The Heartbreaking Reason This YouTube Star Got Into Beauty

Photo: Courtesy of Ingrid Nilsen/Derrick Freske.
Beauty is most often cast as fun, frivolous, and vain. And though in the larger picture, things like mascara, blush, and lipstick indeed seem lighthearted — it is the business of appearances, after all — there’s also something remarkably potent about beauty. While the conversation has been dominated (and rightly so) by beauty's changing representations, we rarely hear about the therapeutic and, yes, sometimes life-changing effect it can have. This week, we'll be bringing you inspiring tales of remarkable women who have used the power of beauty to cope, empower, heal, and survive. You’ll find that their stories are far from superficial. Today, YouTube influencer Ingrid Nilsen tells us how a family tragedy led her to discover the creative outlet of online beauty.
From an outsider’s perspective, social media and YouTube beauty guru Ingrid Nilsen, 26, has it good. The Los Angeles-based star has worked with CoverGirl and been a featured guest on Project Runway. But in fact, Nilsen’s career in media started for less glitzy reasons. Beauty was a way to deal with her grief after losing her father.
"I was 17 when my father passed away. Growing up, he was always that person for me: the person I would immediately run to with good news and also the person I would turn to when I was struggling or needing help with something. "At that point, I wasn’t really into makeup. I had always been a little curious, but I was intimidated by it. I didn’t know what to do, and I wasn’t going to try. I didn’t start getting into it until I was about 19. It was then that I had friends who would really encourage me to try things. "I was in school at the time and studying abroad. It was actually a roommate who introduced me to a high-end mascara, and that was the catalyst for everything. After that, I found videos online and learned through tutorials. I saw people posting their hauls. I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I could learn so much from these girls.' "When I was 20, I started doing my own videos. When I look back on it now, even though my father passed away a few years before, it became part of my grieving process. I was still trying to survive every single day at that point. Beauty gave me something to occupy my mind — it was a creative outlet for me.

Beauty gave me something to occupy my mind — it was a creative outlet for me.

Ingrid Nilsen
"It was also something that I saw as a challenge to overcome. I was someone who was really evasive when a camera came around. I was really shy when it came to talking to someone new, but I had these ideas and thoughts I wanted to share. So I had been watching these online videos for six to eight months before I made my first video. I knew nothing about how to put it together. I didn’t even know how to edit. Also, it’s one thing to put a video together and another thing to realize people are watching. "Having that creative outlet and something to occupy me forced my mind to go to places that I had been blocking before. You have to have an open mind to create anything remotely creative. Even so, it happened slowly and gradually. There were things that I had been pushing down and had not really been facing. Those things started to surface. It’s something I’m still dealing with now. I think beauty has kind of held my hand through this process. It’s been there for me and it evolved with me. "Also, I can’t say enough about the people I’ve met through social media. I just met some people yesterday that I’ve interacted with before, and it feels like we’ve always known each other. It’s almost like having a pen pal and meeting for the first time. "It’s really special and unique. And though beauty as a creative outlet has been a big part in getting through my grief, I think my community has played an even bigger part. Whether it’s leaving comments or tweeting me when they know I’m having a bad day, or giving me hugs when I see them in person. We’ve really held each others' hands." Here are some more inspiring stories of beauty saving lives:
This Makeup Artist Went Through Hell — & Came Out Even Stronger
How Makeup Helped This Trans Woman Learn To Be Herself
This Is The Most Empowering Story About Eyebrows You'll Read Today
What A Vicious Burn Attack Taught This Woman About Inner Beauty

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