#8 The year is 2011 and I'm watching my first beauty tutorial
Oprah, vulnerability, and mega-influencers!
You’re reading Try Stuff Energy, a weekly-ish newsletter on how it feels like to put yourself out into the word and well, try stuff, like publishing this newsletter. Written by Caitlin Sowers.
On a September morning I woke up to a text from a friend with a quick snap of her in a floral midi length dress and the following:
Is this September wedding vibes????
Elevate with fancy shoes??
Need lipstick advice!!
Ahhhhh… how I love to be on the receiving end of such a text. There are so many elements of beauty and fashion that compel me, but behind the scenes moments are by far the most endearing. Quick fire outfit texts to a girlfriend before a date, reading what beauty products chef Alison Roman secretly covets on Into the Gloss, mustering up the courage to ask the cool girl in the coffee shop what lipstick she’s wearing. The disarming affect of a beauty routine or fashion tip shared is pure magic. The honesty creates authenticity. The earnestness, intimacy. The vulnerability, connection.
When my friend Rachel wisely relayed to me last week that “you can’t have connection without vulnerability”, I thought about Youtube. I flashback to the year 2011 and I’m watching my first video. ThePersianBabe has uploaded an everyday smokey eye tutorial. I’ve searched it because girls at my university campus bar are wearing eyeshadow and I decide I should too. I sit wide-eyed watching her smoke out her lower lash line, in awe of both the fact she knows how to wear eyeshadow and that she’s recorded herself with the gumption to share it with the world. It overflowed with confidence, exploration, creativity and not giving a f*ck what anyone else thought. It was badass because it was vulnerable, not in spite of it. As a teenager who took herself way too seriously, the whole thing ENTHRALLED me from start to finish. Six years later and thousands more videos watched, I’d eventually muster the courage to start my own channel.
The video that started it all.
What Youtube has now become ten years later is funny to me considering its origin. As a democratic platform pre-algorithm, anyone could film themselves and hit upload with equal opportunity. There were no smoke and mirrors, no agendas, no advertisement, its earnestness palpable. It was lowbrow and it was delicious. Unlike watching an actress in a movie, watching a Youtuber felt like hanging out with a friend. Livelihoods didn’t depend on watch time, husbands weren’t hired as full time editors, drones weren’t flown on vacations, and professional photographers weren’t hired for “candid” street style pics. As I write this over 20,000 Youtubers have over a million subscribers. You would be hard pressed to find an A-list celebrity with a beauty brand who hasn’t first strategically launched a youtube channel. It’s become precisely what its origin opposed: a Hollywood production.
Yet, even amongst the opulence and production, the smartest brands will point out that it’s micro-creators who largely convert sales. Sasha of Ilia Beauty recently told Hillary Kerr of Who What Wear that has been the case for the influencers they’ve worked with and how the brand strategies its partnerships, pointing out that large influencers seldom see the same conversions. This is deeply interesting to me. If authenticity is a highly profitable commodity, is it ever possible to maintain at scale?
Kylie Jenner launched her cosmetics business with “lip kits” in 2015, containing a matching matte lipstick and liner. A smart business move, considering Kylie had become known for over-lining her lips to help her feel more confident. Her first launch of 15,000 units sold out within seconds. Forbes would later list her as the youngest self-made billionaire. Would her makeup line have been as successful if it wasn’t born from an insecurity publicly shared?
Kim Kardashian made a similar business move when she entered into the shape wear market with Skims, created from her love of shape wear and inability to find the right style for her curves and outfits. Most would steer far away from publicly sharing snapshots of their hacked undergarment contraptions, while Kim owned it and cashed in. Are the Kardashian-Jenner family the exception to the micro-influencer, or did sharing their lives so authentically for all those years make anything they touch turn to gold?
And what is fame anyway, to the rest of us? I still needed to scrub my oven out last week. I’m far less interested in the money to be made from vulnerability (hence why my channel has remained a creative free for all), but rather the fact we all crave it while struggling to offer it. The truth is I think we think we’re being vulnerable, when what we’re really doing is just dipping a toe in, holding back so we can ensure we’re still liked, respected, or admired. Well, that ain’t it. There is a leap to it, a suspended moment where you aren’t sure you’ll land understood, and a certainty that a lot of the time you won’t. You, your art, your product, your business, won’t be for everyone. As Oprah the GOAT says, “You can’t live a brave life without disappointing some people. The people who are rooting for your rise, will not be disappointed.”
Sparks of Try Stuff Energy ✨
Stylist Kate Young’s youtube channel is intelligent, entertaining, and above all unbelievably sincere. I love watching people do what they do so well.
Investor and Founder Sari’s Azout’s quote on how she wants to spend her days, to which I say SAME. Let’s not overthink it.
“I want to spend my time thinking, creating, and ideating with a small group of people to build a beautiful, creative, values-aligned business.”
The film Promising Young Woman. The writing, the cinematography, the acting. True and clever and heart-wrenching and brilliant. Rent it over on Youtube for the price of one cashew milk latte. Guaranteed to be more satisfying.
Hi 👋, I’m Caitlin Sowers. I started sharing my life online via youtube videos in 2017. I love the art of story telling and am deeply curious about what I can learn by listening to others’ stories as well as sharing my own. As a proud multi-hyphenate I have more interests than I know what to do with.
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