9th June 2016 / Beauty / by Chia Sihan

Giving beauty a fighting chance

Whenever the subject of beauty comes up in conversations, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t have an opinion about it. Whether you regard it as fluff or quintessential, there’s no doubting the power that beauty has in changing lives.

Take for instance, the role beauty has played in the life of Asian American beauty personality and media mogul Michelle Phan, who literally started a career with a YouTube account while she was in college.

From a graduate who couldn’t land a job at a beauty counter as she had no sales experience, she has come a long way with a billion YouTube lifetime views and 7.7 million followers (and growing) on her channel, which she started during her first semester at Ringling College of Art and Design in 2006.

Michelle has kept herself busy: she has since started a new premium lifestyle network on Endemol Beyond, a makeup line with L’Oreal, beauty subscription service Ipsy and wrote a new book. With such an impressive track record, it seemed unconceivable that she would fail: after lackluster sales following em’s 1st launch in 2013 and nearly three years of effort from the beauty guru, she decided to take a digital detox and disappeared from the social media world. After nearly a year’s hiatus, she’s back with her latest endeavour is the recent relaunch of EM Cosmetics, a version 2.0 of her previous collaboration with L’Oreal.

From a girl whose early videos were of her dogs, you won’t be blamed for thinking the 30-year-old probably has clones of herself working round the clock to continue thinking of new ideas, such as teaching the style tribe how to store clothes.


What makes Michelle different from her other successful peers (at a speech to aspiring entrepreneurs, she mentioned “friends [who] have 200,000 subscribers, and they make around five to six K a month”) is her tenacity and out-of-the-box thinking. At an age where many of her peers were concerned with landing a job and going for interviews, Michelle was recreating the various looks of Lady Gaga and filming in her room. The same goes for her video on looking close-up ready on momentous occasions such as graduation day, while slipping in a quick mention of her Glam bags, which go for just $10 a pop and contains sachets of samples from the products that she recommends.

Perhaps what keeps Michelle going through the demands of building her own beauty empire besides a relentless work ethic (she takes no off days) , is the fact that her work comes from her passion for makeup and a desire to help others.

In an interview with Cosmopolitan US, she recalls a fan who wrote to her about his mother, who was suffering from cancer. Phan says, “She loved makeup so much, she applied it every day, [but] she went through chemotherapy and there was a point where she was so weak that she couldn’t apply her own makeup. So he went online, he found my videos, he learned all of my different techniques, and then he would apply makeup on her every morning. And she felt, you know, better.”

Images from Michelle Phan’s Facebook and Instagram accounts

About the Writer

Chia Sihan

A story junkie by nature, this TFCS scribe thrives on uncovering the backstories of her interview subjects, whether they are heads of corporations or a working Mum caring for a child with a developmental disorder. She finds it a privilege to be privy to these personal experiences. Some of the publications she has written for include the Singapore Women’s Weekly, L’Officiel Singapore, and Harper’s Bazaar Junior. It is this genuine love for storytelling and collaboration that led her to kickstart her journey as a co-founder of The Fashion Collective Singapore. Now the chief storyteller at TFCS, she is particularly inspired by the personal journeys of TFCS Mentors, not to mention their dedication towards the refinement of their craft.

Head over to The Editor’s Journal to read articles contributed by Sihan.

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