beauty . Tips

A Creator Chat With YouTube Powerhouse, Michelle Phan

"Beauty is a very interesting gift, you know. You’re given it at a very young age but then you have to give it back when you’re older. I know that at a certain point, my beauty is going to fade, but at least I have something that is going to last." - Michelle Phan

Michelle Phan is probably one of the biggest Beauty Creators on YouTube. Considered a pioneer in the beauty community, she has had an active beauty channel since 2006 and has been consistently uploading new beauty videos since then. With over 8 million subscribers on YouTube and 2 million followers on Instagram, she is also the founder of ipsy, a multi-million dollar beauty empire which launched back in 2011 and boasts a million subscribers for her monthly Glam Bag.

So for the budding Beauty Creators out there who've always wanted to know the secrets behind Michelle Phan's beauty success, we took the opportunity to catch-up with Michelle during the Beauty Bound Asia Finals in Tokyo and got her talking about what she loved about Beauty Bound Asia, her top-tips on what it takes to create great content, and of course share her insights on the evolution of the beauty community.

Scroll down to read more and even get a peek into the channels she loves to watch on YouTube!

What has been your favourite moment in this Beauty Bound Asia experience?

My favourite moment in general is just seeing the level of excitement that each contestant has shown. If you look at them, it’s such an incredible experience to even be part of something like this. I wish I had something like this when I started out on YouTube, but now there’s such an amazing, supportive community and they’re part of this.

It’s so endearing to see how excited they are. I was watching a lot of the vlogs where they talked about how this experience changed their lives and I cried at some of it because it really is touching because every person has a different story. Every single person is going through (his/her) own personal battles. Each battle represents something in my life too that I went through, and when I see that I empathise with them and I cried with them. So that was really my favourite part of this whole experience: being a part of it with them and connecting with them on a more human level.

JaneMakeup from Bangkok won Beauty Bound Asia. What are your hopes for her as one of Asia's top creators?

My biggest hope is for her to be a leader in the [Asia’s] growing market of beauty influencers. Being that role model, being appreciative, and most importantly just continuing to experiment and to raise the bar for these beauty videos. If she is not pushing herself to experiment and to push the boundaries, she's not going to be able to inspire this generation to do the same. So I think it definitely puts a lot of weight on her shoulders, but it’s a good weight.
Now let's talk content! With so many beauty YouTubers out there, what is the key to ensuring your content stands out?

The first important foundation when you’re starting your channel is to not do what everyone else is doing, but to focus on your own journey, your own path. Because if you look at what everyone else is doing, how can you really distinguish yourself? How can you have your own style and develop it if you’re doing what everyone else is doing? And so that’s why I always tell people to focus on your lane, and focus on what you’re good at.

You don’t need to be the most subscribed beauty guru to have influence in the beauty market. A great example with Beauty Bound is that there is this one contestant who always has her hijab on and she shows people how to style their hijab and how to wear makeup for the hijab. That’s an incredible market that is very niche. When you think about the Muslim audience – that is almost over a billion people. So even if it’s a niche market, it’s a very big niche market. So really focusing on a niche market that you can really cater to that you’re very good at. That’s how you can stand out without feeling like you need to stand out.
Have online beauty tutorials evolved a lot since you started making them back in 2006? What are the type of videos and content creators that you see right now on YouTube?

Oh my gosh, it has evolved so much. Even from the first time I uploaded my first video, I could say so confidently that there was probably less than 10 beauty influencers on YouTube when I started. Today, you have thousands all over the world who are representing their own beauty style. So truly, beauty has become such a democratic form, and in a sense, the idea of a one-size-fit-for-all beauty look no longer applies to this whole paradigm of the beauty world. Anyone can essentially become (his/her) own beauty authority and influencer, and if that’s the case, then there’s no such thing as this one particular look that is beautiful. It can stem across all ages and all types of faces, shapes and sizes.

We’re going to be seeing more and more different types of styles across all types of beauty. On top of that, we’re also seeing a growing trend of male influencers who are doing beauty looks too. They call it a gender fluid, where you’ll have a guy who will do makeup and turn himself into a girl – not drag makeup, because drag makeup is very, very theatrical – but beautiful-looking. It inspires me when I see it. I want to try a beauty look that this guy did and he looks like Scarlett Johansson – it’s incredible. And that’s a growing trend too. You’re going to see more and more men accepting makeup and wearing it. Not concealer, I’m talking about smokey eyes, eyeliner, lipstick too.

Every creator out there has experienced down-days, those moments when they're uninspired to move forward with the project. So what keeps you motivated to keep moving forward?

What keeps me motivated is my curiosity. I always want to know what else can I learn and what else can I see and experience. Who am I going to meet next? What video is going to inspire me next? These are the fundamental things that have kept me going for so long. I tell a lot of people this: when you become an influencer online, you’re open to a lot of negative comments [and] a lot of negativity in general. You have to have a really “thick skin” to continue this journey because it is hard in general to produce the video, edit it, star in it, upload it, and do it on a regular basis. On top of that, you have to deal with a lot of negative comments and so, a lot of times I tell people, “you have to just focus on what you really love, and have a sense of purpose”.

That’s what keeps me going – it’s having that sense of purpose. If you don’t have purpose or passion, you’ll burn out very, very quickly online because everyone has such a short attention span online. If you take a hiatus, even for a month or two, people forget about you and they move on. That’s why it’s important to have determination and that motivation to continue. You’re not going to have a boss looking over your shoulder telling you to upload a video or to make content. You are your own boss. If you’re not determined enough to do so, it’s going to be a very, very hard career to focus on. Confidence is important when filming a video. So what are your tips on honing that confidence in front of a camera. And with that, what do you think is the secret to creating a good YouTube video?

A lot of it has to do with practice. Even with my first video, I was awkward. Even today, I’m still awkward, especially when you have to record a greeting. When you say, “hi everyone!” – I have to do 50 of those before I find one that sounds like I’m actually talking to someone and not myself.

When you try too hard, people see that. They can spot it a mile away when you’re trying to act or when you’re trying to put up a front. So I truly believe that if you want to have a great personality, just be yourself. Even if you are awkward, there are billions of awkward people in this world that will totally relate to you. If that’s who you are, they’ll love that because authenticity is what sells. When you are who you are, people will want to be your friend. They’re going to want to know you, they’re going to want to follow you [and] they’re going to want to trust you. If you try to act, then for them it’s no different than an actor.

When you don’t try so hard, it actually works out better – that’s what I noticed.

Millions of people watch your videos. And now we want to know what you watch on YouTube! What are some of your favourite YouTube channels?

There are actually a lot that I love. I can’t list all of them out but some that I think will inspire you is iamkareno. She’s a beauty and fashion influencer that has incredible fashion sense. She does very beautiful makeup looks that are simple – that anyone can apply. Her editing is amazing, even for me. I love how she edits and I have a pretty high standard with editing.  

Another beauty YouTuber that I love is Glam&Gore. She makes the coolest makeup looks. She does special effects makeup (and) she teaches people how to do it at home. 

Also – I know this is random and it has nothing to do with beauty – but I love watching Russian dash cams. They’re basically Russian people who have dash cams on their cars because they need it for insurance. It’s crazy when you see how they drive. I feel like I learn a lot about driving just [by] watching those videos.

What do you think is the power of beauty bloggers/vloggers in the beauty industry? Has it changed from the time you started until today?

I think the power boils down to authenticity. That’s something that, to be quite honest, the idea of authority telling someone that this is the beauty trend no longer to this new paradigm of how beauty is becoming very, very democratic and subjective. It’s more personalised, so that’s why beauty influencers are incredibly important in growing any brand because you have people who are relatable, who are authentic that the best filters and the best editing program can never replicate.

That’s crucial when you want to grow any business because [in] this day and age, people are smarter when they shop. They want to read reviews. They want to watch these videos of swatches to see the quality of the makeup because, [in] the economic point of view, it’s not doing very well. A lot of people are having a hard time finding a job [and] paying the bills, and so (when) they want to buy something, they want to make sure that it’s worth it.

That’s why they watch these videos and these reviews. So when you have an influencer that is trusted and well respected, and has a lot of followers, it’s so much better to work with them than to do a really big ad campaign and put it on billboards. That doesn’t work anymore. In fact, there was a study this year [that] showed that 87% of women today trust in beauty influencers on YouTube and online over celebrity-paid endorsements. This is happening in the Western world. You can only imagine what’s going to happen in the Eastern world and how it’s going to change within the next year. That’s why I would put all my money and my resources into helping these creators and investing in them because they are the future.

And finally...what inspires you the most?

I think what inspires me the most is my own curiosity. I’ve always loved learning new things and when I started YouTube, I wasn’t a makeup expert. I was someone who loved makeup, and I was a beauty junkie – that’s the best word for me to say so. So I wasn’t coming from a point of “I know everything and I’m going to teach you”. My perspective was, “I want to know what you think and I’m learning it along the way.” So that being said, I really truly see that this will apply to so many different markets and different genres besides beauty. Everyone’s going to share what works best for [him/her] – and vice versa.


Inspired by Michelle Phan's tips? Share your own beauty creator journey with us in the comments below and we may just feature your channel soon!