Entrepreneurship: Sparkly Eye Shadow? These (Male) Beauty Bloggers Are Experts

Entrepreneurship: Sparkly Eye Shadow? These (Male) Beauty Bloggers Are Experts

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“I came out when I was 12, but I only started doing makeup 18 months ago,” Mr. Charles said. “I started doing it on myself, and my parents thought I was transgender. I’m not. It took a lot for me to explain it to them.”

Alex Rivera, a 26-year-old beauty blogger from in suburban Chicago who is gay, said the world of cosmetics had been “a really great support system” for him, adding, “You feel different because of your sexuality and orientation, but they’re a welcoming community.”

Mr. Charles, who finished high school this year and moved to Los Angeles, specializes in how-to videos that can take him from 90 minutes to seven hours to produce. In a recent one, called “Valentine’s Day Glitter Makeup Tutorial,” he shows viewers in just under 12 minutes how to recreate a pink lipstick and eyeliner look. Along the way, he promotes many products by name, as well as a video game that sponsored the segment.

“I’ve always been an internet kid,” Mr. Charles said. “I’d watched makeup tutorials on YouTube for five years, and I started practicing on my friends.”

Like other beauty bloggers, he makes money through affiliate deals; by collecting a portion of the sales of the products he promotes; by attending live events; by one-off deals with major brands; and through YouTube advertising.

Fans of Mr. Charles and other male beauty bloggers are heavy consumers — of both the videos and the products they endorse. Jordyn Birden, a 19-year-old student at Virginia Tech, watches five or six male beauty blogs every day, each one about 15 minutes long. “It’s like an addiction,” she said.

Watching these bloggers has “upped my game” in terms of beauty tricks, Ms. Birden said. “I look at their techniques — how they do their eyeliner — and I pick up their skills,” she said. So far she said she had learned “how to create highlights, how to do eyeliner, the glory of highlighting.”

The most successful beauty bloggers use everyday drugstore brands. “They do have an influence on the things I buy,” Ms. Birden said. “Most of the time they do recommend things that are affordable to people like us. If the artist doesn’t bring up a drugstore brand, it turns you off.”

Hillary Kline, 29, who works in public relations in Minneapolis, loves male beauty bloggers. “I like seeing how other people create looks,” she said.

Her favorite is Patrick Simondac, known online as Patrick Starrr, who dresses in drag, is sponsored by Smashbox cosmetics and other companies and has 2.1 million YouTube subscribers.

Alex Rivera, a Youtube star and makeup artist from Illinois, has been contacted by celebrities in California to apply their makeup for events.

Credit
Brittany Sowacke for The New York Times

Mr. Simondac is “fun, quirky and creative,” Ms. Kline said, adding, “He’s one of the prettiest men I’ve ever seen.”

He is also affiliated with the beauty brands Tarte and Benefit, two of Ms. Kline’s favorites. “His videos suck you in,” she said. “They’re really good at selling products.”

Some beauty bloggers — and their highly protective managers — zealously guard how much income they are earning. When a cordial Mr. Charles was asked the value of his groundbreaking CoverGirl deal, two managers sitting in on the interview snapped, “His finances are private.”

Laura Brinker, a consumer beauty executive at Coty, the parent company of CoverGirl, was equally unforthcoming. “The ways in which CoverGirl partners with influencers are confidential,” she said in an email. “These are extremely important relationships, and specific details are competitively sensitive.”

“The money talk is difficult” because every beauty blogger’s goal is to remain relatable, said Mr. Rivera, who posts on Instagram and YouTube under the name @alexfaction. “If they say how much money they’re making, it could be alienating.”

Mr. Rivera, who has a penchant for skulls and Halloween-style makeup, recently dyed his hair blue ahead of a move to Los Angeles. He knows who his fans are.

“You’re a warrior for the middle-class using drugstore makeup,” Mr. Rivera said. “That’s why they’re so successful. They’re not Beyoncé. They’re your best friend.”

Thomas Halbert, 20, is another beauty blogger who is moving to Los Angeles (from his native Asheville, N.C.). He has a shock of blond hair and a bit of a Justin Bieber vibe.

“I’m the first person in my family to make quite a lot of money,” he said. “For the most part, I grew up very, very poor.”

Mr. Halbert said he started creating makeup designs as a way to cope with anxiety and depression. “I found peace in making art,” he said. “The next thing you know, I’m going to Walgreens” to buy makeup. “Then, I was kind of lost,” he continued. “I just knew I didn’t want to go to college.”

By the time he was 15, Mr. Halbert was making $1,000 to $3,000 a month from ads on his Tumblr account. This year, all told, he expects to earn $100,000.

Now, he said, “I’m a businessman.”

Male beauty blogging began to emerge in 2014, Mr. Rivera said. At the time, he said, about 12 men were doing it; they all knew of one another and were initially collegial. “It was a very close-knit community, trading industry secrets,” he said. Today, the field is much more crowded and competitive.

Some businesspeople watch these bloggers for product inspiration. Brent Ridge, a partner in Beekman 1802, a farm and lifestyle store, is coming out with a new line of goat-milk skin care products — an idea that came to him from reading comments on male beauty bloggers’ sites. “They’re so critical for market research, because they get so many comments,” Mr. Ridge said. “What’s the overall theme? I’m constantly online reading them and pooling that data.”

The rise of male beauty bloggers does not surprise him. “All the way through history, men have been peacocks, and now it’s become more and more acceptable,” Mr. Ridge said. “If you think about the male customer, they’re all taking selfies too, for their Tinder or Grindr profiles.”

Another reason male beauty bloggers find faithful followers is their willingness to share their personal lives, as Mr. Charles did in an Instagram post in June: “The past few days of my life have been some of the worst in a long time. I had a boy I really cared about take advantage of me.” That post won more than 55,000 likes.

“They’re not just giving a makeup tutorial,” Mr. Ridge said. “They’re telling a story about themselves. If you watch them every day, you’re going to get to know them very well.”

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