These cosmetic cyber stars are truly defining a new age in revenue.

 

by Jonathan Panetta

 

“You have to see how well Anna applies makeup, she’s obsessed with those YouTube tutorial videos,” my sister-in-law proudly stated about my 8-year-old niece as we sat down for lunch on a family getaway to Italy over the summer. “I’m becoming concerned, though. She insisted on wearing a bikini this trip and refuses to be in photos because she’s self-conscious about her appearance.” Being the inquisitive and overprotective uncle that I am, I had to counter this irony between mouthfuls of my pasta carbonara, “Those tutorials seem a bit excessive for her, would she even know who Malala Yousafzai is, if I asked?” My sister-in-law looked over at me, puzzled. “Of course not, she’s only a child.”

I decided to do some investigating. When I got back to my room, I opened up my laptop and typed ‘beauty tutorials’ in the YouTube search bar and was met with over 6,000 results at my fingertips. I watched as thousands of young women with (in some cases) millions of subscribers instructed their viewers on how to expertly disguise their respective features to better mimic those of Megan Fox, Gigi Hadid and Kylie Jenner. The results were beautifully crafted. Yet, one by one, as they showcased the new and improved versions of themselves à la Nate Berkus on a home renovation show, I could not tell one woman apart from the next. A heavy contour courtesy of the latest Anastasia kit, a Cara-esque power brow finished with an overdrawn lip so perfectly painted on, it would have Picasso searing with envy. A study conducted by the Canadian Women’s Foundation reports that 50% of adolescent girls in Canada wish they were someone else, with an astounding 37% hoping to get plastic surgery. Are the young girls watching these videos getting the self-esteem they’re so desperately seeking when the talented women they look up to are instructing them on how to look like everyone else?

 

 

These cosmetic cyber stars are truly defining a new age in revenue. According to AdvertisingAge.com, an acclaimed beauty ‘vlogger’ such as Michelle Phan can earn upwards of $20,000 a month based on YouTube ads alone. Compare that to fellow celeb vlogger Jaclyn Hill’s profitable collaboration with BECCA Cosmetics, or even Patrick Starr’s nail polish deal with Formula X, and you have quite a respectable group of young entrepreneurs in front of you. However, are these influencers aware of the responsibility they hold to their complete internet audience when they suggest going to purchase a sponsor like Benefit’s ‘Better Than Sex’ mascara or the new Too Faced ‘Label Whore’ eyeshadow? According to Dr. Blye Frank from the University of Dalhousie, “The challenges that a 14-year-old girl faced 20 years ago are the challenges faced by nine-year-old girls today.” The American Psychological Association (APA) suggests that this is because of the widespread saturation of sexualisation of women in our society that plays a major role in the deterioration of a young girl’s mental health during a period in which she is just beginning to form her identity.

Said best by Diana Vreeland, “You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked ‘female.’” The mark of a true feminist is the liberty of having a choice, so let’s provide these young women with multiple choices. Request that your favourite YouTuber require that the cosmetic companies that rely on their social media outreach change their sexist product names to empowering ones, demand a tutorial that does not camouflage your face, eyes or nose’s natural shape, but rather accentuates it, and once you’re done watching it – opt for a new activity that requires nothing but your very own mind.

I ended my family trip sitting with my niece, watching YouTube clips in the hotel room. We bargained that we could watch her beloved beauty tutorials if she continued to appear in the remainder of every family photo. Afterwards, before leaving on another one of my pasta adventures, I introduced her to some clips of female comedians and martial artists, and Civil Rights speeches from activists around her age like Paloma Rambana. I didn’t tell her what to watch once I was gone, I let that be her choice.

 

Credits:

Photography: MARQUISMONTES , Valerie Boulet & Jose Montes
Hair and Makeup: Michael Goyette at Folio
Model: Maya at Folio

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