Gen-Z names defining beauty
Those who are driving Gen-Z beauty are celebrating individuality, championing self-care and encouraging experimentation.
Along with Instagram makeup fans and TikTok skinfluencers, they include gamers, dancers, musicians and young brand founders.
This is a guide to the established and breakout names informing beauty and, more importantly, culture today.
Millie Bobby Brown
When TikTok makeup star Abby Roberts describes her personal style as “a mishmash of so many different things,” she’s not exaggerating. Her more than 16 million followers have been drawn to her elaborate transformations including Poison Ivy, Draco Malfoy and “Game of Thrones’” Jon Snow. At one point, she even became a “cursed” Teletubby.
Roberts started vlogging on YouTube in 2013 at age 12, but TikTok has been her claim to fame since joining the platform in January 2019. Spending hours on self-taught intricate makeup looks, the 19-year-old British makeup artist’s unique style has caught the eye of major brands including Charlotte Tilbury, Revolution, Revlon, Morphe and L'Oréal.
In 2021, she’s still creating dramatic costume looks -- one recent TikTok was inspired by the new Lil Nas X video -- but her style is evolving. “When I first started, it was all about the really super creative makeup, and there was a massive trend of everyone jumping on that,” she said. “The trends have evolved lately. I've seen more tutorial kind of stuff, going back to the basics.”
TikTok is still her “main source” of beauty inspiration. In addition to makeup, she’s embraced hair dye; her color at the time of this interview was a bright pink, and in a recent TikTok, she dyed her eyebrows pink to match.
“I've done purple, pink, red, blonde -- every [hair color] you can think of,” she said. “Over lockdown, everyone has just resorted to dying their own hair out of boredom.”
Some of her looks have also evoked e-girl-inspired beauty trends that are mainstream on TikTok. “The e-girl is still thriving right now,” she said. “I have milked the e-girl trends as much as I can. I've done so many at this point.”
Young influencers like Roberts are changing beauty aesthetics on social media. “With Gen Z, there definitely is a group of makeup trends that other generations don't really understand or maybe look down upon,” she said. “Other generations are like, ‘I don't understand why you're all doing eye bags and drawing them on, when I have the worst eye bags ever naturally.’ But I think that's kind of what is fun and fresh about Gen Z -- its embrace of these flaws or things that were seen as imperfections in the past.”
Roberts has also branched into merch and music. She aims to release a single “later this year, maybe this summer.” She’s also interested in pursuing a makeup brand. “It's been something that I've been working on for a while, trying to find the right people to work with. I definitely don't want to rush into putting out a product that I'm not proud of.”
By: Liz Flora
The e-girl is still thriving right now.
By: Liz Flora
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Though TikTokers may be trying to steal her crown, Gen Z has only one queen: Selena Gomez. Gomez has grown up alongside zoomers as well as young millennials, and is one of the few celebrities that has allowed her full truth to be on display. This real time accessibility has made Gomez’s story very much her fans’ story.
“I’m pretty open and have shared my journey, the good and the bad, throughout the years,” said Gomez. “It wasn’t until the past few years that I’ve shifted my perspective on vulnerability. I realize now that it’s one of my biggest strengths. I think Gen Z really embraces vulnerability.”
That transparency has made Rare Beauty, the beauty brand she founded last year, one of the standout launches of 2020. Rare Beauty’s mission of makeup and mental health is one that other brands are now replicating. However, few can pull it off like Gomez, given her recent diagnosis with bipolar disorder.
“One of our goals is to normalize mental health conversations, and I love that Gen Z is as open about going to therapy as much as they are about sharing what their favorite lipstick is,” she said.
For instance, “Rare Chats,” a small group community meeting that launched during Covid, allows the brand’s far flung fans to connect over Zoom. “We talk about life, what shows we’re watching and how our mental health is,” she said. “It’s refreshing that these open conversations are flowing.”
“Rare Chats” has also informed the beauty brand’s positioning. “It’s given us an opportunity to hear directly about what [the audience is] looking for from our brand and our social content. We’ve had a lot of requests asking for mental health support from vetted resources. So we have published content with myself talking to Dr. Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general. And once a month, we ask our community to submit questions, and a psychiatrist answers them,” she said.
That kind of ongoing dialogue is what Gomez believes is a standout quality of Gen Z. “They’re really passionate and they do their research on brands. I think it’s so cool that they want to make sure they’re supporting companies that align with their values,” she said.
The larger point for Rare Beauty and Gomez, though, is that there ”there’s no ‘right’ way to perceive beauty.”
“I love that Gen Z is so open and embraces their uniqueness,” said Gomez. “It’s refreshing to have a group celebrate and embrace exactly who they are.”
Singer, actress and founder, Rare Beauty
By: Priya Rao
I love that Gen Z is as open about going to therapy as much as they are about sharing what their favorite lipstick is.
Loren Gray is unusual when it comes to emerging TikTok content creators because she has been on the platform for years -- she joined its predecessor Musical.ly in 2015. The 18-year-old has since ascended to become one of TikTok’s biggest stars, with nearly 52 million followers. Gray has worked with brands like Revlon and Clarins, and often shares videos of her own glam-up beauty routines alongside lip sync videos. Gray, who was bullied when she was younger, refers to her fans as “Angels.” She is currently attending college and studying business, while also juggling content creation and her jewelry brand &Always, and filming an upcoming reality series for Snapchat. She was previously signed with Virgin Records and Capitol Records until February, but is now working as an independent musical artist.
How has your relationship with beauty evolved since you first joined TikTok?
“When I was younger I always relied on other people or things for validation, especially when it came to how I looked. For a while, I was extremely insecure and even now, I still have those days. I've learned to love what and who I see when I look in the mirror. I try to teach other people to do the same. It's not always easy, but we are all beautiful in our own way and need to remember that.”
How do you feel about being so vulnerable on social media?
“I've always been extremely open and vulnerable with my fans since I've built real, personal relationships with so many of them. I help them with their personal struggles and they help me with mine. I love that part of social media and being able to connect with them in that way, but I do always have to remind myself that sometimes I need to draw a line and protect myself. All I want to do is connect to and help others, so if being open and vulnerable about my own struggles does that, then I will definitely continue to do so.”
How do you approach your social media presence on other platforms like Instagram, TikTok and Triller?
“Whenever I give advice to others on best practices on any platform, I always use the word ‘organic.’ The content you produce has to feel organic to your brand and to who you are, or it simply won't connect with your audience. Also, as you post for a long period of time, you learn to pick up on what your fans enjoy and what they don't. It's important to keep all of that in mind when making new content. Most importantly, though, social media should be fun, and if you're not having fun with it, your followers will know and it won't work.”
Singer and entrepreneur
By: Emma Sandler
The content you produce has to feel organic to your brand and to who you are.
By: Emma Sandler
We’re still early into 2021, and Addison Rae is wasting no time staking her claim as the year’s biggest breakout star. 2020 put her on the map as a member of TikTok’s elite: She raked in an estimated $5 million and was the highest-paid TikToker as of October 2020, thanks to merch sales and sponsored opportunities including an ambassadorship with American Eagle. However, she’s swinging for the bleachers this year. She’s already graced Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show” stage to perform her hit single “Obsessed,” and she’ll be featured in the upcoming remake of the 1999 movie “She’s All That.”
What’s more, Rae’s Item Beauty line continues to get buzz. Launched in August 2020 by Madeby Collective, Rae, 20, was enlisted as chief innovation officer and co-founder. She advised on creative ideation for the launch campaign, including social content. She also provided ideas on product assortment and marketing the brand’s launch during Covid. Since, she’s been testing products and conceptualizing photoshoots.
"This project has taught me so much about starting a business,” said Rae. “I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset, but this has been my first time actually launching a brand. I’ve loved learning and being a part of the product development process…I’ve always loved makeup, so I love getting the opportunity to create products that allow people to be creative. Even more, I love that we’re making clean products that are still fun yet practical.”
For Item’s part, the team sees Addison’s involvement as an obvious choice for the brand. “Addison Rae embodies the ethos of Item Beauty: promoting self love, having fun and supporting individuality,” said Cristina Bartosch, senior brand director at Item Beauty. “She captures the zeal of a generation that is redefining beauty standards and is a leader within the Gen-Z community. Upon meeting Addison, her passion for clean beauty, her creative spirit and her desire to work super collaboratively on bringing Item to life were clear.”
The brand, which currently consists of 13 skin-care and makeup products (with expansive shade ranges), aligns with Rae’s public persona. “She’s open about her goals and insecurities, and shares moments of her personal life, all while growing up with her audience,” Bartosch said. "Addison asks her audience what they want to see from her and what they struggle with, and asks for advice directly, making her audience feel like they’re part of her life. This is also what makes her relatable in the beauty space. Addison has a simplistic approach to beauty, a natural look, yet isn’t afraid to experiment. She’s playful, not too serious and accessible.”
As for what Rae’s learned in her short life as an entrepreneur, Rae said, “There's no dream too big.”
Co-founder and chief innovation officer, Item Beauty
By: Dahvi Shira
I love that we’re making clean products that are still fun.
By: Dahvi Shira
YouTuber-turned-Gen Z-icon Emma Chamberlain has made relatability the core of her personal brand. This comes in the form of regularly documenting her acne struggles and, through solo drives, scouring Los Angeles for the best coffee.
“Very quickly, I realized how powerful it was to be open about how imperfect life really is,” said Chamberlain, 19. “I do my absolute best to be 100% myself on camera -- no acting, no sugarcoating. I talk to the camera like I’m talking to a friend.”
Her transparency and vulnerability have paid off, from a business standpoint. Her creative director title at Bad Habit skin care, owned by Morphe’s parent company, Forma Brands, has been well-received by fans and critics alike. Such approval is often difficult to achieve for an influencer with no professional background in beauty.
But her passion for natural beauty evolved organically. “Not wearing makeup on camera was something that came naturally when I first started my channel [in June 2017], because I didn’t feel like I had anyone to impress,” she said. “I was just making videos for myself. Once I started gaining a following, people found comfort in seeing me not trying to cover up my ‘flaws.’”
Her strong online presence initially caught the eye of Derek Blasberg, head of fashion and beauty partnerships at YouTube. He quickly coordinated a co-sponsorship between Chamberlain, YouTube and Louis Vuitton in 2019 for Paris Fashion Week.
But, the relationship with Bad Habit is much more personal. “This is the kind of brand I would've wanted to see a few years ago, when I was struggling with acne and felt totally left out of the skin-care conversation.”
“When they first sent me the products, they had no labels, no packaging. I basically went on a blind date with the Bad Habit products. The good news is that I fell in love with the formulas,” Chamberlain said. “Once I learned about the brand's mission [its tagline is ‘skincare that’s good to your skin, even when you’re not’] and saw the final creative direction, I knew I had to get involved. Bad Habit is like me in a skin-care brand: It’s fun, honest and real about the fact that life is far from perfect.”
The social media star, who’s also the founder of namesake Chamberlain Coffee company, is decidedly viewed as a role model today. But she makes it clear that life isn’t one-size-fits-all. The same goes for skin care.
“Skin care is personal. Find what works best for you. Don’t get discouraged when your best friend’s favorite product doesn’t work for you,” Chamberlain said. “Also, be patient. Your skin is a complex organ, and sometimes it’ll go through phases that are tough to deal with. Your beauty comes from within. Don’t value your worth based on how your skin looks.”
Creative director and global ambassador, Bad Habit
Bad Habit is like me in a skin-care brand: It’s fun, honest and real about the fact that life is far from perfect.
Prior to starting his skin-care-focused TikTok account, @yayayayoung, Young Yuh, 31, had been working in the beauty industry for five-plus years in sales and social media roles. But, he had always wanted to try his hand as a full-time content creator. After being let go from his previous job just before the pandemic lockdown in March 2020, he finally found his opportunity.
His TikTok account has since attracted 1.5 million followers, and his Instagram following has grown to more than 600,000. This has led to established partnerships with brands including Neutrogena, Belif and CeraVe. Yuh said his desire is to make videos that are both entertaining and educational, via jokes and dramatic reactions to products. This strategy has earned him great fanfare with his followers who have affectionately dubbed him “Egg King,” in reference to his bald appearance.
“My friends and my family used to call me that. Then [on TikTok] everyone started to say, 'All hail the skin-care king.' and I said, 'No, I'm just a normal person, I'm not a skin-care king -- just call me the egg king,’” said Yuh.
With this newfound traction, Yuh said he does not plan to create his own skin-care brand, because there are already so many great options in the market. Instead, his ambition is to build his own content creation and influencer agency. Aside from Instagram and TikTok, Yuh said he has experimented with Clubhouse, but is not yet convinced of its content creation opportunities. He is, however, excited by YouTube Shorts, which expanded to the U.S. in beta in March 2021.
“I truly believe YouTube Shorts is the next big thing, in terms of short-form content, because they implement everything all on one platform. They have the YouTube community tab, both long and short [video] formats, and YouTube Stories,” Yuh said.
I'm not a skin-care king -- just call me the egg king.
Sydnee McRae first started posting on social media in 2017, via makeup tutorials on YouTube. But after joining TikTok in Jan. 2020, she quickly ascended to 1.1 million followers as of April 2021. Her viral dances like the “Captain Hook,” which corresponds with Megan Thee Stallion’s song of the same name, helped elevate her profile. Since March 2020, she has landed brand endorsements from Oliveda skin care and Fresh, and has also become an outspoken advocate for pay parity between creators of color, who often create original work, like choreographed dances, that is repeated by white creators in videos.
TikTok has previously been accused of unintentionally downgrading content by people of color and users the platform deems as undesirable. McRae said she has experienced shadow-banning on TikTok, which is a practice employed by a platform to limit or block a user’s content from the rest of an online community. Shadow-banning is hard to prove, though McRae said she began to notice a decline in her posts’ viewership and engagement in late 2020, and that some of her videos have been taken down for violating community guidelines -- some have since been restored.
“The more we press the issue, the more that people will understand that this is a problem,” McRae said. “I'm happy to be able to be in this conversation and use my voice as a Black woman to be able to say, 'This is unfair.'”
In a written response, a TikTok spokesperson said that the platform is “committed to seeing that our policies and practices are fair and equitable,” but declined to comment on shadowbanning and McRae’s account of events.
Being more vocal about her experiences as a Black creator has not impacted her brand relationships, said McRae. In fact, since March, she has received a modest increase in pitched partnerships from beauty brands. Given that beauty is her original passion, McRae said she is considering further leaning into it as she evolves her social media presence. She already has another TikTok account, @BeautyofSkai, which she created in April 2020. It exclusively features beauty content and has approximately 40,000 followers. She describes her beauty and fashion aesthetic as “girly, pink and extra.”
“I'm trying to figure out if I should make my backup TikTok my main [account] or incorporate something different. There is definitely going to be a transition, but I'm excited,” she said.
Dancer, content creator and advocate
I'm happy to be able to be in this conversation and use my voice as a Black woman.
Like many other new content creators, Mireya Rios, 30, saw her TikTok career take off during the Covid-19 quarantine. Her videos that often feature ASMR and close-ups of product textures were a soothing respite from the realities of the pandemic. She now has 3.6 million followers and has worked with brands like Thayer’s Natural Remedies, Charlotte Tilbury and Philosophy. Rios, who was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico and went to school in Switzerland, said she has always loved acting and the performing arts, which drew her to the platform. She has also written for beauty and wellness sites like Organic Authority.
How did you get involved in the beauty community on TikTok?
“A friend was teaching me the ropes of TikTok, and I saw it had a lot of acting skits, where you would double the voice of someone like Sofia Vergara. I thought it was fun, and I liked that it was a space where I felt like no one was watching me. I tried everything -- there were acting videos and fashion videos, but the beauty videos seemed to really engage people. Beauty is key when you're on camera and you're acting, because you're [auditioning] and you have to look good and learn how to do your own makeup and take care of your skin.”
What is your interest in ASMR and product texture videos?
“TikTok is about thinking out of the box and going out of your comfort zone and exploring. I was creating 3-5 videos on a daily basis while in quarantine. I was trying all the trends, and one of those trends was an ASMR sound. I used it for one of the beauty products I had. I didn't know what to think of it at the beginning. At this point, I'm still wondering. But ASMR is satisfying, and it does sort of hypnotize you.”
What are your plans for your future as a content creator?
“I have worked really hard. [Content creation] is not an easy thing, and the key to growth is that you have to love what you do. I want to continue making more videos and thinking out of the box. I would like to also have my own series on YouTube, where I can act and have my audience follow along with a character. I definitely don't want to stick to just TikTok. There's a lot more to explore and do and grow.”
By: Emma Sandler
TikTok is about thinking out of the box.
As the most followed person on TikTok, with 113 million followers as of April 2021, it's a given that Charli D’Amelio will be influential in any avenue she pursues -- beauty being no exception.
Dancing is what catapulted her to fame on the short-form video-sharing platform in 2019. But the Connecticut-bred 16-year-old receives an average of more than 5 million likes for a casual clip, like a video of her applying makeup while sipping on one of her two namesake Dunkin’ coffee drinks (which, yes, are featured on the chain’s menu).
“TikTok has just made me want to experiment more with makeup and want to get better at doing my own makeup,” said D’Amelio. “I love seeing what liquid blushes are trending, since that always seems to be a huge thing on TikTok and one of my favorite products to use on my own.”
While D’Amelio has cultivated relationships with beauty guru Hyram Yarbro, hair connoisseur Brad Mondo and even Jennifer Lopez (who wrote her Time 100 profile), it’s her recent collaboration with Morphe that put her on the map as a mainstay in this space. Teaming up with older sister (and fellow famous TikToker) Dixie D’Amelio in July 2020, the two launched Morphe 2, a collection of lip glosses, sheer foundation, jelly eye shimmers and standard skin-care necessities, among other practical beauty basics.
“I love that all of the products are multipurpose, for those days that you just need a quick hint of color,” D’Amelio said. “I'm feeling a monochromatic pink glam [look] lately, and the Eye Wish Shadow Stick in Bubblegum gives you that soft wash of pink. You can use it as a liner or a shadow.”
Prior to this launch, the online personality had a handful of additional collaborations, including with Invisalign, Hollister and Orosa Beauty. But of this new venture, she said, “I learned so much about what actually goes into creating a beauty line. It was really inspiring to see the time and dedication that the Morphe 2 team put into this collection behind the scenes.”
D’Amelio and her family will star in the Hulu show “The D’Amelio Family,” launching later this year.
Brand ambassador, Morphe 2
By: Dahvi Shira
TikTok has just made me want to experiment more with makeup.
While little sister Charli D’Amelio is the reigning queen of TikTok, Dixie D’Amelio is trailing closely behind as one of the app’s leading creators with 51 million followers.
The Connecticut native, 19, is best-known on the app for completing dance challenges and pursuing a music career. (She signed a record deal with L.A. Reid's label HitCo Entertainment in August 2020.) But the former resident of TikTok’s elite Hype House mansion has also found a place for herself on the beauty side of TikTok. There, she sports bold makeup looks or expertly fills in her perfectly manicured eyebrows. Ultimately, it’s versatility that makes her appearance so relatable to her audience. She sports eye-catching glam looks, yet is comfortable wearing minimal makeup, frequently flaunting only her freckles and pearly white smile.
“I like seeing different tricks and tips people have when doing their eyeshadow,” D’Amelio said, of what she picks up from TikTok. “Whether it’s using a piece of tape to help their eyeliner look sharper or a trick on how to blend their shadows, there’s always something super interesting and helpful.”
D’Amelio’s newfound knowledge in the beauty space has made her a natural match for Morphe 2, a makeup and skin-care collection launched with sister Charli D’Amelio in July 2020. The collection, which includes lip glosses, sheer foundation, jelly eye shimmers and basic skin-care necessities, is a fitting segue into beauty for the newbie or minimalist.
“The Perk Up Cheek & Lip Color in Hibiscus Hottie is one of my favorites,” said D’Amelio. “It looks like a super bright red, but it goes on sheer, and you can build up the color depending on your look. I like to dot it on the apples of my cheeks or swipe it on my lips for a natural-looking flush.”
If it weren’t for her time on social media, she may not have developed an interest in the beauty space. “I used to not really care about doing my makeup, but now I love trying out the trending products that I see on TikTok to see what works and what doesn’t for me,” said D’Amelio.
Getting an insider’s look at the industry has been rewarding for the online personality, who praises Morphe 2 for giving her hands-on experience.
“It's not often that a brand asks the faces of the campaign to weigh in on product details or photo shoot inspo,” said D’Amelio. “The Morphe 2 team took the time to listen and apply our feedback, and it made the process fun and collaborative.”
I used to not really care about doing my makeup, but now I love trying out the trending products.
“It’s interesting that both the gaming and beauty worlds have the same flaw,” in that both are tethered to antiquated gender stereotypes, but in “completely opposite” ways, Kathleen Belsten, aka Loserfruit, told Glossy. It’s an astute observation by the gaming influencer, who made her first push into beauty at the end of 2020. “The stereotypes are that [gamers] are male, and beauty [shoppers] are female,” she said, “But let’s be real: A huge market of both these industries aren’t the stereotypes. It’s been great to see both industries breaking down those barriers and being normalized for everyone.” And, at least on the beauty side, the industry has come a long way in the realm of gender inclusivity.
Belsten, 28, is a self-described “full-time creator.”
“My main focus [is] gaming, playing games like ‘Fortnite,’ ‘Among Us,’ ‘GTA’ and ‘COD,’” she said. She started out on Twitch eight years ago, before expanding to “every other platform,” including YouTube and TikTok.
In December 2020, Belsten teamed up with E.l.f. to record a video for her first beauty partnership. “I’m pretty particular, when it comes to brands outside of gaming, because I have to make sure it really fits with my brand by being something I’d use all the time and something my audience needs, as well,” she said. E.l.f. reached out to Belsten, wanting to learn more about the gaming industry and how to get involved. Belsten did her research and deemed the brand “well-priced, good quality and easily accessible,” she said. Previously, she hadn’t been much of a beauty junkie, admitting she’d always applied makeup “in a random order.”
The resulting YouTube video, “turning into my fortnite skin…” is 14 minutes and 39 seconds of Belsten and Anna Bynum, E.l.f.’s manager of education and artistry, creating a look inspired by Belsten’s avatar’s “skin” on Fortnight. Introducing the video, Belsten says to her audience, “I watch a lot of makeup things, but I’ve never really done anything like that before. I’ve been strictly gaming, but, to be honest with you, gaming and bloody makeup go pretty hand-in-hand.”
The comments from some of her 3.32 million YouTube subscribers indicated that they were mostly on board, with one writing, “She just got a bunch of gamers to watch a makeup video that’s impressive.”
Kathleen Belsten, aka Loserfruit
Gamer and creator
By: Sara Spruch-Feiner
It’s interesting that both the gaming and beauty worlds have the same flaw
Romanian-born British beauty influencer Danielle Marcan, 22, has more than 1 million followers on both TikTok and Instagram, but that follower growth was gradual, she said. After graduating from the University of Greenwich with a degree in marketing, she started posting on social media in 2018, centering on beauty tutorials on the best ways to use a variety of products. The aim was to get some practical experience in marketing and audience development to supplement her formal education.
In April 2018, she was named a beauty ambassador for Huda Beauty and appeared in several Huda campaigns.
In the few short years that Marcan has been active on social media, she said she’s seen shifts in the beauty industry’s focus.
“Of course, the beauty industry is well-known for its volatility, [which is] one of the things that makes it so fun,” she said. “I feel that, especially in the last year, makeup has become more about making you feel better, rather than look better. We shifted to a more natural, enhancing-your-beauty kind of thing.”
Marcan’s been working independently, versus with an agency, and has partnered with brands including Clinique and Maven Beauty on content. More partnerships are on the way this summer, she said.
By: Danny Parisi
The beauty industry is well-known for its volatility.
By: Danny Parisi
Nicole Sanchez doesn’t describe herself as a beauty influencer.
The 23-year-old Mexican-American Twitch streamer has achieved widespread fame in the gaming world for her bilingual streams in English and Spanish. And she made waves outside of gaming with her viral “Ok Boomer” TikTok video, in which she danced to the song “Oki Doki Boomer,” while wearing a Bernie Sanders T-shirt. It’s been viewed more than 50 million times.
But beauty and cosmetics do play a part in her content, Sanchez said. She’s known for her distinctive makeup: a blush-heavy, anime-inspired look that Sanchez calls the “gamer girl” style. Sanchez said it’s a big part of her aesthetic, and fans often post tutorials on how to recreate the look.
She said it would serve beauty brands well to tap into the sizable overlap between the gaming and beauty audiences.
“People fail to see that there is a category of people that aren’t sweaty, try-hard gamers, and are just as into gaming culture as they are beauty and fashion,” Sanchez said. “Female streamers and gamers are definitely on the rise, and my hope is that brands will make more of an effort to tap into that growing audience. The biggest gaming content creators are still mostly white and male.”
In 2017, 81% of Twitch users were male, but in 2019, that number dropped to 65%.
Players of Animal Crossing: New Horizons -- one of the top-selling games released last year, at 31 million units sold -- are almost evenly split between men and women, according to the game’s developers. It’s no coincidence then that Animal Crossing has been targeted by beauty brands like Tatcha for collaborations and partnerships.
Sanchez said she hopes her Twitch channel can help to further bridge the gap between gaming and beauty. Currently, it’s primarily viewed by men, but she said her female following is rapidly growing.
“As the gaming community keeps growing and becomes more diverse and inclusive, we will also see a growth in beauty brands and gaming working together,” she said.
We will see a growth in beauty brands and gaming working together.
Eleanor Barnes, best known as her social media handle, Snitchery, is bringing together the worlds of beauty and cosplay.
Barnes, 24, is a self-proclaimed “makeup enthusiast,” whose influencer career took off when she was 18. “I got Instagram so I could talk to people in college, and I started doing these really artsy looks on my face,” she said. “I didn’t even know what an influencer was. But a couple of brands started noticing me.”
That led to working with “every beauty brand you can think of,” including MAC, Tarte, Too Faced and Benefit. Milk Makeup remains her “all-time favorite makeup company,” as it “constantly comes out with cool, innovative products,” she said.
But three years ago, she pivoted the focus of her social posts to cosplay -- a passion of hers since she was a kid.
“I was worried I would lose a lot of that support from the beauty community, and I was kind of OK with that, because I was excited to cosplay,” she said. “But I've been fortunate enough to work with a lot of brands that have been really supportive of my weirdness in the beauty space.” Among those has been Fenty Beauty, she said.
Though a “latecomer” to TikTok -- she first signed on at the beginning of quarantine -- Barnes has amassed 1.2 million followers on the platform. Among her secrets to popularity: posting differentiated content.
“My cosplay has always been very beauty-focused,” she said. “For the first year or two, I never showed below my shoulders in a post. That’s weird for cosplay -- when you think of a character, you think of their outfit. And that helped propel me pretty quickly, just because it was something different.”
Her most popular character to date: “a Catwoman thirst trap,” she said, which has accumulated more than 9 million views.
One thing she’s noticed, for sure, is that Gen Zers on the platform are changing beauty norms. “Beauty standards will probably always stick around, just because people need to market,” she said. “But it's been really refreshing to see that the standard of beauty has turned from one set thing to just being as unique in yourself as possible.”
She added: “I had green hair in high school, when there was no TikTok to see that there were other kids like me. Now, it’s mainstream to be a nerd, which is awesome.”
Cosplayer and creator
By: Jill Manoff
Now, it’s mainstream to be a nerd, which is awesome.
By: Jill Manoff
When Sean Garrette was named global ambassador of Rihanna’s Fenty Skin in July 2020, it both catapulted his career and changed the perception of what makes a beauty influencer.
“I’ve always felt like an outsider in this influencer space. When I started [in the industry], there really weren’t any Black male beauty or skin influencers,” he said. He worked as a freelance makeup artist before becoming a certified esthetician. “Now I’m holding masterclasses for Fenty.”
Brooklyn-based Garrette, 29, has nearly 83,000 Instagram followers and 68,000 Twitter followers. “I consider myself a micro-influencer,” he said. “But I impact my audience more than someone who has 24 million followers.”
Along with Fenty Skin, that engaged audience has earned him partnerships with the original clean beauty brand, Paula’s Choice. The skin-care brand is selling a kit made up of two of Garrett’s go-to products. “We did special packaging, and I have my own page on their site where people can shop all my favorites,” he said.
Garrette owes skin care’s recent boom to TikTok -- specifically, teenagers posting “weird hacks and DIYs that caused more harm to your skin than good.” Even so, his platforms of choice have remained Instagram and Twitter.
His Instagram content has evolved, from spotlighting skin-care routines to posting about ingredient education and products that can treat skin-care issues, like maskne. “I would say my focus is on educating people of color [about skin care], as well as teaching people about skin barrier health.”
However, “there is such thing as consumers being over-informed,” he said, noting the many dermatologists and estheticians that have popped up on TikTok to combat misinformation.
“Sometimes people take a little bit of information and run, and they don't have the nuance of it,” he said. He pointed to the viral bashing of products with alcohol, which, he said, is suitable in some product formulations. “I think it’s time to re-explain what the explainers explained.”
For better or worse, the influence of someone with a large following can’t be denied -- and, Garrette said, that’s transforming the workings of the beauty industry. “The influencer is definitely the new celebrity, and it's because brands see how people have cultivated a natural audience that trusts them, believes in them, and loves their voice,” he said. “And that's where they're investing their money.”
Global ambassador, Fenty Skin
The influencer is definitely the new celebrity.
When Bella Poarch first posted on TikTok in April 2020, she “had just gotten out of the military and was really bored during quarantine,” she said. Now with over 62 million followers, she is the third-most-followed personality on the app, with brand partners including Valentino fragrances and Moncler.
“I get most of my inspiration for beauty looks from anime and video games,” said Poarch. “I am most inspired by Hatsune Miku,” a virtual character and one of Japan’s largest pop stars. Poarch has been a fan since she was 14.
Her “two different identities” that make up her aesthetic include her character “Baddie Bella,” who “loves all black everything,” likes to show off her tattoos and wears Hatsune Miku-inspired pigtails, she said. Her alter ego, “Kawaii Bella,” has “rosy red cheeks” and colorful style.
Poarch first developed her lifelong love of anime at age 5 while watching the show “Detective Conan” with her brother -- when their parents weren’t in earshot. “Growing up in the Philippines, we weren’t allowed to watch any TV,” she said. “My parents hated anime.” Her current favorite series include “One-Punch Man,” “Sword Art Online,” “HunterxHunter” and “Tokyo Ghoul.”
She’s also been a gamer since age 7. “I’ve played every single Tekken game growing up,” she said. “Back on the Navy ship, we would have Tekken tournaments to boost morale.”
In addition to her lighthearted TikToks featuring lip syncing, beauty looks or singing, Poarch has used her newfound platform to speak out about issues including mental health and racism. She has been candid about her personal experiences. “I’m clinically diagnosed with PTSD, depression and anxiety. It’s something I’ve dealt with my whole life,” she said.
She also recently posted on her social channels about anti-Asian hate crimes. “As an Asian American myself, I’ve experienced hatred my whole life, too, so I know how it feels. I moved to the United States when I was a teenager, and kids would make fun of the way I looked,” she said.
In addition to her new beauty icon status, Poarch is passionate about singing and will soon join the ranks of newly minted TikTok pop stars. Her upcoming single was produced by Sub Urban, and she’s also working with Benny Blanco on her music. She started singing at the age of 7 in the Philippines, winning 36 gold medals in singing competitions as a kid and going on to sing in the Navy choir.
“I just want to keep making music and see where it goes from there,” she said. “I don’t care if people like it. It’s just something I like. And as an artist, I’m pushing and pursuing boundaries.”
Creator and musician
As an artist,
I’m pushing and pursuing boundaries.
As an artist, I’m pushing and pursuing boundaries.
If there’s anyone who has made the most out of a year in quarantine, it’s skinfluencer Hyram Yarbro.
When the pandemic hit the U.S. in March 2020, Yarbro had been in the process of building an audience on his YouTube channel. And he had just made the decision to start posting on TikTok. “I initially thought it was going to just be a fun outlet to do silly videos just for fun,” he said. He now has 6.8 million followers and has had a breakout year clearing breakouts.
Yarbro is now making the rounds on “Good Morning America'' and “The Drew Barrymore Show,” sharing his skin-care wisdom, and brands are scrambling to work with him. His longtime favorite, CeraVe, enlisted him for a partnership after his seal of approval fueled the brand’s popularity among Gen Z. He’s since worked with a wide range of brands and is doing his part to make skinfluencer product collaborations as prevalent as influencer eyeshadow palettes. Recent collabs with his name on them have included sets with Kinship and Inkey List.
“I think we can all say that 2020 was definitely the year of skin care,” he said. “It was exciting, because I was seeing a lot of younger people becoming really excited by skin care and starting to learn [about] and invest time into really taking care of their skin.”
Yarbro now gets recognized when he leaves his house in Hawaii. “Having a large audience watch your videos sometimes feels a little disconnected,” he said. “It's a little hard to grasp the reality of how many people are watching. But being able to see [followers] in public just cements the positive power and the positive influence I'm able to have.”
Yarbro said he turns down about 95% of the brands that approach him and has specific criteria for those he teams with for partnerships. “I tend to be very particular about what ingredients I like, not only in my [own] skin care but [also in] what ingredients I'm comfortable recommending to my audience,” he said. “I always want to recommend formulas that are as accessible to as many people as possible, and with that, I want to factor sensitivities and irritation.”
The buzzy new ingredients he’s excited about include tranexamic acid, succinic acid, mandelic acid, polyhydroxy acids and common K-beauty ingredient centella asiatica.
As for his focus in 2021, “I think I found a good balance [on platforms] right now,” he said. “[I like to] make content that makes people laugh and puts a smile on people's faces on TikTok. And then, if they do want to pursue further in-depth skin-care information, that's really where my YouTube content comes into play.”
By: Liz Flora
2020 was definitely the year of skin care.
After taking TikTok by storm with her viral clown makeup looks and rising to become one of the app’s top influencers, 18-year-old Avani Gregg launched her own makeup collection with Morphe in March. Originally from Indiana and now based in L.A., Gregg has drawn over 32 million followers on TikTok, thanks to her bold, colorful makeup artistry.
Looking back on this past year of your life, how have things changed?
“A year ago, I was doing makeup and filming content while living in a one-bedroom apartment with four people after having just moved to California with my family. I was kind of going with the flow back then, and because of that, I am who I am today. So much changes in a year.”
Do you now get recognized by fans when you go out?
“There are times when I go out in public that I don’t get noticed, but I often do. And when it does happen, it’s still weird to me because I haven’t gotten used to it. However, I do find it reassuring that there are people out there in the world who truly care about me and love the work that I do.”
What are your go-to makeup products right now?
“When it comes to day-to-day [makeup], I like using lip gloss. And I don't use foundation every day. It’s more of a clean look.”
What TikTok makeup trend do you think could become the next clown look?
“There are so many trends nowadays that blow my mind. I feel like every time I do clown makeup, everyone goes crazy. So the next clown trend I’m going to try is something very cool with the cake liners from my Morphe For The Bebs palette. I think I can create something super cool, but very easy for anyone to recreate.”
What is the secret to making a viral TikTok makeup video?
“Either trying to come up with a video idea that no one else has done -- because it usually puts people in shock when they see it -- or taking a trend that someone else made and then adding your own twist to it. [You’re not] fully following the trend, but making it crazier. Try to just make the content more creative, so people aren't seeing the same things over and over again.”
Digital creator and collaborator, Morphe X Avani
Every time I do clown makeup, everyone goes crazy.
Olamide Olowe is 24, and Topicals, the skin-care company she co-founded in 2020, is not even the first she’s launched. Prior to founding Topicals, Olowe co-founded SheaGIRL (an offshoot of SheaMoisture) while she was in college. The brand was acquired by Unilever when the conglomerate purchased its parent company, Sundial Brands.
Most modern beauty brands stick to marketing promises around glowier, clearer or younger skin, but Olowe recognized that, for many, dealing with actual skin issues is the top priority.
“There are so many skin conditions that exist outside of acne or wrinkles,” she said. “I saw these other categories that no one was paying attention to. We're starting to celebrate acne and aging, but why haven't we done that for the countless other conditions that exist?” Olowe is confident that there’s a strong market for helping people dealing with skin conditions that are less common and embracing them in the process. After all, she said, one in four people in the U.S. has a chronic skin condition.
There’s also the issue of accessibility. Skin conditions can be hard to treat for anyone, not to mention the fact that, according to Olowe, “Forty seven percent of dermatologists and dermatology residents say that their medical school training didn't prepare them to treat skin of color.”
For Gen Z, a generation that relishes in unpolished imperfection, embracing flaws is not only normal, but even cool. As Olowe put it, “Gen Z is unafraid to be our most authentic selves.” For Topicals, that means the brand plans to go beyond the lines that typically define the beauty category. “We are going to be doing things that people have typically thought of as taboo,” she said. “We're going to do things that you maybe didn't even think were beauty.”
She added, ”I think we can change this notion that serving niche demos or othered demos is small and can not [lead to] financial success.”
Topicals’ two products, a serum for hyperpigmentation and a moisturizing mask for eczema, sold out at Sephora within 48 hours of launching in March. The brand is part of Sephora’s prestigious Accelerate program this year, a program that works to set brands up for success in store. That’s not to mention that Olowe is the youngest Black woman to raise over $2 million ($2.6 million, in fact), with investors including Issa Rae.
Founder and CEO, Topicals
By: Sara Spruch-Feiner
We're going to do things that you maybe didn't even think were beauty.
By: Sara Spruch-Feiner
Since coming onto the scene in 2016 -- at the age of 12 -- Millie Bobby Brown has captivated our collective consciousness.
Thanks to her portrayal as Eleven on the cult series “Stranger Things,” Brown landed two Emmy and two SAG nominations, went on to lead the “Godzilla” movie franchise and the Netflix movie “Enola Holmes,” and landed on the Time 100 list. But those accomplishments are only reserved for Brown’s entertainment ventures.
By and large, Brown has been the earliest Gen Zer to break out as an A-list actress, model and businesswoman. She’s the founder of the Gen-Z makeup and skin-care line Florence by Mills, which debuted in 2019 with Beach House Group.
And Brown has more than upped the ante on her beauty ambitions. Last year, she acquired a majority stake in her business to truly occupy her space as founder.
“It was important to me to take back ownership of my brand, because I want to be fully in charge of the narrative. I realized late last year that I could fully embrace being the founder of my very own business at [age] 17 and that it's actually encouraged,” Brown said. “There was a time growing up when I felt as though my dreams were limited to just acting or modeling. Supporting young people with their dreams is so important...My mission is to encourage young people to get the education they deserve and to give them the tools to become young entrepreneurs, filmmakers, doctors or whatever their dream may be.”
As Brown has gotten older, in the spotlight no less, she’s been thinking more about her future. “I am very excited to continue to grow the Florence brand and to not only create products that my generation is asking for, but to also create products that they actually need,” she said. “That may include expanding into a few new categories sooner than you think.”
She is also hoping to craft more of a community feel with Florence by Mills. “I want women to be a part of this leadership journey with me, and I highly encourage them to share their ideas and feedback for the brand,” she said, describing her Gen Z counterparts as “brand new thinkers.”
“People assume we have our heads in our phones or laptops, but actually, most of us are researching and learning about the world around us so that we can have mature conversations with our peers,” she said, regarding Gen Z.
Of her own personal ethos on social media that also extends to Florence by Mills, Brown said, “I try to be a person that generates love, positivity and authenticity on my platform. I think Gen Z sees that.”
Founder, Florence By Mills
By: Priya Rao
I want to be fully in charge of the narrative.
“I’m just a Vietnamese, fluid boy, who’s living in L.A. and crossdresses for a living. It’s nothing crazier,” Duc Tran Nguyen said, by way of introduction. Though clearly humble, Nguyen — better known as Plastique Tiara — has earned quite the fanbase. That includes 6.2 million followers on TikTok and 2 million on Instagram.
Born in Vietnam, Plastique, 23-years-old, is well aware that hers is not the typical immigrant success story. But, she said, that’s one of the reasons her fans are drawn to her. “In frequent messages from them, “They say [things like], ‘Thank you for being you,’ or ‘Hearing your story about your family and how you overcame all that really helped me,’” she said.
By 16, Plastique was living in Dallas and would put on makeup in the boy’s bathroom before school, washing it off before being picked up. Television provided a window into the glamorous world of modeling and, later, drag. “I was fascinated with ‘America’s Next Top Model’ and ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race,’” Plastique said. But it wasn’t until she entered a talent show at a gay bar in Dallas, on a whim, that she started doing drag herself. “Somehow, one night, I was brave enough to do a talent contest. And I won on my first night.” she said. “So that put a little pep in my step.”
Eventually, at 21-years-old, she auditioned for “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” “Somehow I got on,” she said. “When it aired, my name was in the spotlight. It was pretty crazy, considering I didn't [make it far on the show].” Season 11, on which Plastique Tiara placed eighth, aired in 2019.
Of course, to do drag, one needs a high level of skill in the beauty department, and unsurprisingly, when you’re attracting Plastique’s level of attention, brands come calling. “I am very surprised and grateful for the brands that have contacted and worked with me, because I never thought ...they would want somebody...like this, to represent their brand,” she said. Today, her collaborators include MAC Cosmetics, Anastasia Beverly Hills and Amazon Prime.
In 2020, amid the pandemic, TikTok catapulted Plastique’s career to a new level.
Her content has resonated, as has her incorporation of pointed commentary about gender norms and race. When conceiving her content, she aims to differentiate herself by asking what makes it “Plastique.” In other words, she wants to, “Make it glam, make it drag, make it gay, make it queer,” she said.
When asked why she thinks her content is so successful, Plastique said, laughing, “I guess you don't see a Vietnamese immigrant drag queen everyday on TikTok. There aren’t a lot of queer Asian creators, or popular Asian creators on TikTok, in general. So I just want to represent my community and make them proud.”
Drag queen, performer and hairdresser
Make it glam, make it drag, make it gay, make it queer.
In March, Maybelline announced Storm Reid, 17, as its latest global spokesmodel. “We’ve been having conversations about their mental health initiative and how I can be a part of the things that truly matter -- not that that makeup doesn’t matter,” Reid, told Glossy with regard to the partnership. It’s a statement that sums up the Gen-Z approach to beauty well: holistic and mental health-conscious, but still playful and colorful. It’s fitting that Reid was cast for “Euphoria,” a show known for its color-outside-the-lines makeup.
“Storm is a standout voice and changemaker,” Maybelline global brand president Trisha Ayyagari told Glossy, “Her courage and energy transcend boundaries -- she can inspire and empower anyone. She also loves makeup and plays with it in such cool ways. We are so excited to partner with her on important brand initiatives. She is an amazing partner to Maybelline, and there’s so much more to come.”
Reid’s first Maybelline campaign will place her face in prominent places, including on billboards, in 120 countries, in promotion of new products from the brand’s Fit Me complexion collection.
“I’m grateful to be a part of the Maybelline family. To have young girls all over the world be able to go into their local drugstore and see [a young girl] on an advertisement for a brand that is known globally is something that I feel will be truly inspiring, whether they’re a girl of color or not,” Reid said. “I wish I saw more of that [when I was young], so I feel like I’m continuing to dismantle the system of oppression, in a way, of people of color.”
Though she works with top makeup artists and has unlimited access to products, Reid said she feels a particular bond with Maybelline, as it’s a brand she grew up using and seeing her mother use. She said she loves the Colossal Mascara and has been trying to get her hands on the newer Sky High mascara, but it’s gone viral on TikTok, so she hasn’t been able to find it at CVS. The Lifter Gloss is another favorite, as is the Fit Me foundation. “It’s been a part of my life for a very long time,” she said of the latter. However, the new Fit Me tinted moisturizer, which she is the face of, may soon take its place.
Like others her age, Reid sources her beauty inspiration from TikTok and Instagram -- her current favorite account is that of May Akhtar, who creates colorful, whimsical eyeliner looks that would look perfectly in place on the set of “Euphoria.” The show and its looks, famously created by makeup artist Donni Davy, have inspired Reid to take more risks with makeup beyond “the traditional winged eyeliner,” she said.
“[I realized that] you can put eyeshadow trickling down your cheek with some glitter, and it looks good. You could go out the door and not be looked at as weird or doing too much.”
Actor and producer
By: Sara Spruch-Feiner
I feel like I’m continuing to dismantle the system of oppression, in a way, of people of color.
At 18 years old, Alexis Oakley ditched her small-town Missouri dwellings and stints doing makeup for weddings and prom. Her mission: to become a celebrity makeup artist. Inspired by the beauty YouTube videos she’d watch (and looks she’d recreate) of Bethany Mota and Blair Fowler, Oakley moved to Los Angeles and enrolled in makeup school. Three days after graduating, she landed her dream job as an assistant to famed makeup artist Rachel Goodwin. Oakley’s notable assisting opportunities only grew from there, including gigs with Ash K Holm and Denika “Dendoll” Bedrossian. Now, at 23, Oakley’s assisting days are behind her, with solo work with Jessica Alba and Paris Hilton in her portfolio, and a laundry list of industry professionals who trust and recommend her work.
What’s been your proudest career moment thus far?
“Going on tour with Rachel Platten and Avril Lavigne. Since moving to L.A., that’s always been my big goal. I feel so connected to music and love working with musicians. It was such an amazing experience being able to travel. Touring taught me a lot about myself, and it was such an experimental time when it comes to makeup application. I miss being on the road so much and cannot wait to do it again.”
Who’s your most consistent client, and how did you cultivate that relationship?
“Currently, that’s [YouTuber and singer] Tana Mongeau. I see her sometimes every day. Tana and I were attending the same party, and a mutual friend introduced us. We exchanged info that night and, shortly after that, we began working together. We’ve been working together for years now.”
Take us behind the scenes of a day in your life on the job. What's something people wouldn't expect?
“My day-to-day work life always looks different. Some days I have back-to-back clients throughout the day spread out all around L.A., and on other days, I'm on set for a photoshoot or a music video with one of my clients for 12 hours straight. I think a lot of people see the Instagram highlight reel of my life and think I just hang out with celebrities all day. Don’t get me wrong, there are so many incredible perks of my job. But there’s so much hard work that goes on behind the scenes. When I’m not with a client, I’m responding to emails and DMs, booking myself for other jobs, sending invoices, reaching out to brands, filming content for my followers and trying to gain more clients.”
Celebrity makeup artist
By: Dahvi Shira
There’s so much hard work that goes on behind the scenes.
May Tahmina Akhtar, a 24-year-old beauty content creator based in the U.K., never had much interest in beauty while growing up, she said. Throughout most of high school, she only wore black eyeliner.
But simple black eyeliner is a far cry from the bold graphic eyeliner she’s now known for on TikTok, where she has nearly 500,000 followers. That following has earned her partnerships with brands including Cult Beauty and Lush. Akhtar said it was the release of Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty and its products for a broader range of skin tones that made her realize that people with darker skin could participate in the beauty world.
“Knowing that there’s a brand catering to people like me was really special,” she said. “It made me want to be a part of that industry.”
Akhtar said that now, within her own work, she aims to embody that same focus on diversity. Most recently, she worked with Cult Beauty for a campaign timed with the Muslim holiday Eid in August of 2020.
“That was the first time I felt like I was doing something that went beyond beauty, that had a larger impact,” she said. “There are always campaigns around Christmas and other holidays, but never anything for Eid.”
Akhtar said her focus moving forward will be working with brands to help showcase other women, people of color, Muslims and hijabis, with the aim of making more people feel welcome within the wider world of beauty.
May Tahmina Akhtar
Knowing that there’s a brand catering to people like me was really special.