YouTube has begun a new initiative aimed at empowering female creators, with an exciting partnership with the United Nations to appoint top YouTube female creators as new Change Ambassadors, encouraging their fans to #OwnYourVoice and speak up for gender equality. Makeup artist and blogger Jackie Aina is one of these inspiring females, and I had a chance to ask her a few questions about her personal story. Lucky me, because she’s incredible!
HelloGiggles: Jackie, your story is absolutely captivating and incredibly inspiring. For those of our readers who are less familiar with you, can you give a brief description of your journey?
Jackie Aina: I can go on and on for hours about my journey! But to keep it short, I’m just a girl who has always been a creator from a very young age. When I got to my college years it was frowned upon in my family to pursue an artistic career (at the time I just KNEW I was destined to be a fashion designer but parents had other plans), so I took the traditional college route. After two years of frustration, I dropped out and joined the military and somewhere along the way picked up makeup as a hobby which then turned into a career while recording YouTube videos in secret back in 2009 when it wasn’t as popular as it is now. I’ve stuck with it since then and the rest, as they say, is history.
HG: When was that (as my guru, Oprah, refers to it) “aha!” moment for you where you realized you needed a change?
JA: For me, I would say when I began my YouTube channel. I was obsessed with watching tutorials and it was right around the time I first started dabbling in makeup professionally. I used the internet and YouTube and beauty forums as a source for inspiration and new application tips and techniques, but none of the girls looked like me so I could only learn so much. It was actually my best friend who talked me into starting my channel!
HG: Many people might not associate someone who’s served in the military as someone who also is passionate about beauty and style. What inspired you in this direction and is there anyone in your life who influenced you to explore this field?
JA: I would definitely say my ex-husband inspired me to join the military. At the time, I was so disconnected from being in a college — I really didn’t even want to attend, I was pursuing a career I had zero passion in (pharmacy). So when he joined, I was exposed to so many of the opportunities I had no idea existed in the military. So it got to the point where I was like…I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life, but I sure as hell can’t do this! Aside from that I felt like I was really lacking in doing something to give back to my community and my country. So I dropped out and joined the Army.
HG: I absolutely love the way you use humor in all of your videos. Do you think having a fantastic sense of humor has helped you deal with your struggles in past years?
JA: I’m very resilient, I always manage to pull a smile in the most awkward or stressful situations. Sometimes that can be a good and bad thing, but I genuinely am just a goofy person so I’ve accepted it!
HG: The Ambassador Program has just started this March (Women’s History Month) and will last this whole year. What topics are you most excited to explore with your fan base and in your content?
JA: I’ve decided that I really want to take an emphasis on empowering female business owners. I think if more women got more support in starting their own business or existing business we can employ other women, we won’t have to worry about pay gaps if more of us are at the top!
HG: You talk about your experience as a woman in the military and the ways you were treated. Can you talk about some experiences you had where you felt you weren’t treated as an equal because of your gender, and how you dealt with it?
JA: I feel that people assume attractive women in general are incompetent and are just prissy. I work hard, but I also like looking good. People have to learn to get over it. I never saw the connection between “laziness” and personal appearance but apparently others do, so I work extremely hard to not be judged on a new job or new assignment. I’ve even been told by superiors to “tone down the makeup,” which I find quite odd. I realize the average woman doesn’t have the time and knowledge to put on a full face of makeup a few times a week so “toned down” is defined differently from person to person, and that’s totally OK, but as long as I am within regulations of the standards the Army upholds for wearing makeup and I am doing my job, people need to just get over it!
HG: You flew to NYC to the United Nations to meet the other six women ambassadors and hear their stories. Was there a story that surprised you or opened your eyes to a problem you hadn’t considered before? Do you think it might affect your future decisions or thought process in life?
JA: I definitely was open to hearing Ingrid discuss issues with public bathrooms within the LGBT community and how trans men/women are often shamed when using them. To me, I really thought, how would I feel if I felt uncomfortable doing daily routine things like using the bathroom? Something that I do like every hour? That was so sad to me.
HG: Studies reveal the reality of where we stand in gender equality. What are actions we can take to aid in gender equality? The concept can be a bit daunting but what are the small steps you might suggest to a person who would like to make a difference?
JA: I think it starts with our day-to-day interactions with one another. Never assume someone is less than you because they are a man or a woman.
HG: How do you define feminism? Do you consider yourself a feminist?
JA: Feminism, to me, means I care about the rights, equality, and overall well-being of women. This is why I think it’s important for men to be feminists too. I don’t think it has anything to do with superiority or anything like that. I would consider myself feminist.
HG: You clearly are a strong and powerful woman who many might call a feminist, yet some people may view makeup videos as superficial. Do you see that as a misconception and what made you chose to focus on makeup videos?
JA: Makeup is more than just superficial. I’m just a creator, I really like color. So if I want to paint I will, whether it be on a canvas or a face. I focused on makeup in my videos because I saw an area that was lacking which was beauty and tips for women (and men, since I do have male viewers, too). And as my audience grew I came to realize — NO ONE is telling people of darker skin that they are beautiful regularly and I wanted to do that. I also got sick of going to makeup counters and being told what didn’t look good or work on darker skin so I essentially took it on as a challenge to prove otherwise!
HG: In these videos, you show so much of yourself, where do you draw the line between public and what should remain private?
JA: Most of my life remains private. I’m just really good at sticking to the surface level stuff to not compromise too much. If I share a life experience it will be something that had happened years before, that way it’s not like I really put ALL my business out there. And usually I only share super personal things if I want to inspire someone else.
HG: #YouTubeBlack was trending on Twitter highlighting “YouTube’s 1st event honoring influential Black creators,” which you attended! What are your thoughts on the YouTube community and whether they embrace diversity and or people of color?
JA: I think YouTube is one of the most culturally diverse outlets on the planet and there is so much talent. But I want to really challenge the viewers, be open to supporting and watching content creators even if they look different than you. I get comments like, “I don’t have dark skin, but I love your videos!” And I get it, people want to watch who they can relate to and that’s why I started my channel in the first place. But I watch YouTubers of all shades and backgrounds. For years, it felt like because I don’t appeal to all races because of my skin color a lot of people would, without realizing it, just subconsciously not watch my videos or other YouTubers’ videos and just tune us out. I may not have fair skin but I LOVE Lauren Curtis. I just like makeup! And I invite anyone else who loves it as much as I do to not be put off by myself or any other YouTuber just because we don’t all have the same skin color!