"Hi, guys! Ok. Welcome to my channel," Yasmin Maya, known as BeautyyBird to her 1.1 million Instagram followers, began her first-ever YouTube video in November 2012. The vlogger's bubbly persona projected through the screen as she explained what to expect from her new channel. What viewers didn't know was the pain behind it all — a pain that involved separation from her family and an unforeseeable future at home.
Maya spent most of her life in Carpinteria, California, but at age 18, she found herself back in her birthplace of Mexico as she tried to work out the legality of her U.S. citizenship. After witnessing her parents get deported while she was in high school, Maya feared a similar reality would meet her as an undocumented immigrant — as is the case for more than 200,000 individuals each year. With that anxiety in mind, as well as the fact that she couldn't apply to colleges or receive financial aid, the teenager made her way to the border town of Tijuana. As her parents traveled back to California after resolving their own legal status, Maya found herself leaving behind her family, her husband, and the place she called home for a significant part of her life. "It was the hardest decision ever," she tells Refinery29 during a video interview. "But if I was going to have at least a chance of fixing my papers, then I wanted to take it, drop my entire life here, and move out there by myself."
During her three years in Mexico — with her U.S. residency filed — Maya experienced loneliness living on her own with only occasional visits from her husband, which ultimately affected her mental health. That's when her mom encouraged her to follow in the footsteps of her favourite YouTubers, which included Dulce Candy and Nicole Guerriero, and start a beauty channel. She recalls her mom sending her a small red camera and a few makeup products, and in 2012, BeautyyBird was born. "It was an outlet to keep me from crying on my couch," Maya says. "It was this way of looking forward to something in my day, even if nobody was going to follow."
What Maya didn't expect was for her page to take off the way it did. "It's just a miracle knowing that it grew into what it is now," she says. With over 1 million subscribers on YouTube and videos in both English and Spanish, Maya grew a community over the last eight years on a platform that was once only a means of escape — and eventually made her way back to California as a U.S. resident. Now, she's finding power in making her dreams come true with the launch of her brand, Birdy Lashes, inspired by her love for her desert-island beauty pick: false lashes.
The brand, which launches today, features two faux-mink lash styles (Gemini and Dream) and two eyeliner-glue hybrids in black and clear — all priced at $12. Birdy Lashes aims to simplify wearing falsies with easy application, and provide luxury at an affordable price. What's more, you'll find cultural nods — like those seen in the promo video, which was filmed in Mexico — and images with Latinx faces, along with Maya wearing a charro suit (the traditional style of dress originating in Mexico). "Latinx people are not just this moment or trend. We always need to be included," she says. "I want to show that. I want to have my people know that we are going to be represented."
This cultural pride is a full-circle moment for the beauty influencer, who admits to once being ashamed of not only her family's legal status, but also her roots when first starting a YouTube channel. It wasn't until she accidentally left Mexican music playing in the background in one of her videos, to the delight of viewers, that she realized her origin story was nothing to be embarrassed by. "For the longest time, I felt ashamed," Maya admits. "Then, eventually I felt like, 'Why should I hide it?'"
Now, her story, her dreams, and her culture are at the forefront. As she looks to the future of her brand — which she teases has plenty more to come — Maya is ready to inspire undocumented immigrants and children of immigrants who might not believe in their own future as she once didn't. She hopes to show everyone that your vision should never be limited, no matter what comes your way or where your legal status lies. "I didn't know if I was ever going to have that hope of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, but knowing I can be someone's light and in a way let them know: 'There's hope. You can have a life after this,'" she says. "We're still trying to fight how we are seen, but our legal status shouldn't define us. If I had something to tell them, it's to continue fighting and know that I am fighting for them."