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Michelle Phan: Getting Turned Down for a Job at Department Store Beauty Counter Launched My Career

5 facts you may not know about the beauty tutorial maven

Michelle Phan rose to fame by giving makeup tutorials on YouTube. Photo: Kevin Scanlon

Adweek spoke to YouTube sensation Michelle Phan about her rise to fame from starting out as a beauty tutorial vlogger to becoming an international businesswoman, working with brands like Dr Pepper and L'Oréal. Here are some more interesting tidbits we learned about Phan.

Losing a Potential Job at a Department Store Beauty Counter Inspired Her Web Video Career

Phan did her first makeup tutorial in 2007 in response to someone who was reading her personal blog and had asked her to demonstrate how she did her makeup. But, there was another reason why she wanted to get started doing stuff on camera: She wanted sales experience. Phan had applied at several different department store beauty counters, and had made it to the final round at Lancome afters several skills tests. However, when they asked her if she had any experience in sales, she said no. At the time, Phan was a student, and worked as a waitress where she never had to sell anything.

"I was really bummed out about it because I really wanted to work in the beauty industry, and I just love to see reactions when I gave makeovers to people. I wanted to be able to do that at the beauty counter, but I guess the universe and life has different paths for you to take. That path happened to lead me to opening my laptop and shooting my first video after I got turned down," she said.

Her Most Memorable Video? 

Phan doesn't have a favorite video, but she will always remember the time the tables were turned and she allowed her boyfriend to do her makeup. "I think I honestly believe every single couple that's like a test to see if that person really loves you—if he can do your make-up and not turn you into a clown!" she explained laughing.

She Sketches Out Difficult Looks 

Before she does her tutorials, Phan likes to put pencil to paper and work out how the look will appear. Her inspiration comes from tips via her followers, who often tag her in pictures or ask her for specific looks. She also has an active imagination, and admits she watches a lot of movies.

"I was watching 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' a few months ago, and I just thought how funny would it be if I turned her into a zombie for my Halloween video? Just little things like that," she said.

She Signed a Young Bethany Mota to Her YouTube Network

In 2012, Phan received money from YouTube to start her own network on the platform. She decided to create FAWN (For All Women Network), a channel focused on women's lifestyle content.

"It was a great opportunity for me to really expand my production resources and also for me to create shows that I would have never been able to create on my own. My channel, it's still like a one woman studio, but a network, that's when we can hire other editors and other shooters and we can like do really cool show concepts," she said. 

it also allowed her to help up-and-coming YouTube content creators realize their potential. One of her first FAWN women was none other than Bethany Mota.

"She was under FAWN two years ago before she really blew up. I saw so much talent and so much passion in her, and I just wanted to like give her that support. You know how it is in L.A. At times, it's a dog-eat-dog world. There's a lot of sharks. I think with YouTube, we're anti that. We're anti-competitive. We're all about collaborating and supporting."

She Wants to Do More on YouTube

Besides FAWN, Phan has a makeup line in collaboration with L'oreal called em Michelle Phan and has a beauty sample subscription service and network called Ipsy. She also released a new book, "Make Up: Your Life Guide to Beauty, Style and Success." Despite her crazy schedule, she still remains a passionate YouTuber.

"I'm getting more help because at this point I don’t know if I can continue to edit all my videos myself. I want to start putting out more content instead of one video a week. On top of that, I partnered with Endemol Beyond, so we are launching a premium lifestyle network end of this year," she said.

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