like this Instagram post of Snooki slurping down laxative tea on Instagram.
Although it’s the pop singers and TV stars who get the most attention and the most money from tea companies and other sponsors, the internet has its own firmament of online celebrities, including self-appointed health and fitness gurus who post pictures of their perfect posteriors on Instagram. These people have thousands and sometimes even millions of followers, making them “influencers” and very much of interest to the makers of laxative teas. The article discusses these endorsements as well. But there is a class system at work here, too. As the article reveals, there are some aspiring ’net celebrities who hawk teatox products in exchange for free teas rather than money. “The appeal is not necessarily getting freebies,” Lieber writes, “as much as it is appearing to be big enough to post sponsored content.” Not everyone, it seems, can be a Kardashian.