The Ty-Lite Selfie Case, developed by Beyoncé’s stylist Ty Hunter, does the thing it sets out to do. It takes well-lit selfies—enveloping its users in a sensuous vanity-light glow. Ty Hunter will always have a special place in my heart, because he styled Solange for her “Losing You” video, and he styled Beyoncé’s Givenchy Met Gala gown. He is a genius. He is also a devil, because he made me want to buy an $80 phone case.

To use the Ty-Lite’s LED lighting, you press a large yellow button on the back of the case. There is no set-up involved beyond putting the case on your phone. I used the iPhone 6/6s version, but models for the iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 5/5s, and Galaxy S6 are “coming soon,” according to the Ty-Lite website.

The LED button has four exclamation marks on it, because the Ty-Lite experience is not about subtlety. When the light is turned off, the phone simply looks like it is encased in a rubbery safety bumper. The black matte finish on the plastic back is inoffensive, but that’s the nicest thing I can say about it. The aesthetic vibe of the case turned off is “A Clumsy Child’s Protective Accessory.” The vibe with the light turned on is “My Eyes Hurt.”

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I can tell you from experience that the !!!! button is sensitive enough that there is an 80-100 percent chance it will turn on in your bag, which is handy if you’re at a dungeon rave but less so if you’re trying to get set up to do some work at a local cafe and you’ve already knocked your latte over and everyone is staring at you as though you don’t know you’re a bumbling oaf, but you do, you know it, please stop staring.

There are three lighting options: Cool, Warm, and Brilliant. The “Warm” setting has a yellowish tint to the lights. The “Brilliant” setting has the standard lights with a few of the yellow ones thrown in, but in terms of photo results, I’m not sure what makes “Cool” and “Brilliant” different from one another. The greatest trick the Ty-Lite Selfie Case ever pulled was convincing the world that there’s a difference between “Cool” and “Brilliant.” Good scam. If you hold the yellow button down, you can adjust how bright the lights are on each option. This took me four days to figure out, but it is a feature that exists. Unfortunately the default brightness is the highest level of brightness, so you need to manually adjust it.

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Here are some samples. Top left is no filter, top right is Cool, bottom left is Warm, and bottom right is Brilliant:

While I maintain that “Cool” and “Brilliant” are the same freaking thing, the illumination does effectively reduce shadows. It makes you look like you’re taking selfies in front of one of those fancy vanity mirror with the big round bulbs, and also like Terry Richardson is lurking somewhere in your proximity.

These magical pop star lights are powered by batteries, and the case comes with a cable to recharge. The Ty-Lite website says they last three weeks. I’ve had the case for two weeks and the lights appear more blinding than ever.

So: This phone case is thick and ugly, and it makes you look like you stole a child’s gadget. If you have small to medium paws, like me, you will experience difficulty holding the phone in your hand. These are two major strikes. The third strike is the price. I should want to throw this case in the trash, but I do not. I do not because I now have to live with the knowledge that my selfies are basic as fuck and a superior lighting alternative exists. How BEAUTIFUL could I look if I was illuminating my mug using the powers of vanity lights? I will wonder every time I take a selfie now, because selfies taken with this case do look better.

I say “wonder” because there’s no way I’d buy this for myself. It’s an $80 phone case that makes me look alternately clumsy and vapid. I’ll stick with filters and pretend I never had a taste of the glam life.

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  • The design is infantilizing and really bulky, sort of like a diaper for your camera.
  • That said, if you look like shit in selfies, this camera-diaper might help you clean up nice.
  • I regret this diaper analogy.

Images: Alex Crantz