When Louise Pentland encouraged young teen fans (NB: under 16) not to set up a YouTube channel, a crowd of fans felt disheartened and their parents practically cheered with joy. Because in a world where Zoella is Queen and Internet fame is the new Pop Idol, everyone wants a piece of the vlogging action. And unlike the height of reality TV (Fame Academy, Popstars: The Rivals, Shipwrecked), there’s no lengthy audition process ending in heartbreak and a metallic pink boob tube you’ll never wear again.
A few clicks and you’ve set up a channel and thought of a snazzy name (more on that later). The potential is there. You can absolutely be as famous as Zoella, as loved as Lucy and Lydia and as successful as Michelle Phan. So why wouldn’t you seize one of the best opportunities and launch your own YouTube channel, whether you’re 13 or 113?
Whilst we initially admit the thought of a 13 year old broadcasting from their bedroom and being watched by thousands of people scares us a little, we soon found we were in awe of some of the teenage beauty channels which show skill, passion, knowledge and – most importantly- encouragement to be who you are.
We used to rock up to school with a goo of Miss Sporty clear mascara stuck to our lashes, these days ‘Back To School’ make-up tutorials are a huge pull for viewers with big name professional make-up artists and school students alike whipping out their blending brushes and brow pencils to show you how to achieve a flawless look for double maths.
So does YouTube add even more to today’s pressures to look perfect? No doubt. But does it also open up an opportunity to explore personal identity and entrepreneurship? Absolutely.
If you search for 13 year old beauty tutorials, you’re inundated with thousands of channels across the world showcasing teenage girls (and sometimes boys too) helping you get brows on fleek, showcasing their latest Jack Wills purchases and doing room tours which make us proud that we once had Spice Girls wallpaper and didn’t feel the pressure to have the perfect Tumblr bedroom.
But what these teens are doing is actually rather brilliant. From learning filming and editing skills to make their channel better to becoming great future social media pros thanks to using Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Snapchat to help promote their latest videos. The teenagers who run these channels are becoming seriously skilled make-up artists, hair stylists and fashion stylists thanks to YouTube proving a platform for them to learn and discover as well as share and improve on the passions.
As our mothers would say, it’s way better having a 13 year old film their make-up collection than have them hanging out on the street “getting up to no good”.
And let’s not deny that a small group of teens quickly rise to Internet fame. YouTuber Beckii Cruel rose to fame when she was 13 thanks to her love of all things Japanese style. Cue international fame, money, success and a global fan base which has seen her channel reach 20 million views all before she turned 18. Other young successful vloggers include beauty and Dubsmash fan Jasmine Ane, Lilly Mae who is nearly at 50k subscribers and beauty vlogger Ella May. In Jasmine and Lilly’s case, they’re even signed to management and PRs are desperately trying to reach out to them and send them products thanks to their relatable nature to fellow teens. Ultimately, these girls already have the talent, social media and business minds to set themselves on the path of a world of endorsement, web celeb status and money if they choose to.
Of course, we can’t ignore the trolls. For every compliment on liner application and fashion haul will be a negative comment which will have an impact on the impressionable teenage mind; even today’s biggest stars who have entire forums dedicated to them which sprout hate struggle to cope with negative comments. Do we expect young people to be able to brush off and block?
So maybe that’s what Louise Pentland was discouraging her young fans from? And the effects of a digital footprint, having remembered the age of dial-up and knowing fine well any future boss/boyfriend/child will no doubt Google you and find your cringe boyfriend tag you did at 14 or that video when you were just a bit too TMI but hadn’t realised it at the time. Most of the girls doing beauty vlogging will likely go into other career areas so what happens when their channels go stale but they can still be seen by the person assessing their university application or job application? Saying that, surely it’s better that your digital footprint features you showing off your interests, being aware of cultural trends and gaining skills in digital from a young age?
Either way, we’re encouraged by this movement of young, open minded YouTubers and hope it promotes diversity in the sphere and encourages a stronger, more relatable body image than we’ve seen in the past thanks to traditional media.