We talked to Michelle Phan about building a YouTube brand as a woman
Michelle Phan, beauty guru, blogger, entrepreneur and YouTuber extraordinaire, is currently on top of the world. Not only is she a top-tier YouTuber (she has 7.5 million subscribers and 1.1 billion total views and counting), Michelle is a totally self-made woman, and an inspiration to aspiring boss ladies everywhere. She started on YouTube when the platform was just in its baby stages and built her personal brand across platforms, posting to her blog in addition to making the killer makeup tutorial videos that made her famous.
Last week, Michelle launched ICON, a global lifestyle brand that only propels her further into the stratosphere of ladies we love and look up to. We caught up with Michelle to talk all about her newest venture, as well as how she became one of the most successful brands on YouTube and her girl-power advice for other young women who want to follow in her footsteps.
HG: What inspired you to launch ICON?
MP: The past 8 years, I’ve been creating these YouTube videos and I’ve learned a lot as a creator — learning how to edit, learning how to film, learning how to create my own world, and also building my own business. I wanted to apply what I’ve learned and help creator other and future creators a way so they can also create their own brands and produce content where we bring in a higher production. I meet a lot of creators and I was inspired by them because they were telling me about their struggles, so we’ve been searching and curating a lot of talent in the lifestyle division, in DIY, cooking, health, fitness, beauty and fashion. And it goes beyond just women, we’ve been working with a lot of male creators who are just visionary and want to get into the lifestyle place too. So it’s just been a crazy ride because we just launched and it’s been very successful and we’re getting lots and lots of creators who want to join the platform.
HG: What was it like building a digital brand as a woman?
MP: When I started, I was 16 and blogging and the space was still so underdeveloped. It was still in its infancy, the digital space itself, but I knew this was the future because if you look at how media has changed so much from when it first started out. I understood what was important though was good storytelling and good content. And so at a very early age, I was blogging but I wasn’t just blogging about random things, I was telling stories, I was sharing my world, my little universe with whoever was reading it back in 2002. Not expecting anyone to read, I developed a large community and those were the people who became my community. I didn’t have a lot of friends in high school, but I developed close friendships online and I felt like this was kind of my escape.
So, to a lot of women out there who are starting out, there’s amazing potential now. It’s not like it was 10 years ago when blogging or vlogging is considered secondary or an afterthought. Digital is where everyone is looking at. Generation Z and Millennials are consuming more digital content than traditional media. And it’s exciting to see how that’s evolving so fast. So for women out there who want to be inspired, just be inspired by your passion. Let your passion lead you where you need to be, because if you’re doing it only for the money or the fame, you’re going to get burned out really fast. Oftentimes people forget that the Internet is a 24-hour shop. It’s open 24 hours and you have to constantly think of new ideas and create new videos, new content, interact and have engaging conversations with your followers. It’s like a startup and there’s a lot of work that goes into it. You’re wearing a million hats. You are your own editor, your own producer, your own PR, your own personality and talent at the same time. Any women out there who are really good at being multi-functional and are multi-faceted, digital is really a great place for them to grow their brand and for them to find a long-lasting career where they can control their own destiny.
HG: What was it like transitioning from being primarily a blogger to being a YouTuber and putting your own face to your personal brand?
MP: It was actually an easy transition. I love writing and I love telling stories via pictures and writing. A lot of people don’t know this, but i went to school to learn children’s book illustration and so I really wanted to get into the print world to write stories and to illustrate them. However, there is something magical about a video. There’s something magical about seeing something come to life and watching everything in motion. Tutorials in general, they work better when it’s in motion, when you’re seeing the visuals and you’re seeing it come to life. Oftentimes, people are visual learners and so when they’re watching a video, whether it’s eyeliner being applied or a tire being changed, people tend to learn easier because it’s a video and they can see the action and the motion and they can mimic it. But when I was transitioning from blogging to video, video is a different monster. You have to write out the concept or a script, you have to have an idea unless it’s a vlog and it’s a little more spontaneous. You have to know how to edit, when’s the right timing to put a certain sound effect and all that jazz. There’s a lot of work that goes into it, more so than blogging, in my opinion, because I’m in both of those worlds. But I have to say, it’s so fulfilling when you see everything come together and come to life. There’s nothing more exhilarating to a creator than seeing their work live online and people are interacting with it and watching it.
HG: What advice do you have for creators dealing with the negative feedback and sometimes even bullying that sometimes comes with putting yourself out there creatively online?
MP: Take every criticism with a grain of salt. It’s not personal. You know a lot of people who are bullying online, they’re displacing their anger, stress and resentment onto you. So I tell a lot of my followers who do get bullied, you know, you’re a punching bag to these bullies. So see it as not a bad thing. You’re a punching bag; you’re strong enough to take the hits and you can overcome them. Also, never retaliate back and, if you do say anything, say something positive and if someone is very, very vindictive, block them. It takes three seconds to block someone. And if they come back again and they make a new account block them. I promise like after eight times of you blocking them, they’re going to be too tired to keep creating new emails to register and create a new account.
(Image via here.)