UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Meet social media’s most powerful family
That’s right, Norwich, that gentle Norfolk backwater best known for two things – a second-division football team and Alan Partridge. Except now of course it’s famous for another thing: producing influencers. That’s because Norwich is home to the Chapmans – a smiley, shiny family, four members of which are what are technically known as mega-influencers – those with a combined following of 500,000 or more. That means this family influences everything from what colour eyeliner you will put on in the morning to how you’ll train at the gym after work and even what shirt your partner has currently got on their back.
I meet the Chapmans at a vast red-brick house that belongs to beauty YouTuber Nic Haste (née Chapman) and her husband Ian Haste. It is located amid flat green fields, at the end of a long, meandering drive, in the outskirts of Norwich. This, as the cabbie makes a point of telling me, “is the posh bit”.
At 38 years old, Nic is the second eldest sibling, and along with her sister, Sam, they make up Pixiwoo, probably the most famous beauty YouTubers in the UK right now (they have 2.2 million subscribers, plus 311,000 on their “Real Techniques” channel). That’s apart from perhaps Tanya Burr – but then she is their sister-in-law. Nic and Sam’s little brother is Jim Chapman, who, incidentally, is Tanya’s husband. You’ll likely know Jim from his YouTube channel, which is mostly him showing men how to live their best life – which includes how to make a Pisco Sour, style up a denim jacket and even how to make a banoffee pie.
Jim, 30, is also the twin brother of John Chapman, one half of The Lean Machines, two personal trainers who have almost 500,000 subscribers on YouTube and are basically like Joe Wicks – but more chiselled. And finally, steaming in behind all of them and a relative newcomer to this world is Ian Haste, Nic’s husband, a one-time business development manager who, in between being a stay-at-home dad to the couple’s two children and renovating houses, has started Haste’s Kitchen, a healthy, home-cooking YouTube channel. (He currently has 78,000 subscribers, as well as 54,800 followers on Instagram, but then he did start three years after John, and six years after Pixiwoo.)
I’ll be honest. I was nervous about coming. I’ve always imagined YouTubers to have the same Tiggerish energy that all children’s TV presenters appear to have – except this lot need to have it 24/7. It’s essential to keeping a fickle audience captive, I suppose. After all, why stay on their content when you have the entire internet at your fingertips? Spending an afternoon with five influencers then? I’m not entirely sure what to expect.
It’s Sam who opens the door to me. She is tall with striking eyes and a 10-yard smile. She embraces me in the manner of an old friend, then leads me through into the family kitchen. The place is big and definitely not Ikea, but still, it has all the warm, homely detritus – books, bits of paper, cards from friends – that suggests real harried family life happens here.
Jim is sitting at the table eating scrambled eggs on toast while his dachshund, Martha, yaps around his feet.“She’s got a lot of gumption, that dog,” he says, deadpan. Ian, meanwhile, is hovering over the stove where he’s been preparing an eight-hour tomato-and-aubergine pasta sauce for lunch, while John is showing Nic how to do a “pistol squat”. There are no video cameras and no visible phones. Only Sam makes reference to a video that she needs to do before lunch for Pixiwoo’s Real Techniques makeup-brush line. And she is trying to find the motivation to do it. ›
Handle: Pixiwoo Launched: 2008 YouTube subscribers: 2.2m Instagram and Twitterfollowers: 1.8m First video: Sam demonstrating a smoky eye to music. It has since been taken down.