After Burnout, YouTube Creator Jackie Aina Is Back & Reveling In Black Luxury

Photo: courtesy of Brandon Lundby.
“Ooh, you smell good,” Jackie Aina says as she brings me in for a warm hug. We’re meeting at a swanky spot in SoHo for the first time, but I already feel like I know her. And after more than a decade of watching the influencer on YouTube, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that we do know her...sort of. (As much as she allows us to, anyway.)
Aina is one of the foremost beauty influencers on the internet, one that many would consider a pioneer in the game. She started her YouTube channel back in 2009 under the username LilPumpkinPie05, offering helpful makeup reviews and tutorials for subscribers eager to see beauty content from a Black creator after years of Black folks being excluded from the industry. She put out new videos consistently for years to the point that a new Jackie Aina video every week was as consistent as Thursday nights with Shonda Rhimes. With each detailed rundown of a new foundation or meticulous step-by-step eyeshadow tutorial — all from the expert perspective of a professional makeup artist — Aina solidified herself as the authority on makeup.
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When the pandemic hit, however, our hyper-consumerist need for makeup dwindled; after all, why would anyone care about full glam when half of our faces are covered by an n95 mask? That disinterest in beauty also caused a shift in the content rollouts. Influencers had to be more intentional about what they were posting, when they were posting, and where they shared it because the demand for content was changing. Fans wanted to know how people were passing the time during lockdown, how they were dealing with maskne, what cool new hobbies they’d picked up. And Aina adjusted with the demand, doing her best to create content that was relevant for the times while also being authentic to herself and to her interests. 
It’s no wonder she got burned out.
“I never thought that burnout was a real thing,” Aina tells me with a laugh. (Very “My dad is a Nigerian immigrant” of her.) “But I hit a wall creatively and literally ran out of stuff to talk about on my channel. There was a lot going on at the time, and I felt like I’d poured my heart and soul into this one platform, into this space. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite sure that I always got the same out of it.”
Photo: courtesy of Brandon Lundby.
“A lot of creators arrive at that same point at different points of their careers,” she continues candidly. “We think, ‘After doing this for so long, it shouldn't be this hard. Creating content shouldn't be this hard anymore’.”
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Even though she was exhausted, Aina didn't want to stop making YouTube videos; she just needed a temporary pivot. So she took a noticeable break from YouTube in 2022, only stopping by the video platform to share new content a few times here and there. She wasn’t totally offline  — the beauty guru took her talents to TikTok and continued posting on Instagram regularly — but Aina knew that a reset was in order if she wanted to continue her longevity as a creative. During her unofficial YouTube offtime, she tells me, she got to tap into the other passions that hadn’t been able to develop because of how much energy she’d put into her channel. 

I never thought that burnout was a real thing...A lot of creators arrive at that same point at different points of their careers. We think, After doing this for so long, it shouldn't be this hard. Creating content shouldn't be this hard anymore.

jackie aina
FORVR Mood, the candle company that Aina founded and launched in 2020, grew to impressive heights as she released new collection after new collection. She also started LavishlyJackie, a lifestyle page dedicated to showing both the high (designer bags and luxury fragrances!) and low-end (one-ply toilet paper!) ways that she engages in self-care. Coming up, Aina will star in and produce The Black Beauty Effect, a multi-series documentary set to air this fall that explores the deep, complicated connection between Black culture and the beauty industry. 
The new content strategy was unexpected, garnering reactions from her audience that ranged from surprise to sheer delight. While some of her followers weren’t thrilled by the new direction of her work — some pushback even called for Aina to “stay in her lane” — most of them were excited to see her diversifying her brand beyond just makeup. But even more importantly than people liking the changes, the pivot grounded Aina, reminding her that starting anew didn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. In her case, it was essential, the only thing keeping her from totally losing interest in the influencer lifestyle. 
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“I think I definitely proved to myself that my slump wasn’t inherently a me issue,” she says of her YouTube break. “That shift showed me that I still have ideas. I still have creativity flowing through me.”
The new approach to content creation is more than evident in Aina’s most recent videos on her YouTube channel, in which she’s launched a new series that’s less about how to do makeup and more about what the concept of wearing makeup means to different people. It’s a Get Ready With Me interview-style series featuring the creator and some of her friends and peers in the industry, and so far, it’s been really interesting; she’s talked shop with friend and fellow Nigerian Chelsea Lazkani (of Selling Sunset fame), and in the latest video, Aina and Tiktoker Cristian Dennis spill tea as they channel the glam of the 1990s. Though Aina’s content has always been great, the new releases have been especially enjoyable to watch because you can tell that she’s having fun with them. 
“It was really great to talk about something other than just makeup,” admits Aina. “Obviously, makeup is amazing, and it will always be one of my main passions, but it's not the only thing that I love. It was just nice to bring more of me to the table.”
“I used to never collaborate, but I’ve always wanted to bring other people around for my videos,” she shares. “Now being able to work with people that I like and admire is amazing. And it’s good for balance because I get to outsource some things that I was never able to do in the past.”
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There's a lot of anxiety, I think, about being a proud and successful Black woman; you should be successful but not that successful. But I had to get over that insecurity.

jackie aina
As Aina’s content calendar evolves, she expects to welcome more people into her online community, and she’s excited for the new followers that she’ll be able to connect with. At the same time, she tells me, she’s fully aware that not everyone who tuned into the channel will be willing to come along for the ride. She’s not the same Jackie that she was when she first started her YouTube channel 13 years ago. She’s not even the same Jackie she was pre-pandemic! Life has been good to her, and Aina isn’t willing to hide that fact from her followers. Rather than pretending to be pushing the same old whip or living in the same old apartment, Aina is sharing her accomplishments and celebrating them. Yes, she fully understands that the Black luxury discourse isn’t super relatable at this particular point in time — the cost of everything has skyrocketed — but that’s her reality now. That’s just who she is, and she wants to be honest about it. 
“I definitely feel like people were more resistant to my luxury content even though I made it very clear that I have a different life now than I did just a few years ago,” says Aina. “It took me some time before I started to get comfortable sharing that part of my life. I knew I didn't want to open the door because I knew what people would say about it, so I was just enjoying it privately. There's a lot of anxiety, I think, about being a proud and successful Black woman; you should be successful but not that successful. But I had to get over that insecurity.”
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“I was very intentional when I started talking more about that side of me because I wanted to be authentic,” she continues. “There are influencers who pretend to be modest so that they can be relatable, but I don’t think you should have to fake being something you’re not. What does the fact that I have a better quality of life now have to do with, like, my hair or my makeup? Those things don’t have to cancel each other out.”
Haters be damned, Aina is determined to run her own race. Being unbothered as one of the most well-known influencers in the beauty industry isn’t easy. (“I don't know if I can say that I'm unbothered,” she smiles modestly. “I think sometimes, I'm very bothered.”) But after 13 years in the game, she’s picked up a few handy tools to help her stay the course. These days, the most important thing in her mental health toolbox is the ability to set boundaries — professionally and personally. Oh, that and perpetually minding her business.
“I’m no longer interested in saying yes to everything and everyone or in spreading myself thin in any aspect of my life,“ Aina reminds herself daily. “I can't fix the things that I can't change. So even when people trauma dump on me or try to project something onto me, I ask myself internally, what does that do to me? Yeah, nothing. Nothing! That’s when it’s time to ignore, delete, block, whatever. It’s just really a balance of being in tune with myself and reclaiming my time.”

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