In YouTube’s heyday, the beauty influencer was god. I’m sure you remember the Internet-surpassing cultural influence of the beauty guru that spanned from around 2010-2017. These content creators made names for themselves through makeup tutorials, product reviews, and other fun, casual, beauty-related content. Stars like Jaclyn Hill, Manny MUA, and Bretman Rock pretty much influenced the trajectory of the makeup industry via their YouTube channels, which they turned into multi-million dollar careers. Some gurus even surpassed YouTube fame by launching their own makeup companies. The beauty community on YouTube was the place to be for any and all makeup-related content. I still remember learning how to copy Kim Kardashian’s eyeliner wing from Jaclyn Hill when I was in high school, using a cheap, Walmart liner while saving up for fancier products from Sephora. The beauty community as I recall it was, in fact, a cultural reset of sorts.
But, the beauty influencer doesn’t have the same hold on the beauty world as it once did. Why is that? It seems to boil down to two things: drama within the guru community, combined with a shift in the popular style of content on YouTube itself. But nonetheless, many beauty gurus are still on the Internet, providing content for an, albeit smaller, audience of makeup lovers. But, is the relevancy of the beauty guru on its last leg?
According to the social media analysis site SocialBlade, the subscriber counts on most of the OG beauty gurus are pretty stagnant. It’s not that people are unsubbing from their channels, but rather, new people aren’t coming through. So, why’d the beauty guru die? In my opinion, there are really two reasons. Firstly, the general vibe of YouTube shifted around 2017.
Take YouTube megastar Emma Chamberlain, who rose to fame the same year. The content that made her popular was essentially the antithesis of everything beauty gurus stood for. The beauty community was attempting to portray “perfect:” airbrushed skin, luxury makeup, and skincare hauls, expensive vacations, and high-end product placements. And, what’s less relatable to the average YouTube viewer than all that? In contrast, Emma Chamberlain blew up because she was relatable. Her first ever video to go viral, entitled “We Owe the Dollar Store an Apology,” was a haul of Dollar Store products that the average viewer could pretty much envision themselves purchasing without breaking the bank. This is what made Emma loveable to her viewers.
But, changes in YouTube’s algorithm can’t be the only reason. There has to still be some sort of community that wants to binge on long-winded explanations of foundation resilience or eyeliner cut-crease technique. That brings us to our second reason that the beauty guru age is fading out–the toxicity within the creator community.
Do the names Jeffree Star, Tati Westbrook, and James Charles ring a bell? If they do, it’s probably because their beauty community drama basically destroyed the Internet not only once in the Summer of 2019, but twice–again in Summer 2020. There was that “incident” in 2019 wherein Tati Westbrook posted an absolutely viral video slamming then 19-year old beauty guru James Charles. Later, James Charles jumped back with his own rebuttal video in defense of Tati’s allegations against him. The internet community, as well as other popular gurus like Jeffree Star, fiending for the drama, scrambled to choose whose side they were on. The drama died out, and then suddenly revived itself a year later. And, it enveloped viewers back into the excitement of public celebrity fights.
But ultimately, drama like this makes the beauty community go viral for all the wrong reasons. Their popularity during their drama sessions has less to do with their talents as makeup artists, and more with their entertainment value as a celebrity-Esque influencer. At first, I’ll admit, it was kind of fun to watch. But after a while, you remember that this drama is centered around YouTubers whose careers involve makeup tips, and suddenly, the whole thing feels a bit silly.
Successful Beauty Gurus in 2021?
Are there even new beauty gurus jumping on the scene in 2021? Or, will avid beauty community viewers simply watch the OG gurus until their channels eventually die out for good? I honestly can’t think of the last time I’ve come across a good, old-fashioned “makeup tutorial” video in my YouTube inbox. However, as faded as the “beauty influencer” might seem, it’s undeniable that their content is still much-needed. I mean, makeup is pretty complicated. Who are we to look to for tips on which color eyeshadow to use, or which mascara is the least clumpy, if not a guru? It feels as if the beauty influencer can’t really go out of style entirely unless makeup itself follows the same path, which we all know will probably never happen.
So, imagine you woke up one morning and decided you wanted to be a beauty guru. You’d probably have to revamp the classic formula and approach the career choice with a new edge. For example, many gurus and influencers are shifting from YouTube to the TikTok platform. On TikTok, you can condense lengthy tutorials into a video that lasts under a minute, making those with slightly shorter attention spans much more likely to tune in. Guru-ing on YouTube is a bit harder these days. But, most YouTubers who attempt to enter the beauty game in 2021 have to follow a new formula of content creation. Videos are shorter, the editing styles are more playful, and relatability is key.
But, who knows? With the way in which trends cycle in and out so rapidly these days, the “classic” beauty guru could revive as an Internet icon in a few years. However, only time will tell.
Feature Image from freestocks on Unsplash