Bronzer tutorials, mansion MAKEOVERS and a novel that OUTSOLD Harry Potter. When Zoe Sugg invited STRANGERS inside her BEDROOM, her career path changed forever. How did one beauty vlogger turn her PASSION into a lipstick LEGACY?
Back then it WASN’T really anyone’s job. It was just a space to be CREATIVE and to SHARE your passions and views with other PEOPLE all over the WORLD.
Zoe Sugg wants to tell you all of her secrets. The 27-year-old British vlogger and unlikely beauty icon has spent the last eight years sharing cheery dispatches on Zoella, a dangerously watchable YouTube channel that will turn you into a beauty addict – even if you have no interest in foundation. In the last few months, Zoe has shown you how to organise your lipsticks, get the perfect bronzed look for summer and invited her boyfriend, fellow vlogger Alfie Deyes, to give her a makeover.
But it’s a mistake to underestimate the 27-year-old as just a pretty face. We can’t stop streaming her videos. Neither can almost 12 million other people – the number of subscribers to her Zoella channel at last count. From videos shot in her bedroom, the entrepreneur has created a multi-product, profit-making empire.
“The early days for me were in 2009, when YouTube was a much smaller space. Inspired by other video-makers who sat in their bedrooms on their webcams, I picked up my dad’s digital camera to start filming something myself,” recalls Zoe, the daughter of a property developer father and beautician mother, who grew up in Wiltshire, England, and relocated to a five-bedroom mansion in Brighton with Alfie in June (the attendant vlog, ‘The Happiest Day’, scored 2.5 million hits).
“Back then it wasn’t really anyone’s job. It was just a space to be creative and to share your passions and views with other people all over the world. I was surprised when I heard about the partnership program, where you could apply to earn money through advertising. I remember after about a year of filming videos, a cheque for $60 landed on my doorstep from Google. I was so amazed that something I enjoyed so much had made a little bit of money! Especially as I didn’t have a job at that time.”
In 2009, no one predicted that video would take off like it has. Eight years later, Zoe – along with her friend Tanya Burr, who’s often seen making cameos on her vlogs – is a mogul-in-the-making, overseeing cosmetics brands, book deals and lucrative partnerships with brands and networks, in addition to creating her own content. >
Her first vlog was unapologetically simple – a four-minute video on ‘60 things in my bedroom’ (chewing gum, an advent calendar, backcombing brush…) with her boyfriend in the backdrop. Who could have imagined its future?
Since then, through collaborative content (she averages one collaboration video per month), befriending the media and understanding her audience intimately, her signature style has not changed – but her income certainly has. According to a Business Insider report, Zoe – whose empire includes a bestselling cosmetics line with UK chain Superdrug, a line of candles, pillows and stationery and a three-book series with Penguin – clears £50,000 a month.
By estimates, Zoe, who was recently named Forbes’ number one beauty influencer, draws an audience that’s more than 26 times larger than the circulation of British Vogue. But you don’t figure out how a teenage girl disrupted the US$445 billion global beauty industry by looking at the numbers alone. Magazines have always sold beauty as aspiration, persuading us that we can unlock the secret to a glamorous life by buying a new lipstick. Zoella, who’s prone to an unedited stream of chatter and appears to delight in mispronouncing fancy French beauty terms, is upfront about her flaws. She tells her young audience they’re fine as they are – despite the fact that she’s gorgeous enough to make milkmaid braids look like a style triumph.
“Everything in this industry changes so quickly, from the trends and the popular topics to what people want to see, and staying on top of that is important if you want to keep your audience happy,” explains Zoe, who became the fastest-selling debut author in history with the November 2014 publication of her young adult novel Girl Online (knocking J.K. Rowling off the top spot!).
“On the other hand, I truly believe that making videos and creating content that you want to create is almost more important than this, because otherwise you could start to lose your personal identity or the love of things you want to share. I always film and upload things I’m 100 per cent happy with. I like to watch content that I feel some sort of personal connection with.”
Unlike beauty icons such as Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell, Zoe – a true poster girl for her generation – is unabashedly wholesome, more likely to bake cupcakes with Alfie or hang out with her pug, Nala, than go to parties or frequent nightclubs. She doesn’t drink and is famously candid about her struggles with anxiety, revealing a history of panic attacks in a widelyshared December 2011 blog post. Zoe, who became the first digital ambassador for UK charity Mind, is determined to use her platform to reduce the stigma around mental health. >