I stumbled upon the beauty vlogger phenomenon over a year ago. It was summer, and I was at home from college with way too much time on my hands. I remember watching my first Zoella, or Zoe Sugg, video and instantly being charmed. At 19, I loved fashion and was interested in makeup. But I was mostly stunned at how quickly I felt connected to a girl talking to a camera thousands of miles away in England. Over the next few months, I not only grew attached to Zoe’s videos, but I began watching other beauty vloggers, such as Tanya Burr and Sprinkle of Glitter, as well. With millions of subscribers each, they all have their own distinct personality, style of video editing, and personal story.
As a career, beauty vloggers share their passion for beauty via video blogging. This takes the form of makeup tutorials, clothes hauls, product reviews, and beyond. The videos are “all the same but slightly different,” according to Guardian writer Eva Wiseman. “A young woman talks to you from the edge of her bed … Piece by piece she will test the brushes, the lip glosses, and piece by piece she will make you her friend.” What’s distinctive about these women is how personable they all are. Watching their videos feels, at times, less about makeup and more about the relationship they’ve carved out with their audiences.
Today, these women are not just beauty vloggers but also entrepreneurs, building YouTube beauty empires one makeup tutorial at a time. Yet their widespread influence does raise questions. In recent months, I’ve begun to wonder about the cultural significance of this trend. What, if any, stereotypes about women and beauty culture do these vloggers engage with and perpetuate?
It would be easy to conclude that beauty vloggers are feeding into stereotypical images of femininity. Their videos are overgrown with pastel colors, they’re capable of talking about lipstick for over ten minutes, and sometimes it feels as if they’ve done more shopping in a week than most of us have done in a year. Yet that conclusion feels too simplistic to me, and it denies these women their agency. To shame vloggers for their interest in beauty and fashion is to undermine their contributions to a larger female narrative. More than that, the way they continue to contribute to an industry pioneered by women plays a large role in explaining why beauty vlogging, at its core, can actually be quite feminist.