The word "influencer" is met with doubt and contempt by some, and extreme admiration by others. Add the word "beauty" in front of it, and this polarity intensifies. Those apt to judge might assume that someone whose life revolves around makeup and "looks" is shallow or simple. On the other hand, those who follow and fan out over beauty influencers online and in the flesh are at the other extreme, worshipping their every word and copying every minute detail of color schemes, contouring and highlighting, eye/lip/brow shaping and everything that complements the presentation — hair, fashion, etc.
Despite what some might assume, though, beauty is not only skin-deep on social media. Sure, there are tons of gorgeous gals, some natural and some surgically enhanced, who seek to make "influencer" a career, but in general those who actually do it successfully offer something more.
Amid the bounty of beauty bloggers/vloggers/tutorialists on YouTube and Instagram, it takes more than a pretty face to make an impact, and West Hollywood resident Patrick Starrr (yes, that's three "r's," and no, it's not about SpongeBob) has made a very big one.
Unlike many these days, the Florida-born-and-bred, Filipino makeup artist and web personality didn't get on YouTube to become famous. He was simply sharing his passion for makeup as part of a community of #MACBoys, employees at the ubiquitous cosmetics company Makeup Artists Cosmetics (MAC).
He had always promised his mom he'd pursue a stable career, such as nursing, so makeup was a side thing at first. "I had gotten a freelance job at Mac and a lot of employees were like, you need to make a channel. You're so funny," says Starrr, whose real name is Patrick Simondac. "I was a little hesitant at first but a lot of them pushed me to do it. Then I found a little community on there. It was kind of like a secret portal for finding other people that were like-minded."
As a male in the makeup world, Starrr encountered a lot of judgment at first, especially, he says, at the mall in Orlando where he worked.
"I was getting stared at all the time," he remembers. "The mall was a big tourist destination so there were a lot of international guests. I'd go to the food court and they'd just be staring at me and saying things. ... It was very difficult but I persevered. I made myself comfortable with it because I just had to remind myself that hey, this is makeup, I love it, it's what I want to do. But it comes off at the end of the day. It was like a little Jiminy Cricket on my shoulder that kept me going."
Online reactions to Starrr were similarly intense. "I've been called every single hate word in the book," he shares. "It was hard at first. I just had to tell myself to not look at those things and as long as I was happy, that they don't matter. "
But Starrr's fans have definitely outnumbered the haters. He has 4.3 million subscribers on YouTube and 4.7 million followers on Instagram.
So what is it about him that has resonated with such a huge base?
"I think it's my personality and who I'm surrounded by," he postulates. "But I think mostly it's because, it's palatable. My social media is palatable to the eye. And if you weren't to know me, you get to, you see the dynamic of my friends, my makeup, my family..."
Starrr, who moved to L.A. after winning $10,000 in NYX Cosmetics' Next Face Awards, has shared videos reflecting the excitement of his journey acquiring online fame, and watching him as he keeps moving forward is a true joy. Things moved quickly for him after the NYX competition, and as his profile was increasing, he was tapped for a collaboration with Formula X for a line of nail polish. The displays were in Sephora stores around the country. "It was huge. I was an influencer collaboration and I was the only male," he says.
Though he has become a symbol for gender fluidity and body acceptance, he didn't necessarily start out trying to promote either as a platform. "I'm wasn't like, oh my God, we've got to make change," he says. "But I think just by being consistent and existing and persevering online and working at it, it just happened."
He is, of course, conscious of the fact that he's helped set a positive example for the plus-size community. "A lot of stores carry plus-size, but I was at this Forever 21 store where that was not the case. I was frustrated at the store — it was in the Beverly Center — and I said to myself, 'I may not be able to buy anything here, but you know what, I can buy makeup because makeup is one size fits all.'?"
He quickly tweeted his feelings and, before you could say retweet, "Makeup is one size fits all" became one of his catch phrases. He realized that spreading equality within the realm of cosmetics was something he could really do. "Now my goal is to celebrate inner beauty, personality, and create a movement of acceptance, whether I'm on the red carpet or with friends. Just everywhere. So yeah, that's who I am."
His success online has led to fashion show invitations. He recently walked in hot NYC designers' The Blondes dazzling Disney-themed show — inspired by The Little Mermaid's Ursula — and here in L.A., he just joined other influencers, such as fellow makeup guru James Charles, as a model in FIDM's annual student runway spectacular. Both designer looks made sure to include his signature matching head-wraps, and his signature makeup styles- prominent brows, lush lashes and lips- tied everything together, as they always do.
Starrr says he positions his channel to be aspirational, too. "So it's not me that makes it shine," he says, "but the people and the content."
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To that end, Starrr is trying to help other influencers, too. "I'd love to pass on the knowledge and the wealth," he says. "I just started managing a few other influencers who happen to be boys, too. We have some amazing things happening. I'm excited to help these boys navigate their careers."
For Starrr, the words "beauty influencer" mean a lot more than showing people how to make their faces look good, or reviewing the latest products, or even sharing his lifestyle. It's about entertaining as well as inspiring, which ultimately plays a part in shifting trends and culture in general.
"We are motivators, and we are a force in the advertising world now, " he declares. "We're here to shake up the industry and maybe even help people to make decisions in their lives they never would have. We're promoting change and we're able to do it thanks to the digital age."