There is a new generation taking the beauty industry by storm. This movement, initiated by makeup artist’s who use their own face as a canvas, began as #MOTD (makeup-of-the-day) selfies on Instagram and tutorial videos on YouTube. It quickly grew into a massive online community. Secrets that were previously reserved for industry professionals were suddenly available to beauty enthusiasts around the world, and the makeup artists sharing tips, tricks, and product recommendations became their own form of celebrity.
I did not see this trend coming. I work as a makeup artist in the Fashion Industry, lost in a sea of no-makeup makeup. I was busy spending my time online lurking behind the scenes images at runway shows. But eventually, it became impossible not to notice. Everywhere I looked, eyebrows were on fleek, and the love these social stars were receiving from fans grew to enormous heights. As I stared exploring this beauty community, I felt like I had discovered a doorway leading me into a new world. I was mesmerized by the phenomenon that was occurring, and I found myself inspired, picking up a trick or two.
Oh how excited I was when I learned I would have an opportunity to sit down with superstar Desi Perkins when she was in Toronto for Generation Beauty this year. Makeup Artists speak the same language, and I was curious if I would be able to connect with Desi in the way I always do when I meet one of ‘my people’.
Walking into the Generation Beauty Convention was exhilarating. This was the Mecca of all things InstaGlam, with over 4000 guests attending the convention that weekend. At $200 a tickets, guests were enlisted entry, a free gift at every booth, and Meet and Greets with their favorite Influencer. I could feel the love. Thousands of people lined up for the sake of makeup. It was incredible.
The buzz is very real, and Desi, with 2.9 million followers, sits at the top of it all. Her management was in earshot of me as I waited. Going over her schedule, they mentioned how she spent hours at her meet and greet, above and beyond the time frame expected of her, to connect with every single one of her fans.
When Desi entered the room, I was struck by her presence. She had an obvious star quality about her, and an energy that changed the dynamic of the room. Right off the bat, she complimented me on my nails, and was extremely personable in conversing with me. I told her that I myself am a makeup artist, and we got right into talking about her history as an artist; working in film and television, the long hours, set life, etc. I instantly felt that click I was hoping for; I was in fact conversing with one of my people. It was clear right of the bat that Desi is a hard working artist with an innovative business sense.
Everything about her impressed me: her flawless skin, her impeccable makeup, and her way of commanding the room. She listened intently to each question, and was thoughtful and thorough with her response. She sat and explained to me how it all began for her.
“I noticed people were posting stuff on Instagram, but it was very new. There wasn’t a huge makeup niche yet.” She explained. “I started posting photos on Instagram every day of my makeup looks, or makeup looks I would do on clients, just to get more freelance work, and it turned into this whole other thing. Social media turned into a job in itself. Now I don’t freelance at all, I just do social media. It’s really, really fun.”
It must be exciting to be a part of a new phenomenon, I asked. “It feels incredible,” she explained. “Sometimes we don’t know how to navigate it because it’s so new. But it’s awesome how we get to set the guidelines and the rules”
“There’s times when it’s happening and I’m not thinking about it, I’m just going with it, and then I get home and realize how insane it is. I can’t believe this is our (her and husband Steven Perkins) life. I definitely don’t take it for granted”
Desi is a modern day success story. She used her online popularity and leveraged it into a thriving business. She travels the world, works in collaboration with brands to endorse products, and is a bona fide role model to many young people around the world. I asked her about this journey. What pivotal moments stood out, that lead to the success she has today? She answered with a response similar to many great artists before her. She explained that her first turning point was when she found herself going through struggles in her life. She spoke earnestly about her dark times.
“It really motivated me out of a darker place to throw all of my passion into makeup. That’s what got me noticed. That’s what got me out there and kept me consistent. I was really motivated at that time, and I shared it (my struggles) with everyone on Youtube. I think it’s important to make people realize we go through bad times. Even though you see everything being so perfect. It’s not”.
The other turning point, she explained, was Snapchat.
“Snapchat has changed everything. It’s gotten me more comfortable with my personality, and showing that on camera”
Unlike Instagram, which is filtered images of picture perfect moments; Snapchat is where Influencer can show their personality. Through this portal, Desi was able to engage with her audience even further, and through it has built a more loyal connection with her fans. They tune into her daily life, and because of this know her on an intimate level.
“People connect with you, more than just with superficial things like how to apply eyeliner.”
“The best part of my job” she said with a smile “is when people tell me that watching my Snapchat or my videos make them feel either more confident about themselves orhappy. I try to make people laugh as much as I can. A lot of people tell me they have been going through hard times, and they watch my videos and feel happier. That is such a big impact to make on people’s lives that you don’t notice until they tell you. And meeting them (the fans) is the best feeling.”
I asked her what she felt is the hardest part of the job. She paused, as if nothing was coming to mind. ‘Dealing with the haters?’ I suggested. ‘The haters are just…’ she let out a sigh.
“It is bad, it’s not terrible. You learn to kind of deal with it. I guess I would say the worst part is when I’m having a bad day, or when I’m feeling down, that’s when it really affects me. For the most part, it doesn’t.’” She thought for a moment and answered. “ I guess always having to be on”. But I say that, and then I try to take a break and I can’t, because I love doing it.”
There was a lot of passion behind the words she was speaking.
“I’m wanting to share my experiences, all the time”.
On the days where she’s feeling not as “on” as usual, it must be challenging to continually come up with exciting content for her Snapchat family, her Instagram followers, and her Youtube channel. I asked Desi where she draws inspiration from.
“I draw inspirations from other Influencers, other artists! Other people’s passions make me more passionate. When I see people with raw passion making really cool videos, it inspires me. I need to make sure I don’t get stuck in a rut, and also try to better myself every day. What is cool about this industry is nobody is really in competition with each other, because were all such unique individuals. That’s what we strive on, were not fighting for each other’s positions. That’s the way I see it. Everyone helps you improve yourself every day. They help drive you. It’s important to have a lot of friends (in this business).”
I asked Desi where she feels her passion lies. Is it in makeup artistry, in being an influencer, in producing videos, in connecting with fans? Her job description seems to have no limits.
“I have this tattoo” She answered. “It says create. My mom used to tell me I’m so passionate in so many different areas that I needed to focus on one thing. That’s when I focused on makeup artistry, because I loved art. But at the end of the day, I just love anything that has to do with creating something. I love all of it so much. What I hated about television makeup was doing the same thing every day. ‘Let me powder you real quick’, that’s not where my heart was.”
I asked her what she sees for herself in the years ahead. “That’s where my problem of wanting to create so many things comes into play, because I want to do so many things. One day I would probably like to have my own makeup line, but I’m not really ready for it yet. And I’ve always really wanted to design swimwear”
Given the abundant success of her recent Sunglass collaboration with Quay Australia, (her “High Key” and “On the Low” shades are in high demand, and have been seen on celebrity faces such as Jlo and Kylie Jenner), a swim line seems like an obvious next step.
“I’ve always had a love for fashion. I used to do fashion sketches all the time. I got into drawing before I got into makeup.”
With such a multitude of talents, I asked what she believes is they key behind the success of her social media platforms, the quality her personal brand represents that resonates with so many viewers.
“I would like to think that people come to my channel for a friendship first, and a teacher second. I enjoy the personality part of it, even more than the makeup part sometimes. I like talking to people.”
As Desi’s star status continues to rise, it seems the conversation is having with her audience has only just begun.
Beauty Editor: Natalie Ventola