Way before the coronavirus crisis ensured that we’d be sitting in our homes for the immediate future, it was clear that influencers were taking over the media landscape. Teens making YouTube videos about gaming, food, beauty tips, etc. are pulling in millions and millions of viewers, and the sort of Instagram numbers that established and respected media outlets can only dream about.
Los Angeles-based Rachel Levin in one such person. She’s 25 now but started making YouTube videos when she was 15. For a decade, she would consistently post videos every single week, building her following.
“Doing research and adapting, and finding my own style of video, so it’s more unique to what I’m doing and not what everyone else is doing,” she says. “The thing that got me started was, I would watch all these YouTubers that would do lip-syncing videos and do music videos, and I really loved watching those videos. I would remake little music videos.”
During all of that, Levin noticed that one of her favorite Youtubers had started making beauty videos — and that sent her down a new path.
“That’s what got me super into beauty videos, which in turn got me to, every time I was getting ready for school in the morning, do a whole makeup tutorial in the mirror,” she says. “At that point, I was like ‘This is a problem — I need to just film a makeup tutorial because I’m going crazy doing them in the mirror every morning.’ That’s what got me officially started but I didn’t know anything could come of it, I was doing it just for fun.”
Levin says that she’s been singing for her entire life, but she wanted to keep that side of herself a secret from her many followers until now.
“It’s something that I’ve actively hid from my followers since I’ve started YouTubing,” she admits. “I started getting serious about it two years ago, when I decided I wanted to release some songs. I actually recorded 30 songs before I did the ones that I released, because I was learning my style.”
That style, she says, is clearly pop. It’s fresh and catchy, radio-friendly and infectious. It’ll appeal to her young followers for sure. But she is looking to stretch her legs.
“The genre I’m leaning more toward in the future is like pop with hip-hop undertones,” she says. “I just love things that are percussive and fun to sing, you want to snap along.”
Levin’s latest single, “Myself,” dropped on February 14, produced and co-written by Brent Morgan (“I guess I technically co-produced it because I gave a lot of changes,” she says.) The tune is essentially a love song to herself.
“It’s basically about when you reach that point of confidence and you realize that the only love that truly matters is the love of yourself, but I wanted the song to sound like I was singing to a boyfriend or significant other,” she says. “That’s what people would assume, because that’s the general standard people think of when they think of love. So I wanted to do a song that kind of mocks that concept in the beginning of the song, and then is just a normal cheesy love song and by the chorus it switches to a love song for myself. When you listen back to the lyrics after you know it’s a love song for myself, I wanted it to have a deeper meaning.”
Levin currently has over 14 million YouTube subscribers (not a typo), the majority female between the ages of 12 and 24. She’s built a loyal following through consistency and relatability, and they will very likely join her as she embarks on this musical journey. But how does one stand out in the crowded online pool?
“It’s one of those things where everybody has to be unique, finding a way to showcase your personality as much as possible because every personality is unique,” she says. “So I guess I just found a way to showcase my personality through the style of videos that I did. Very quirky, not scared to be weird types of videos, when I think a lot of people are in the phase of their lives where they are scared to truly be themselves. It isn’t as hard to stand out once you’ve reached that point of confidence, when you’re able to just be exactly who you are. So I feel like through doing videos I reached that point of confidence, and through reaching that point of confidence I really found who I really am and was able to focus in on that.”
Of course, right now we’re all stuck at home trying to survive a pandemic, so podcasters and YouTubers perhaps have more opportunities with an effectively captive audience than even before.
“I think giving them a safe haven and a place where it’s not so centered around what’s happening with the world is important,” Levin says. “I know every corner you turn, it’s like an anxiety-inducing article or news. A lot of stress-inducing things. So I would say sticking to more lighthearted things so that people have a safe place. Also addressing that everyone has a safe distance and all that stuff. Once you’ve addressed that, then make sure they have a place that is safe from the rest of the media.”
These are certainly uncertain times, but influencers can potentially influence the mood of the nation.
“An influencer in my mind is somebody that is creating content on the internet, and grows a following through creating it,” Levin says. “Through that, I guess they influence people. But I would say it’s more people that people fall in love with through their content.”
For now, most people’s plans for 2020 are on hold. But when things do get going again, Levin has an EP in the works.
“It’s a concept album for sure, a whole story that I went through, but I don’t know if I can really explain what it’s about,” she says. “Hopefully out before the end of the year, is the goal. I should not get into a room with a producer right now, so it really depends what’s going on with the world.”
Visit Rachel Levin’s Youtube channel at RCLBeauty101.