Imagine finding out you’ve been fired via a public Instagram post. That’s what happened to cosmetic surgeon Tijion Esho, who under the
The line debuted in September 2017 and was discontinued just five months later when Deciem founder Brandon Truaxe dropped the Insta-bomb. In the since-deleted post, Truaxe wrote that "almost everyone hated" the Esho products and "I need to say goodbye to you because we are too busy to love your brand enough."
Tijion, who had just been on QVC promoting—and selling out—his line the week before, says he was left “very confused.” He was at a restaurant with friends when he saw the post.
"I remember being very emotional and I just cried. I didn't understand," he told ELLE.com over the phone, calling from London. "Even though what had happened wasn’t due to me or any control I had, I felt responsible, like I let everyone down. I had a lot of young black doctors and minorities saying, ‘You’re really inspiring us to do something, we don’t see that often. We don’t see black guys owning cosmetic lines’ so I remember telling Brandon that this is more than just me."
Esho was a renowned doctor before Deciem came calling. He built up a following (on social media and in his practice) for his non-surgical cosmetic procedures and his appearances as a doctor on the British E4 network's reality show Body Fixers. His influence can be seen all over Instagram. With an expertise in lip augmentations, he coined the plump "three-point lip" seen all over your feed (think: the pout on Emily Ratajkowski and copied by many an influencer). Esho's collaboration with Deciem capitalized on this notoriety, offering three core products: One formulated to plump lips without fillers, one to maintain those with fillers, and a lip balm to nourish either.
Since January, Deciem has been the equivalent of a massive car pile-up the beauty industry can't look away from. The founder started posting erratically on the company Instagram, raising concern as he posted footage of garbage, something appearing to be a dead animal, sympathised with Donald Drumpf, fielded accusations of racism from followers, and shared confessional-style videos threatening to sue journalists. All the while, turmoil was brewing within the company as Truaxe started letting go of key team members. Among the string of blindsiding firings and resignations triggered by founder Truaxe (most alarmingly Nicola Kilner, former co-CEO), Dr. Tijion Esho was arguably handled the worst.
Since Truaxe's February 6 Instagram post went live, the fate of Esho, the brand, was left up in the air while Esho, the man, was left with zero answers. The questions keep coming in the wake of non-stop, concerning activity from Truaxe (he reportedly sent a company-wide memo saying he's "done" with Deciem, went on a tirade of erratic comments to followers, and, shortly after we spoke to Esho in late April, made an announcement for launching another lip care line, Petrowhat. On top of that, Sephora confirmed on June 8 that it will no longer carry Deciem products in the wake of the company "chang[ing] direction."
Here, speaking for the first time at length about the Deciem fallout, Esho seeks answers not only for himself, but for his supporters. "I want to speak out on what happened and give them transparency. I haven't got the brand, I'm unable to do what I want to for them," he said, "At no time have I received any apology for what happened and how it happened or having my trust betrayed." (When we reached out to Deciem for comment, the brand's current press rep Dionne Lois Cullen wrote back, "We won’t be looking to comment on this but thanks so much for checking in.")
Read on for more revelations from our conversation with Esho.
On meeting Deciem founder Brandon Truaxe:
It was just over three years ago. Dionne [Lois Cullen], who does PR [put us in touch]—we’re mates and she sent some NIOD [one of the brands owned by Deciem] products. I hadn’t heard of Deciem at that point at all. I messaged back saying the products were great and I loved them. A year after that, Dionne sent an invite that [Brandon] was going to be in the UK and it’d be cool to meet up. My team met with Brandon. There was a lot of crossover in our industries and there was a kind of marriage of minds. I remember him talking about how he never knew someone that obsessed with lips like I was.
Deciem [is] ‘the abnormal beauty company’—it’s the way things happen on their side. We expected that and accepted no real timelines or as many updates as we would've wanted because there was a trust and a belief in the legacy they've already created with The Ordinary. When you’ve got that credibility and you’ve done so much, it does demand a respect.
On how the Esho line came to be:
[Brandon and I] were talking for ages and he said, ‘I think we should do something’ and I was really taken back. At the moment I was in “fan” mode—the owner wanted to meet me and now he’s saying he wants to collaborate and do a line? That’s crazy. Sure enough, a few months later, he contacted me, "I think we should do a lip line but do one for people that have lip fillers and don’t have lip fillers and we can extend it to treat all different areas of the lips."
We talked about the name and he said he wanted to call it Esho. At first I was a bit worried and hesitant about it, but then honoured because I'm a very proud guy and come from an African background, so my name means a lot to my family. It means "jewels worth more than gold." I remember [Brandon] saying don't worry—he would always protect me and have my best interest at heart. I remember that conversation being one of the biggest reassurances for me, like, this guy understands it.
I had a lot of input in the design, packaging, how it looked—in terms of the formulations not so much because to be fair, [Brandon] is the guy who came up with The Ordinary and he's a genius. From the doctor point of view, I can come up with concepts.