Guru faces global appeal

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 July, 2011, 12:00am


With more than 1.5million subscribers, Michelle Phan has earned herself the title of 'most subscribed guru of all time on YouTube'. Phan met the media at a specially arranged video conference when she was in Tokyo recently.

Phan - born in the United States to Vietnamese parents - started her make-up career as a blogger, writing beauty tips. By 2006, she had more than 20,000 followers.

Her readers encouraged her to start a YouTube channel, back when the medium had only just begun to gain popularity. Since then she has created more than 150videos which offer make-up tips, and her fan base soared. She uses a high-definition camera to film herself as she applies cosmetics to her own face. The camera 'allows everyone to see each pore on my face', she says.

Yet starting out in the world of make-up was far from straightforward for Phan. At first, her parents wanted her to study medicine and become a doctor. But, at the last minute, Phan decided to pursue her dreams and took fine arts instead.

At college, she excelled at portrait painting - 'which is essentially what make-up application is like - just not on a two-dimensional surface', she says.

Phan, 24, is proud of her channel, which, she says, is 'empowering women with lipstick and stilettos'.

She works constantly to improve the content on her channel and her skills as a make-up artist. Her interaction with her YouTube viewers - she often corresponds with them - ensures that she keeps up to date with constant changes in technology and tastes in society and the 'ins-and-outs' of pop culture.

'I was overwhelmed by the number of requests to look like [singers] Miley Cyrus and Rihanna in 2009,' she says. 'Now fewer people are requesting these make-up tutorials and looking at [being like actress] Selena Gomez.'

She says YouTube is an 'easy method for young aspiring actors/comedians/gurus to get themselves out there and start chasing [their] dreams'.

It's simple and straightforward, she says. The film editing process takes only an hour before the video is completed and posted on YouTube. A look that could originally take her three days to film now takes only 30minutes to test and 30 minutes to film. She edits the videos herself, using Apple iMovie software. She rarely uses more advanced Final Cut Pro software, except when she needs to tweak things such as colour correction.

Phan calls herself a 'normal' person that other girls and young women can relate to. Her channel features 'practical, everyday things like self-made pore strips that help real girls look better, every day and on a reasonable budget', she says.

She learned her skincare and make-up tips from her own experience and from the knowledge of her family 'passed on from generations'.

Phan says: 'What I do is different to what real professional make-up artists do. A normal girl doesn't have two hours to do her hair and make-up, she's got five minutes; then she's got to be out the door.'