Nineteen-year-old James Charles has already established an impressive career as a beauty influencer.
After starting his YouTube channel in 2015, Charles has accumulated over 8.7 million subscribers on the video platform — he also has 8.4 million Instagram followers. His viral content eschews the usual makeup tutorials and product reviews in favor of completed beauty looks and humorous lifestyle videos. This content style helped earn him a sponsorship with CoverGirl as their first male ambassador in 2016. Since, he’s been beefing up his offline presence with a live makeup tutorial tour in Australia in August, and he’ll be announcing a handful of new brand collaborations over the next few months.
Charles shared with Glossy his thoughts on the emerging male-beauty trend, as well as the problems within the current influencer economy and solutions for improving them.
Why do you think the male-beauty movement has become more mainstream?
Men’s makeup [has become] a worldwide phenomenon, which is so exciting, because men have been wearing makeup since the beginning of time. Social media has really skyrocketed the acceptance level. So many young kids are seeing that it’s fun and OK to be yourself, to play with makeup and use it as an art form.
How do you see the current influencer economy changing or evolving?
I think it’s a wonderful [economic] system, but it’s also a broken system that has a lot of things that could be changed. There’s no specific set [price for sponsorships], and I think [there] should be — brands should be doing their proper research on influencers that are doing really well right now and have high engagement and can offer strong ROI. I think a lot of influencer rates have been diluted by either poorly chosen brand-influencer relationships that weren’t able to provide a return or influencers that were being greedy and lying about their rate. Everyone needs to be more transparent around what they are able to provide and, at the same time, know their value — [influencers] shouldn’t undervalue themselves because, with the right brand-influencer partnerships, millions of dollars of sales can be done within a few days.
What are some of the other pain points within the influencer economy right now?
One of the main issues with the model is that brands are trying to take traditional media models and apply them to the influencer space, which doesn’t work out. They want everyone to be on [their] perfect behavior, with perfect work schedules and work all day long and put out constant content as if they have a huge production team or network behind them. The reality is that a lot of influencers are their own production team. At the same time, a lot of consumers discredit that job by saying, ‘It’s not a real job; you shouldn’t be making any money at all.'”
If you narrow it down, there aren’t a lot of differences between celebrity marketing and influencer marketing. The only difference is the stereotypes — when it comes to status, the money isn’t the same, and that’s where a lot of problems fall within the marketing space.
So should influencer marketing be treated like celebrity marketing? How do you think a sense of legitimacy can be brought to the space?
Launching ambassadorship programs, which are just like what [brands do with] traditional media celebrities, is the exact way to [do] that. Those are the types of deals my team is actively working on, so I hope to a be a frontrunner in that space. Hopefully, [longer term, more traditional ambassadorships] will take scrutinization off of the influencer space, so we can be taken more seriously.