How YouTube’s Hottest Personalities Are Becoming Offline Superstars

Michelle Phan, Rosanna Pansino and Bethany Mota are icons of a new generation

Beauty tutorial maven Michelle Phan, 27, baking impresario Rosanna Pansino, 29, and fashion and lifestyle guru Bethany Mota, 19, hardly need an introduction. The three women were the first YouTube stars featured in the video service's 2014 marketing push (for which PHD and Essence won a Media Plan of the Year), which introduced the online personalities to the offline public. Since the campaign, their careers have skyrocketed, proving that YouTube has become a magnet for innovative entertainment and creative talent that brands need to back. We caught up with the three women to find out about their humble beginnings and where they are today.

How did it all begin for you?

Photo: Kevin Scanlon

Michelle Phan: I had a blog and was documenting my life as a college student in an art school. I had a few comments left by a few girls asking if I could do a tutorial on how I did my makeup. I didn't think my makeup was all that special, but I try my best to share whatever I can with my viewers. It made more sense to film the makeup tutorial because the process of makeup is so beautiful; it's like watching someone paint. I uploaded my first video, not expecting anyone else to watch it except for those girls. Within the first week, it got over 40,000 views. (For more on how Phan got started, click here.)

Rosanna Pansino: I moved to L.A. I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do, but I really like the entertainment industry. I started to make videos on YouTube to get more comfortable being in front of the camera. The first video I filmed was with my sister. We decided that we were going to blog us volunteering for Earth Day back in Seattle. It was just really fun, and I fell in love with being creative and creating my own content. Baking has always been one of my many hobbies. After I uploaded my first baking tutorial video, I got a really positive response from the online community, and they started to demand more videos like that.

 

Photo: Kevin Scanlon

Bethany Mota:

I had been cyberbullied, which is funny that eventually I decided to kind of pursue this. Then I started watching YouTube videos and saw girls my age who were talking about beauty and fashion. At this point in my life, I felt like I didn't really have a voice. I saw all of these women who were using their voices to speak to people all around the world. Eventually I decided to make my own . Growing up, I was always a very shy girl. I didn't want anyone in my house to know that I was filming videos, except my mom. I didn't want my dad or my sister to find out because I knew they'd make fun of me. All I remember is, when filming my first video, I was basically whispering. That was my goal, to make sure no one heard me.

And, now you've all literally become the faces of YouTube premium content. Are you ever surprised at how big your following has gotten?

Mota: It shocks me every day! Four years ago, I was at a mall, and I heard this girl calling my name. She ran to me, and I got really freaked out. I'm like, wait, I don't know this girl–what's going on? Reading comments, people saying "I love your videos," it's awesome, but seeing them in person, it's just completely different. It's like, wow, there's actual real people who watch my videos.

Phan: I'm used to everything digital–the pictures, the avatars of the person, the profiles–so when I get to see someone in the flesh, it's really nice. [In the beginning], I was very secretive about my channel. My roommate didn't even know I had a YouTube channel. I was scared that people would think I was weird or vain, but I just had this passion to teach, and it was a little side hobby that I had. I was really shocked that anyone outside of the YouTube space would recognize me in real life.