YouTube Beauty Gurus Talk Fame, Fortune, & The Art Of Vlogging

There's a typical flow that happens between celebrities and brands. Brand gets big, taps major celebrity for an endorsement deal, celeb suddenly starts wearing nothing but said brand, and consumers flock to stores to buy it. It's a relationship that has existed since Esteé Lauder herself first started dropping her products into the bags of Hollywood stars — and we've accepted it as the status quo.

But, what happens when those celebrities became famous by endorsing products they actually use and not ones they were paid to talk about? What if that "celebrity" is actually a young girl, sitting in front of her computer, talking to a camera about how to twist your hair into the perfect milkmaid braid? What happens to the relationship, then — and how are brands supposed to compete with these young ladies?

Let's call it the "YouTube Paradox." These are girls who started creating videos as hobbies but have spun them into successful careers via the infamous video-sharing site. They're now forces to be reckoned with, boasting viewerships in the hundred thousands and drawing crowds of fans by the millions whenever they make public appearances.

While some of these women have influence and subscriber lists that continue to grow, mass-market beauty brands are struggling to keep up. Many major companies struggle to hit that 50,000-subscriber mark, but most beauty vloggers have gazelled easily over 100,000 — and are still growing in leaps and bounds. So, what's the secret?

We went right to the source to get the answer. Ahead, find seven YouTube beauty vloggers who are now bona fide celebrities, right off their visit to BeautyCon, the Super Bowl for makeup, hair, and nail vloggers. They're sharing their thoughts on YouTube, why their personal brands are so successful, and how major beauty companies can attempt to keep pace. These are some ladies you're going to want to keep your eye on...

And, tell us below: Who are some of your favorite beauty vloggers, and why do you love them so darn much?

Photo: Courtesy of Claire Marshall.
Claire Marshall, of Hey Claire

"I had been a longtime viewer of YouTube before I ever dreamed of being a part of it. When I posted my first video, I was working as a freelance makeup artist in New York but had taken six months off to take care of my mother. It was a hard time, and I wasn't able to work, so in order to give myself a distraction, I started talking to the camera about things I liked. I never considered that it could be my career.

"I do my best to provide my viewers with fun and informative videos. In a world saturated with content creators, I think it's important to be yourself but also to have something that will make you stand apart. I try to think of new and different ways to get information across, and I find that not only does it make it more fun for the viewer, but I get to have fun with it, too. I'd like to think that the mixture of creativity and authenticity works in my favor.

"I really just want to continue making content that I enjoy and see where that takes me. I don't want to limit myself. I never thought I would be where I am today, which is why I'm so thankful to my amazing followers who have supported me as my channel has grown.

"Being interactive is so important to building and keeping an audience. Social media is such a huge part of what we as influencers do, and although it's very time-consuming, it's how we get to talk to people between videos. Twitter and Instagram are great ways to show viewers different facets of yourself. That's the big difference I see between myself and the consumer brands on YouTube.

"I think the power of YouTube is that it's still very new and brands are slowly, but surely, catching on to the potential. Digital media is getting bigger and better. In regard to YouTubers, we're just real people who happen to form a bond with a large audience. It's like having the biggest group of friends you can imagine. It's all part of this greater experience that we have the pleasure of being able to share with our viewers."
Photo: Courtesy of Maya Washington.
Maya Washington, of Shameless Maya

"I uploaded my first YouTube video on April 24, 2012. It started out as a social-media experiment: What would happen if I shamelessly promoted myself for an entire year online? At the time, I was a starving artist. I'd recently relocated to NYC, and I was frustrated with my career. The idea caught on with viewers, but it was my big, curly hair at the time that really got the attention. That introduced me into the world of online hair and beauty.

"For me, the future looks highly competitive, which means YouTubers need to expand their brands onto other platforms and really define their voices. Find what makes you unique, and promote that.

"I'd love to see my channel expand into television, film, theater, books — there are just so many creative possibilities to inspire people. I intend to do as many of them one by one. First up would definitely be television, though.

"My viewers respond positively because we're all trying to be the best versions of ourselves. We all struggle and have our demons to battle, and I recognize that and share that in my videos. I do my best to listen, read comments, and find ways to answer them in my own way. I really want to help viewers by sharing what I've learned, so they can walk away feeling enriched, inspired, and shameless. I know they appreciate that about me.

"The difference [between beauty brands on YouTube and what I'm doing] is that people connect to people. We connect to the struggle, the growth, the journey, the celebration — all of it. A beauty brand isn’t a person. If the brand can share a journey through its founder or a spokesperson — for example, us YouTubers are able to share those human qualities — then can the gap be bridged.

"Since a lot of YouTubers rely on brand deals [to help maintain their channels], the site is quickly transforming into an infomercial platform. This is awesome for brands if they align themselves with personalities that are passionate about their product. Like I said before, people want to connect to other people — not scripted dialogue, and that's what some of these brands are pushing us to do. When this happens, more often than not, we get attacked along with the brand. Viewers trust our words and our opinions, not a brand. It's that balance that's key to the success of both the YouTubers and the brands."
Photo: Courtesy of Daniel Barry/Evelina Barry.
Evelina Barry, of Fashion with Evelina

"Around the time I started vlogging, I was in interior design and architecture school, struggling to find new friends in a small town while also trying to do something fun between countless hours of drafting and sketching. YouTube started as something fun to do on the side and to help me explore other creative facets like filmmaking and teaching. Over the years, I've developed a huge passion for fashion, so my channel mainly became a one-stop shop for all things — from fashion tutorials to editorial film.

"I've always been very open and sincere with [my viewers]. I also select branded partnerships very carefully, and I always keep my audience in mind. They appreciate my honesty. In the future, I'd love to bring my production value to the next level and create even more content. I'm in the process of producing a full jewelry line, which is a huge dream come true. But, besides all that, I'd love to continue working in the fashion industry while documenting it on my YouTube [channel].

"Brands can definitely bridge that gap — it can be done. People are drawn to real people. The reason why YouTube has become so big is because the dynamic shifted along with the growth of social media. People want to follow a real person — someone who stumbles and says 'um' — as opposed to a perfectly produced film. Some brands get it right and connect with their demographic on a personal level, which brings something new and exciting while also molding to the new trends in media.

"[Brands are] definitely becoming increasingly aware of the astounding target demographic reach that these YouTube influencers provide. I'm really happy to see more and more brands jumping on board and collaborating with YouTubers. These vloggers now get their own TV shows, product lines, and even movie roles. I think the future can only get better with traditional media and YouTube merging into one."
Photo: Courtesy of Jay Stewart/Raye.
Raye, of itsmyrayeraye

"I got started on YouTube when I realized people were interested in how I apply my makeup. They were also interested in how I found such great deals on cosmetics. I think that viewers respond so positively to me since I make sure I'm always being myself. People know me for being the bargain queen, and I feel that a lot of my viewers love my channel because they can afford the products I share with them.

"Brands have fewer followers because there is no interaction or connection [with their viewers]. When people watch YouTube vloggers, they can relate to us. We're more personable because we're actual people sharing the things that we like, as opposed to a brand that is just trying to sell a product.

"I think I can help bridge this gap! This is why vloggers and brands should integrate to make their brand and their products more personable and relatable to the everyday person. I think YouTube is only getting better each day for us vloggers, and I feel that brands will eventually get the gist of it.

"I would like to see my channel be as successful as possible, and I'd like to grow with my viewers. I also see myself being my own boss — a businesswoman owning my own company. I'm just getting started on this journey."
Photo: Courtesy of Atisha Paulson/Jenn Im.
Jenn Im, of Clothes Encounters

"I started YouTube in the summer of 2010. I was obsessed with watching beauty tutorials and hauls on YouTube but noticed that there was a void in the fashion realm. I thought it was a space that one of my best friends and I could fill. In 2012, I took over the YouTube account when I moved to UC Davis, and from then I put everything I had into my channel.

"It's hard to say [why users respond so positively to me], because I'm not entirely sure. I just try my best to post content as consistently as possible and be myself.

"Hopefully, the future is a bright one. I think the digital space has more power than TV. Viewers get to grow up with the content creators they watch. It's a growing relationship, which I think holds stronger than a stranger telling you to buy something.

"I get asked where I'd like my channel to go a lot, and I never know how to answer it. I feel like all my goals of having a channel have been completed. I'm so happy with where I am now — I'm just going to keep on trucking and see where it takes me."
Photo: Courtesy of Daniel Haigh/Fleur.
Fleur, of Fleur de Force

"I started making videos as a creative outlet when I was bored at university in 2009. I had watched beauty videos and read blogs for a while, and I love the beauty community in particular. I was studying at an academic university where people didn't really share my passion for beauty and fashion. So, I loved that [YouTube] enabled me to connect with so many people, all across the world who shared my interests.

"The key with YouTube is being relatable and honest. Having the product knowledge and informative content also plays a big part, but there are so many people making videos now. I think having your own personal identity and staying true to who you are is an important aspect.

"I'd love for my channel to continue to grow and expand in the way it has gone over the past five years, but I'd also love to move into other areas, too. I'd love to write a beauty column for a paper or magazine and also grow my personal brand. I've always dreamed of having my own fashion or makeup line.

"It's hard to compare branded content to YouTube creators' videos, as the premise is quite different. When an individual makes a YouTube video, it's personal. It's about recommending products, yes, but it's also about the creator as a person and their personal opinions. Brands aren't in competition with YouTubers in the space, as they have very different goals and motives for producing content. They can work together to create great, engaging content, of course, but they are quite separate entities.

"As the entire digital space is still so new and dynamic, it's almost impossible to predict the future. In the past year I've noticed that brands have really come around to recognizing YouTube as a serious and influential new space within the media, so I'm sure the opportunities for collaboration will only continue to grow and grow."
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page. Like us on Facebook — we'll see you there!
Show More Comments...