How YouTube Beauty Star Rachel Levin Keeps 7 Million Subscribers Tuned In

And what brands can learn from the vlogger

Unless you're one of Rachel Levin's 7.6 million beauty-obsessed YouTube followers, there's a good chance you've never heard of the 21-year-old vlogger. But you're about to.

With a massive number of subscribers that has seemingly grown overnight, Levin is one part of YouTube's pitch to attract TV-size ad budgets through the Google Preferred program that is core to its Brandcast event during this week's NewFronts.

Photos: Joshua Pestka

From funny videos that show the difference between life's expectations and sometimes harsh reality—like what it's really like for teens to go back to school (nearly 24 million YouTube views)—to beauty tips on how to make your own lipstick out of bubble gum (more than 15 million views), Levin's one of YouTube's homegrown stars who has found her niche on the platform.

Levin spoke with Adweek's Lauren Johnson about how she got started on YouTube, her staggeringly quick growth and how brands should work with creators.

Adweek: How did you get started on YouTube?
Rachel Levin: I started five years ago, so I was 15 years old. I would come home and always be excited to watch YouTube videos because I wasn't as interested in doing sports and stuff—I was obsessed with watching YouTube videos.

I would watch all these beauty tutorials to the point where in the mirror when I did my makeup in the morning, I would be like, "OK, now we're going to apply this product to our outer v" [of the eye].

Once I came to the conclusion that I was doing makeup tutorials in the mirror, I decided that I should just film a video. So I filmed a how-to conceal under-eye circles video, posted it and didn't think anything of it.

You've gone from 1.9 million to 7.6 million YouTube subscribers in the past year. Was there a moment when you knew your YouTube videos really caught on?
There wasn't one set video that I did—I just started upping [the number of] videos that I really enjoy doing. It's just always been a process of figuring out what content makes me and my subscribers happy.

I do videos that are relatable to my subscribers, so a lot of time, it involves my mom and sister and things I would normally have in my day-to-day life.

Your biggest following is on YouTube, but you're also big on Instagram. How do you think about growing a multiplatform strategy?
All of the growth on my other platforms is from YouTube.

I don't have a separate audience on Instagram and Snapchat. The people that watch my YouTube videos just watch on the other platforms as well.

How do you think people will watch your videos in five years?
I still see myself posting videos because there is so much creative freedom in YouTube. So I never see myself doing something else because I love what I do.

I wonder how my videos will evolve in five years—hopefully they'll be higher production value.

What do brands get right—and wrong—in working with creators?
The right thing to do when working with creators is just let us be us because we know exactly what our followers like to watch.

They trust us, we trust them, so we're really able to make the type of videos that will work best with our audience that will do the best for the brand.

As long as they give us creative freedom, then they're doing it right.

This story first appeared in the May 2, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.
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