If you've over 35 you've probably never heard of her. If you're in your late teens or 20s and enjoy makeup, she's probably like a god to you.
Lauren Curtis is Australia's biggest YouTube success. Hailing from Western Australia, the 23-year-old records makeup tutorials and posts them to her channel (where she has a cool 3.4 million subscribers and a combined reach of close to 5 million when you count Facebook and Instagram).
There's no denying that social media stars are the new celebrities. Their audiences far surpass traditional media outlets and their fan bases are naturally of a similar age, with similar interests. They’re a marketer's dream.
For that reason, but more importantly because Curtis has remained humble and honest throughout her 5 year rise to fame, she’s big business. She’s also the ideal role model for young girls amongst the not-so-savoury social star world.
Curtis didn't grow up loving makeup. In fact, she didn't wear any until her last year or two of high school.
“All throughout high school and until I was in year 11 I had no interest in makeup at all. All my friends were into it but I was bit of a late bloomer, I wasn't really up to date with everyone else. It got to a point where I started going out more and I was watching all my friends getting ready and I started to play around with makeup. From there I realised how much difference makeup made on my confidence and the way I saw myself. That was a really big thing for me at that point,” Curtis told The Huffington Post Australia.
“I guess as I experimented more with it, I discovered a passion for it. I watched YouTube videos a lot to learn about how to apply makeup and what to use. At the same time I was studying photography, so I already had a love for filming and cameras and that sort of thing. It kind of just felt like the natural next step to combine the two. It was fun to pursue both my hobbies and see where it would take me, though I didn't really take it very seriously obviously, I just enjoyed filming little videos on my iPhone 4 at the time. That's how it started.”
Surprisingly, Curtis is pretty shy. Naturally a bit of an introvert, she knew she wanted to continue with photography, but wasn't sure how.
“It naturally got more involved as it went along. All throughout highschool I never knew what I wanted to do. I knew I had an interest in photography but I didn't like taking photos of people as I am not really a people person, so I knew I wanted to go more down the landscape path. I was a little bit lost when it came to my future and where I saw myself so, so I was really fortunate that although I never ever saw myself pursuing a career in makeup, it all fell into place.”
A few minutes of any of her tutorials will prove Curtis has impeccable application skills when it comes to makeup.
“I’m all self taught. I was lucky enough to get a job at Benefit which was my first makeup job, and then I got a job with Bobbi Brown because I had that experience through Benefit. It's kind of unheard of to be able to have those opportunities without having professional accreditation. That gave me a lot of practical knowledge in terms how to apply makeup on different skin types and skin tones, all of that stuff you can't really learn unless you've been working retail or completed makeup course,” Curtis said.
Nowadays Curtis can’t go far without a fan spotting her. She recalls first getting recognised out in public in a lingerie section, of all places.
“I'm a very private person. I don't like the attention being on me, and I don't like being in the spotlight which I guess is ironic now, but I first realised that people were noticing me when I was recognised in Kmart. I was looking in the underwear aisle and I was doing my own thing and a girl came up to me and asked for a photo and then posted it to Instagram with a wall full of underwear in the background. Just little things like that made me realise that people were actually really watching what I was doing.”
As the followers grew, being recognised became more frequent for Curtis. And because the internet can be an ugly place sometimes, so did the trolling.
“The first bit of negativity I received was about the way I look in terms of being labeled fake. Because I like fake tan and I have blonde hair, I guess. Later down the track I had my teeth improved on a little bit, so I guess people didn't think I was embracing what I have naturally. I very heavily support people doing whatever they want with their body. They were the first negative comments I received which got to me because people were giving me a label or stereotype based on how I looked and judging me off that, when there’s a lot more to me,” said Curtis.
Still, negativity is something Curtis (and any other social star with such a huge following) has to deal with. Curtis has a very passionate fan base who don't hesitate to let her know if they love or hate her new hair cut, latest tutorial or even what's she's having for lunch. Curtis very carefully constructs her posts to be concise and considerate so as to avoid conflict on her channels.
“For the most part when a new insult comes my way I learn to deal with it and then put it in the past. There's always people making up new things about me or being negative. It's hard to avoid. As they come at me I try to deal with them then and there. People who comment mean things often says ‘she's this, she's that’ as if I don't read the comments and that I am totally separate to what I post, but it's still a very personal experience for me. For the most part I have developed a pretty thick skin and I have a lot of support around me, but there's still times when it gets too much and I break down, but that's just part of being human I guess. I've come pretty far though,” Curtis said.
Beyond YouTube, Curtis recently relaunched her website, Love, Loz, on which she houses other lifestyle content such as fashion and travel.
“YouTube is good because it allows me to have an amazing platform where I can reach a lot of people to talk about beauty and makeup, but there are a lot of topics I wanted to cover that I couldn't do in video format. Say, for example, my favourite travel spots. That's probably better in a written format rather than a video. It's designed to reach people in a different way.”
Speaking to Curtis, she is many things. Measured (often correcting herself so as to not state anything that could be misconstrued by fans), kindhearted and very clever. It's easy to forget she's only 23. Her huge success in such as short period of time has surely earned her a little time to rest on her laurels, but she’s not slowing down.
“I am not one to just go with the flow. I am a bit of a control freak in that I need to know what's next. I've always thought ahead and I have a big project that I am working on that I have to be hush-hush about at the moment, but it's been a few years in the making and hopefully all will be revealed at the end of the year.”