Selling the idea of self-improvement and transformation, the beauty industry is a multimillion-dollar business that keeps getting bigger. A couple decades ago, cosmetics companies only used celebrities and professional models to help sell their products and provide gorgeous canvases to showcase the myriad products on the market.
Of course, it's a whole other ball of lipstick wax now. The makeup artists who create alluring looks for today's superstars have come out from behind their clients' shadows to share their tips, tricks and secrets, gaining fans in their own right. Would-be models don't need to be accepted at agencies for exposure as they can share their looks and lives on Instagram and Snapchat, garnering such massive followings in the process that they've forced beauty companies to take notice, leading to collaborations, “beauty ambassador” deals and endorsement contracts. This has led to some controversies about the crazy sums of money commanded by some influencers and questions about disclosure of payment for positive reviews (and negative ones against competitors), but that's another article, and most fans don't seem to really care when it comes to their favorites.
And then there's the real organic success stories: consumers and otherwise average Joes and Joannes who review products and offer tutorials online, showing off great application skills on themselves with the help of editing apps and a thumping soundtrack. Watching these glitzy guides is not only educational, it's addictive, and those who do them well have created an undeniable niche online, especially on You Tube, where subscriber counts and video views equal financial gains all on their own. Not surprisingly, a lot of the above seem to reside in Los Angeles. After all, L.A. is where dreamers still come to “make it,” and natives know better than anyone that there's real power in looking great. That power manifests in a lot of ways, but today it's the power of influence that means — and pays — the most.
The effervescent Patrick Starrr tops our list of must-follows, but here we offer other impactful beauty power players, all of whom have presence on pretty much every social media outlet, and a few who've managed to transcend online fame and transfer their recognition into actual mainstream celebrity. The photo-stream setup of Instagram in particular has proven to be the best and most user-friendly showcase for the eye candy these creative beauty personalities provide, so we list their handles, stats and images, in no particular order, from that social media platform here.
James Charles (15.4 million Instagram followers) is best known as the first male ambassador and commercial model for CoverGirl. New York–born, Los Angeles–based superstar James Charles Dickinson (born in 1999!) launched his YouTube channel in 2015, building up to over 15 million subscribers and 1.2 billion views there. He was only 17 when his thick-browed look was seen on TV commercials alongside Katy Perry.
Kat Von D (7.1 million Instagram followers): Katherine von Drachenberg's exquisite tattoo work is what first got her noticed, via TLC reality show Miami Ink and later her own show, L.A. Ink. She made the cover of our People issue in 2007, the year the show came out. She launched her cosmetics line in 2008 and has been a force in the alternative beauty biz ever since. Follow her personal account for images from her life (she just had a baby with her husband, Leafar Seyer of the band Prayers), her budding music career, her new footwear line and plenty of dark and dramatic makeup stuff. Follow @KatVonDBeauty for all makeup line content.
Manny MUA (4.6 million Instagram followers) is considered a makeup guru for his reviews and tutorials on YouTube, which he started in 2014. He is a friend and collaborator of Patrick Starrr. The San Diego–born “mua” (makeup artist) left medical school to pursue makeup and has never looked back.
Jackie Aina (1.1 million Instagram followers) has been a champion for inclusive beauty and advocate for women of color, focusing on finding beauty products that suit their skin tone. She started her YouTube channel in 2008 and has become a major force in encouraging brands to expand their offerings for women and men of all ethnic backgrounds.
Doe Deere (453,000 Instagram followers), founder of Lime Crime Cosmetics, has taken a less active role in promoting the company's products but she's still fun to follow for colorful unicorn-girl makeup styles and other lifestyle imagery. The pink-haired Russian Angeleno has a new baby and new jewelry line and her feed is as rainbow brite as you'd expect.
Lora Arellano (974,000 Instagram followers) is a Latina makeup artist and founder of Melt Cosmetics. She's a whiz with a smoky eye, and her pigmented palettes provide the tools to re-create her looks. Also a new mom, the tattooed L.A. native is a nice follow for a mix of makeup and lifestyle imagery.
Arial Diaz (522,000 Instagram followers) posts under the handle @TheVanityDiary. The local “cosmetic illusionist” posts incredible looks that are often re-creations of popular pop culture figures (Angelina Jolie's Maleficent look, for example). His artistic approach is ogle-worthy but the tips he provides on skincare products, plus lifestyle shares, make his feed tops.
Paula Galindo (7.5 million Instagram followers), the Colombian beauty enthusiast who goes by @Pautips, posts lifestyle, health and fitness, and makeup stuff, all in Spanish, providing an aspirational profile that translates in any language.
Chrisspy (3.6 million Instagram followers) -whose real name is Christina- is a YouTube sensation and California native who worked at MAC Cosmetics before taking her makeup application talents to the internet. She works with edgy brands such as Urban Decay and does the beauty panels circuit when she's not posting pretty pics.
Patrick Ta (1.4 million Instagram followers) is a celebrity makeup artist known for making up the famous faces of supermodels like Gigi and Bella Hadid and Adriana Lima, and you'll see lots of gorgeous faces on his Insta feed. His new venture is his own makeup line, which promises to give everyone the glamour gal glow. He just threw a huge bash in L.A. (with many of the influencers on this list in attendance) for his Major Glow brand, which apparently is already sold a weekly later.
Laura Lee (2 million Instagram followers) posts under the name @larlarlee and, like many here, has her own beauty line and a huge following on multiple platforms. Also like many here, she has been embroiled in controversy and accused of racism (she retweeted offensive jokes that were not funny). She addressed this drama via some apology videos last year and seemingly has moved on from it unscathed, but she still has her share of naysayers (again, like many here), providing an example of the double-edged sword of beauty influencer status.
Jeffree Star (12.4 million Instagram followers): We've been following Jeffree since his days as an L.A. scenester with a struggling music career (he made the cover of our People issue in 2007), so it's been incredible to see his career take off in new diverse directions. In addition to his makeup line, Star is known for his thriving cannabis business and, of course, huge following on social media. His sassy, tea-swilling videos offer product reviews and chatter about everything from pop culture to his personal life and likes, while his Instagram is very active in the stories section, as well as a photo feed with beautiful transformations, lately focused on cool-hued snaps from his new Blue Blood collection. You either love or hate the androgynous tattooed mogul, but either way you don't forget him.