What do international pop icon Justin Bieber and 24-year-old makeup artist Michelle Phan have in common? Both young talents are living proof that determination, a dream and a few YouTube videos can make things happen. When Phan first posted a makeup tutorial to the site in 2007, she had no idea it would help her develop a loyal following and lead to getting signed on as spokesperson for Lancôme three years later. Now more than a year into the partnership, the Massachusetts-born beauty guru tells FLARE the story of how she made her passion her profession.
What made you want to become a makeup artist?
“I’ve always had a strong interest in makeup just because I was always fascinated when I saw my mom apply it. But she didn’t want me to become a makeup artist, because it’s not as secure as a doctor when it comes to income. She wanted me to have a better life because, when she came into this country [from post-war Vietnam], she struggled a lot. So, I was going to go to med school but I had such a passion for art that I enrolled in art school instead and I promised my mom, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll find a way to make a decent living and take care of you and take care of myself and also enjoy what I do.’”
How did you get started as a vlogger?
“I had a blog and a lot of my readers were asking me to do a makeup tutorial video instead of doing the usual photo step-by-step blog post. I decided to film the tutorial and upload it on YouTube and it kind of just worked out. After that there was a lot of interest and more and more people were making requests, so I tried my best to cater to them and to this day it’s still the same thing. The partnership with Lancôme began in 2010, so once a month I create a video for them.”
How do you think beauty and new media fit together?
“I think makeup tutorials make sense online. [Viewers can] see it in motion, instead of just seeing still pictures. They can have their laptops ready and they can follow the steps easily rather than reading the directions and following the pictures. It kind of removes that mystery from being just a finished look from an ad campaign. When you’re doing a tutorial, you can see the breakdown and the movements and everything. I think it’s really, really cool and I wish I had it when I was young.”
What’s your top advice to people who want to follow in your footsteps?
“For people who want to get into social media, especially for beauty, invest in a really good point-and -shoot camera [that takes video] and find a good spot where you get a lot of natural light and start filming. I just want to encourage people to start making videos.”
If you had to pick one favourite can’t-live-without product, what would it be?
“Concealer, because my dark circles are just always going to be there. Usually, I double it up as foundation—a dab of it to even out my skin tone—so concealer is a must-have for me.”
What’s one thing that all women should know for when it comes to makeup?
“Always do your brows. Brows are so important. They bring balance to the face. It’s kind of like a painting. If you were just to put a painting on the wall without a frame it’s kind of empty and boring. But using the right frame can really enhance the painting. I feel like brows frame the eyes, and when you find the right frame for your eyes, it’s going to enhance them and change the whole balance of your face. Go to a brow expert and get a professional to help guide you along the right path and then you can start maintaining your brows afterwards.”
Is there any particular trend that you’re crazy about for summer?
“I’m loving the orange lipstick trend for summer. I think it’s so cute and summery. It kind of looks like you had an orange Popsicle. If you’re going to wear orange lips, you definitely want your eyes to be more subtle. Maybe a little mascara but you definitely don’t want to play it up too much just because the orange lips are strong and bold.”
Check out Michelle Phan’s YouTube channel.
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