Michelle Phan's incredible journey from bedroom vlogger to beauty entrepreneur makes us reevaluate every second we spend scrolling through celebrity Instagram feeds. The former art school student, who uploaded her first YouTube makeup tutorial six years ago, has garnered over 5 million YouTube subscribers and nearly one billion video views.
With so many eyes on Phan's steady hand and ears tuned into her reassuring voice, it's no surprise that she was able to turn her passion into a profitable enterprise. She is the founder of FAWN (a YouTube lifestyle network for women), the brains behind the beauty social networking site and sampling program Ipsy and, most recently, Phan launched her own cosmetics line backed by L'Oréal called Em. And she's accomplished all of this by the age of 26.
Phan may now be a part of the millionaire's club, but after recently talking to the YouTube guru, we're convinced she's the same humble girl she was back in this amateur natural makeup video. Below, she reminisces about her earliest makeup memories, sounds off on "no-makeup" selfies and shares the secrets to her flawless complexion (hint: it involves honey).
On how her love affair with makeup got started... The first time someone applied makeup on me was when I was five years old. It was my mother, of course, and Halloween. I was supposed to dress up as a lion because that was the only costume we had. So she took out her red lipstick and drew this upside down red triangle on my nose and drew three whiskers on my cheeks.
The first time I remember seeing makeup was when I was at my mom's nail salon. I was three or four years old and I was there during her lunch break while she was putting red lipstick on. So again, I think red is a vibrant, eye-catching color that just grabs your attention.
On how she's evolved with her fans... I think back then there weren't a lot of variety of makeup tutorials that were readily available for viewers. So a lot of people were just asking me how to do the basic smokey eye, how to use concealer... those very basic and simple things. As I progressed, my subscribers did with me and they wanted to learn other tricks like how to create a smoldering smokey eye and how to use glitter on the eyes. It was really interesting how I was improving my makeup skills and my subscribers were improving with me.
On the celebrities she wish she could transform... Audrey Hepburn -- I would have loved to create a punk-rock look on her. Or Marilyn Monroe. She's known for her classic red lip, but I'd want to do a more doll-like look. Something really innocent.
On the one beauty product she uses every day... I use sunscreen every single day, even if I'm not going outside in the sun because I'm near a window. I can always get those UV rays on my face, so I always apply sunscreen on my face and neck. It's like brushing my teeth, I feel weird if I don't apply sunscreen.
On what she absolutely steers clear of in YouTube videos... Anything that's very racial I try to stay away from. I try my best not to step on anyone's toes when it comes to gender, religion or beliefs. I'm very secular when it comes to my videos. It's all about the makeup.
On the "no-makeup" selfie movement... I think it can be very aspirational for girls who feel the need to wear makeup and they see a public figure or someone they know that is bare-faced. But then some of them I look at and am like, "Girl, I can see a little bit of eyeliner and concealer on you. No lie! No lie!" Because let's be real, if you really wanted to upload a no-makeup picture, do it when you first wake up in the morning with no filter and hashtag it #nomakeup. But I really think they just want to feel beautiful and get compliments. There's really nothing harmful about it. I just think that it's really funny.
On whether she believes wearing makeup is a good thing for women... I think wearing makeup is no different than wearing clothes. We don't have to wear clothes. Well, we do [laughs], or we'll get in trouble. But we don't have to. Look at fashion, it brings art and lots of personality to your look. I feel the same way about makeup. Makeup is no different than clothes and accessories -- it's embellishments for your face. And it also gives you creative freedom. You get to have that moment in front the mirror every morning and give yourself self-love. You're making yourself up beautiful which is essentially self-love.
On how she keeps her skin from breaking out... Drinking lots of water, but sometimes it can taste boring, so I drink a lot of green tea. It's great, has antioxidants and is good for you skin. I drink just as much of that as I do water. Besides that, sunscreen is key for me. And I don't wash my face in the morning. I know that might sound gross to some people but essentially when you're sleeping and your pillows are clean, all you need to do in the morning is wipe down [your face] with a wet cloth. A lot of the times when you're constantly washing your face over and over again, it dries the skin and your skin will produce more oil which causes breakouts. So it's all about keeping balance on your skin and applying a light moisturizer in the day time.
On the homemade beauty recipes she swears by... Growing up, before my mom would cook our rice, she would rinse the rice out and pour it out three times. And after the fourth pour, she'd pour it into a little bowl and she'd rinse her face with that. It's known to help whiten the skin and nourish it because essentially inside the water you have all the essential nutrients from the rice.
The Manuka honey face mask is another favorite of mine that I actually do. I know there are these people that recommend crazy masks and I'm like, "There is no way you're putting that on your face!" But I do put Manuka honey on my face. I take a teaspoon and warm it up. Then using a brush, I apply it on my face while it's still warm because it feels really, really good. I just leave it on for five minutes and rinse it off in the shower. My skin will feel baby soft smooth.
Check out some of our favorite makeup video tutorials by Michelle Phan:
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