‘BEAUTY SAVED MY LIFE’

Her dad was de­ported when she was six. She got up at 4am to help her mum clean of­fices be­fore school. Now one of the UK’s most suc­cess­ful so­cial-me­dia stars, Pa­tri­cia Bright tells her ut­terly in­spir­ing story

The Mail on Sunday - You - - Contents -

YouTube star Pa­tri­cia Bright re­veals why hard times were the mak­ing of her.

Igrew up in Bat­tersea, Lon­don. In the early 90s, my mother took a leap of faith and moved from Nige­ria to Lon­don where she met my father, a Nige­rian in­ter­na­tional stu­dent work­ing for his print­ing tech­nol­ogy de­gree in the UK. Not long af­ter­wards, she be­came preg­nant with me; 18 months later with my sis­ter. Af­ter he grad­u­ated, Dad worked for a pub­lish­ing firm and Mum put her hands to ev­ery­thing and any­thing she could to sup­port rais­ing two chil­dren. She had a sa­lon/bou­tique back in Nige­ria and was de­ter­mined to make some­thing of her­self here, too. Then, when I was six years old, Dad was de­ported.

It came as a to­tal shock. One night there was a fran­tic knock­ing at the door and a team of po­lice­men took him away like a thief in the night. I can still see Mum sit­ting on the stairs, plead­ing with them while my sis­ter and I sobbed. It would take six years and a court case be­fore my father would come back to us.

Now that I’m older I un­der­stand that he was an il­le­gal im­mi­grant who hadn’t ap­plied for per­ma­nent res­i­dency once his stu­dent visa had ex­pired. (Mum was nat­u­ralised here at the time of hav­ing my sis­ter and me.) With Dad gone, we were on our own.

Mum worked as an of­fice cleaner at this point. She put in the shifts, get­ting up for 5am starts on some days and trudg­ing home af­ter 10pm on oth­ers. And while we were at pri­mary school, my sis­ter and I learned to put in the shifts, too. We had to go ev­ery­where with her be­cause she couldn’t leave us home alone.

So at 4am, with sleep in our eyes and our school uni­forms on, the two of us would go with Mum to clean of­fices. My sis­ter and I would vac­uum, wash the dishes and wipe down sur­faces. We weren’t very big, but we were strong. Then Mum would take us to school. We knew this had to be kept se­cret, and deep down we were scared that they might take Mum away as well as Dad.

Over the fol­low­ing years I watched Mum el­e­vate her­self. She had a sec­ondary school ed­u­ca­tion and not much else, but while she worked as a cleaner she be­gan train­ing as

a nurse. In be­tween her shifts and train­ing she would rus­tle up meals for us. We never had much in terms of ma­te­rial things but there was so much love that we al­ways felt com­fort­able.

Mean­while, we were be­ing moved from council house to council house. We dealt with racists, be­ing at­tacked by a neigh­bour’s dog and the daily strug­gle of liv­ing in dodgy lo­ca­tions. Even­tu­ally our luck turned and the council housed us in a lovely two-bed­roomed flat with car­pets, nice neigh­bours and a bunk bed that my sis­ter and I could share.

When Mum qual­i­fied as a nurse, do­ing all the shifts she could, my sis­ter and I were of­ten at home alone, with in­struc­tions drilled into us such as not to open the door or the cur­tains. But Mum turned our lives around be­cause she was man­ag­ing to save. Even­tu­ally she had enough money to buy the flat from the council for £17,000 in 1997. We felt like mil­lion­aires own­ing our own home. Five years later, in 2002, Mum was able to sell it for £250,000, bought our next home and learned how to in­vest in prop­erty. It wasn’t long be­fore she had cre­ated a port­fo­lio with ten prop­er­ties. She had grinded – that’s the only word for it – her way to suc­cess.

De­spite things be­ing dif­fi­cult, I can’t re­gret the lessons of those tough years. Through those child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences I learned some­thing that has shaped the path of my whole life: that it’s within your power to change your sit­u­a­tion. Mum showed me, through her ex­am­ple, that what you ex­pect of your­self is usu­ally what you achieve. The cir­cum­stances were mere ob­sta­cles to work around – it wasn’t that she didn’t see them, she sim­ply didn’t fo­cus on them.

A stranger watch­ing her graft away clean­ing, kids in tow, would have strug­gled to pre­dict where she’d end up. And this mo­ti­vates me, even to­day, though there have been many oc­ca­sions where it looked as though the odds were stacked against me. Those hard times pro­vided me with the head, heart and hus­tle – the men­tal at­ti­tude and the re­silience to get me through.

At uni­ver­sity, for in­stance, I didn’t have any friends and shared a house with some­one who was cold and dis­tant. I found so­lace in the on­line world and es­caped my re­al­ity on the com­puter, spend­ing hours on fo­rums for hair, make-up and beauty – things I’d al­ways loved but never had any­one to talk to about. At that time this was a niche ac­tiv­ity, but those peo­ple on­line pro­vided me with a lit­tle es­cape and it has led to my ca­reer. I spent so much time look­ing at pho­tos and videos that I bought a cheap cam­era – you couldn’t use your phone in those days – and started record­ing.

My first YouTube video was just a minute and a half long, in­tro­duc­ing my­self to the world. ‘Hi, I’m Pa­tri­cia, I’m go­ing to do make-up and fash­ion.’ That was pretty much it. My sec­ond video was a ‘haul’ – like sit­ting down with your girl­friends and shar­ing with them the fash­ion bar­gains you were able to pick up. My third video was a DIY where I put but­tons and trims on to a few Pri­mark tops. Grad­u­ally a few peo­ple started to check me out.

I started earn­ing money at the age of 13. I knew I had to get my hus­tle on early be­cause noth­ing was go­ing to be handed to me on a plate. I’d taught my­self how to do braids and corn­rows, hav­ing watched Mum do my sis­ter’s hair, and had even­tu­ally be­come the fam­ily’s res­i­dent hair­styl­ist. For aun­ties and cousins I was the go-to girl and I loved it. I did hair like it was ther­apy, and prac­tised a lot on my­self. At sec­ondary school I was be­gin­ning to get a lot of at­ten­tion as a re­sult and when I told them I did my hair my­self, they’d ask me to do theirs. Ker-ching! I saw my op­por­tu­nity and started a lit­tle busi­ness. I be­came the play­ground stylist, and for £5 for half a head, £10 a full head, I would do what­ever they wanted: zigzags, pat­terns and other de­signs.

I got my first ever job when I was 14, knock­ing from door to door de­liv­er­ing kitchen­ware cat­a­logues and any sub­se­quent or­ders. I earned a pit­tance in com­mis­sion from every or­der but if I worked all sum­mer I could eas­ily make £200 by the end of it, and as a kid that hon­estly felt like a lot of good, hard-earned money. I was proud. In fact I put those sum­mers of work ex­pe­ri­ence on my CV, which helped me get my first ‘real’ job in re­tail. All that knock­ing on doors had to count for some­thing! It had helped me to de­velop my ‘cus­tomer ser­vice’ skills, I wrote. Pack­ing up or­ders honed my ‘or­gan­i­sa­tional skills’, while tak­ing door to door cash pay­ments was my ‘fi­nan­cial man­age­ment’ ex­pe­ri­ence. And just like that I had a job at House of Fraser at the age of 16.

My work­ing hours were 6pm to 10pm every Thurs­day, all day Satur­day and oc­ca­sion­ally a Sun­day. For the next four years, in­clud­ing part of my time at uni­ver­sity, that was my rou­tine. In all hon­esty, some­times I hated it. Late night

I KNEW I HAD TO GET MY HUS­TLE ON EARLY BE­CAUSE NOTH­ING WAS GO­ING TO BE HANDED TO ME ON A PLATE’

Thurs­days could drag, while in re­tail the cus­tomers are al­ways right (even when they’re not!). Fit­ting-room duty wasn’t ex­actly stim­u­lat­ing and I of­ten found my­self clock­watch­ing. But that was my ‘hus­tle’ at the time. When I went to uni­ver­sity in Manch­ester, I went to work at Sel­fridges.

My ven­tures didn’t al­ways work be­cause that’s the re­al­ity of life and busi­ness. An­other side hus­tle I set up was a beauty com­mu­nity. I wanted to bring girls to­gether who loved make-up but couldn’t af­ford the typ­i­cal re­tail prices. I’d found a dis­trib­u­tor on­line that sold Mac and I hon­estly couldn’t be­lieve the prices. They were a quar­ter of what they cost in the shops. So I spent a few hun­dred pounds of hard-earned money on stock, printed out fly­ers and or­gan­ised a space at the stu­dent union for my event. Then my stock ar­rived. The spell­ing on the pack­ag­ing was wrong: Mac was spelt Nac, the la­bels on the back didn’t look like the la­bels on the prod­ucts you could buy in store, and the colours were wrong. I had been ripped off. I learned that day that if some­thing seems too good to be true, it prob­a­bly is.

Some peo­ple are lucky enough to have par­ents who will fund them when they get started. I didn’t have that op­tion. I wasn’t re­sent­ful but I knew that I was go­ing to re­gret it if I didn’t make a more fi­nan­cially sta­ble choice for my fu­ture. I fig­ured that if I stuck with the fash­ion course I had be­gun, it wasn’t go­ing to set me up in the way that I wanted. So I switched to ac­coun­tancy be­liev­ing that I’d be able to get a bet­ter job and earn more money, and that would pro­vide me with more free­dom and op­por­tu­ni­ties.

I didn’t love my new course, but I also knew that I wasn’t go­ing to be an ac­coun­tant for the rest of my life. And I learned an im­por­tant les­son as a re­sult. When you’re start­ing out, it’s im­por­tant to find that sweet spot be­tween your pas­sion, your abil­ity and what’s prac­ti­cal. You don’t have to start out in your dream job; most of us have to pay the bills some­how.

You never know how your story is go­ing to turn out. You will go through sticky mo­ments as I did, and still do; you might not en­joy every step along the road, but I prom­ise you the re­sults will be worth it. All the good things that have hap­pened to me didn’t hap­pen overnight or with­out hard work, but they did hap­pen, and they can for you, too. Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from uni­ver­sity with a de­gree in ac­count­ing and fi­nance, Pa­tri­cia’s net­work­ing skills helped her to win an in­tern­ship at a lead­ing in­vest­ment bank. In 2010, a year be­fore land­ing her job in the City, she be­gan video blog­ging un­der the alias BritPopPrincess, then de­cided to use her own name. By 2013, she re­alised she was mak­ing enough money from her YouTube chan­nel to be able to leave her job as a busi­ness an­a­lyst con­sul­tant and con­cen­trate on it full time. She now has more than 2.5 mil­lion sub­scribers and is es­ti­mated to be earn­ing over £200,000 a year from the chan­nel.

‘Even now I find it amaz­ing – crazy even! – that I was able to turn my se­cret hobby into my busi­ness,’ she says. She has gone on to be­come an award-win­ning con­tent cre­ator, work­ing with brands such as Bobbi Brown, L’Oréal and Diet Coke. Ear­lier this year, she col­lab­o­rated with Mac on a spe­cial edi­tion Pa­tri­cia Bright lip­stick. Pa­tri­cia also owns and runs Y-Hair, which sells hair extensions. She is mar­ried to Michael, a phys­io­ther­a­pist, and the cou­ple have a two-year-old daugh­ter, Grace.

This is an edited ex­tract from Pa­tri­cia’s new book Heart & Hus­tle: What it Takes to Make it to the Top, to be pub­lished by HQ on 7 Fe­bru­ary 2019, price £18.99*

Pa­tri­cia as a 15-year-old at sec­ondary school, and to­day, op­po­site

Pa­tri­cia’s YouTube videos have won her more than 2.5 mil­lion sub­scribers

From top: in Shang­hai with, from left, fel­low trend­set­ters Win­nie Har­low, Tina Ku­nakey and Fanny Bour­dette-Donon; on hol­i­day in Turkey with daugh­ter Grace, and with hus­band Michael

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