Long before “diversity” was a buzzword for beauty brands, YouTube beauty guru Jackie Aina was championing dark-skinned women and men who never saw themselves represented in the makeup industry. Nearly 10 years and 2.7 million subscribers later, and Aina has managed to balance passion and profit. Along with a platform where she candidly calls out brands for their lack of inclusion and frequently spotlights women and entrepreneurs of color, Aina collaborated with cosmetics company Too Faced earlier this year to expand the range of their Born This Way foundation with nine new shades–and the impact was instantaneous. Within just a few days of launching, the darkest shade in the collection that Aina helped formulate sold out.
“It very much so felt like [Too Faced co-founder and chief creative officer Jared Blandino] not only likes me as a person but is in alignment with what I stand for–and that was really important to me because I didn’t want it to come off as pandering,” Aina says in the latest episode of Fast Company‘s podcast Creative Conversation. “I think we need to be careful of how we align ourselves with brands. There are brands that are taking advantage of what’s trendy now. And I get it–brands want to make money, but for me I just knew that I couldn’t sleep at night if I knew that this was exploitive in any way.”
Before landing deals with major beauty brands, Aina first had to find her footing on YouTube at a time when there was no clear blueprint for financial success. Check out highlights from Aina’s episode of Creative Conversation below.
Stand by what you believe in
“I understand that not everybody is comfortable talking about current events and politics, but for me it only felt right because I’m a dark-skinned woman. I’m a black woman living in America. I have an immigrant father. So there’s just so many different aspects and so many different experiences in the beauty industry that I felt it was important to talk about. A lot of people like to say things like, ‘You just talk about racism in the beauty world because it gets you views.’ It’s so funny to me because there was a time when that was the exact opposite. Because I was so niche, everyone would tell me, ‘You shouldn’t be talking about lack of diversity.’ There was a time where that actually hurt my growth. That actually hurt my videos and my channel because people wanted me to just shut up and put on lipstick.”
Don’t quit your day job
“I didn’t have a somewhat livable income until 2014. You have to genuinely enjoy what you’re doing, otherwise this is not the kind of career you get into to quit your day job in six months. It’s just not how it works. There’s no formula. YouTube is so spontaneous and unique in that, if I do the exact same things—I’ll just throw out a name—Logan Paul, does, for example, it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to have the exact same measure of growth that he does. It just doesn’t work that way.”
Be honest with yourself
“I had this a-ha! moment where I was like, ‘Ok, what is it about my videos that people don’t enjoy?’ So I started rewatching them and I found that I didn’t even enjoy my own videos–they were boring! I was giving everybody customer service Jackie. It was too instructional, not enough of my real personality. All of the dumb, silly stuff that I do off-camera—I was like, ‘What if I’m really just myself in my videos?’ Now, like, I can binge-watch my own videos because I’m just like, ‘Yo, I’m really funny!'”