From cocktail server to YouTube star, mega-beauty-influencer Desi Perkins is proof that anything is possible. After her last-minute Halloween costume went viral in 2012 (and her husband posted this selfie) her career suddenly snowballed into a social media star.
Cut to today and the makeup brush-wielding influencer has amassed millions of fans around the world (we’re talking 3.9m on Instagram and 3.2m on YouTube) who tune into her incredible makeup tutorials. (Even industry heavyweights by the likes of Kim Kardashian, Victoria Beckham (!) Nicole Richie, and Kate Hudson can be counted among her fans.)
Ahead, we tap Perkin’s to find out how she sets herself apart in a competitive space, the hardest lesson she’s had to learn, and her #1 piece of advice.
CREATE & CULTIVATE: First things first, how did you get into makeup? Can you share your earliest memory with makeup and how it impacted you?
DESI PERKINS: My mother could create a perfect winged eyeliner in the middle of chaos. When I was a kid I always watched her with amazement. I’ll never forget saying to her “I want to be able to do that” and she said, “One day you will.” She was right haha. I’ve always been passionate about art. I would sketch and paint and I remember my husband had a Halloween party and no costume. I had stumbled upon YouTube and watched a special effects how-to tutorial and thought, “I could do that.” I gathered my makeup and a face paint palette and painted his face. I figured it would be just like painting just on a different canvas. He went out that night and everyone asked who had done his makeup and if I do it for a living. I said yes, even though I didn’t, and the rest is history. Next thing I knew I was taking bookings out of my house.
You are incredibly successful but we know it has taken a lot of hustle and hard work to get there. What does a day in the life of Desi Perkins look like? How many hours do you put in a day? How hard is it to be your own boss? How has your role evolved over time since you first launched your YouTube channel?
Anything worth doing takes hustle. I started out on my own not knowing what this would turn into. Before I knew it, I was my own manager, producer, editor, photographer, and makeup artist. It’s a juggling act for sure, but I love it. We do a good job of making this job look easy but in reality, it’s many different jobs rolled up into one. I have slowly recruited my family members onto my team to help me, and I love the dynamic because we are all in and love spending time together. For the first few years of my career, I didn’t have designated days off, which I soon realized was a disservice to my creativity so now I make sure to give myself time to reset. It has been a learning experience, but now I have the hang of it. I get to create every day which is what I always wanted in life.
You’re creating a new blueprint for female leaders and forging a new path for women coming up behind you. What are your hopes for women? What advice do you have for the many fans reading this who want to achieve your success? Where should they start?
Thank you! I have seen firsthand how women can be treated in the business world and it can be discouraging, but I also see all the opportunities out there for us. You just have to show up and work hard towards what you want and be consistent.
In an interview with ET, you spoke about how your mom immigrated here at a young age and worked incredibly hard to make sure you had what you needed. What has been her greatest piece of advice? How has she inspired and motivated you to succeed as an entrepreneur? Why?
My mom has always been one of the hardest working women I know. She always had an incredible work ethic and an insane amount of creativity. She would tell me I was too creative, haha. I knew what she meant. I was all over the place with what I wanted to do in life because I just loved doing everything. One day, she told me to focus on one passion and put my all into it. That was the best advice ever because that’s when I focused on makeup and that led me to where I am now. Ironically enough, I have a job where I can now do everything I’m passionate about, but the focus that led me here stemmed from the advice my mom gave me that day.
When you hit a bump or hurdle in your career, how do you #FindNewRoads + switch gears to find success?
I see every problem as an opportunity to find a solution. There are always going to be bumps in the road, and how you navigate them is what will set you apart. I used to let problems get to me, but I learned to protect my energy and see the positive in the situation. The hurdles make you appreciate your successes.
What do you wish your younger self knew when you were first starting out in the beauty industry? Why? What characteristics make you successful in this industry?
I wish I wasn’t so trusting and understood the importance of contracts. I think it’s easy to be excited about a project and not want to rock the boat on the business side of things when you are first starting out. But, if I could give my younger self any advice, it would be that business is business and every deal you do must be beneficial to both parties so protect yourself. On the upside, it was a valuable lesson to learn early on in my career.
In an interview you mentioned that you’d love to launch your own collection one day, is that still on the cards?
That is 100% still in the cards. I’m very excited for 2020.
You are obviously a multi-hyphenate with so many careers happening simultaneously. What is your best work hack for getting everything done? Tell us your productivity secrets!
Lots of coffee and drive. I always make lists of what I need to do and prioritize them by what’s more pressing. I start with the creative process of each project because that’s what I’m passionate about and it fuels the rest.
You are one of our favorite people to follow on social media, so we’d love to know, what is the secret to growing a community like yours? What are your top three tips for growing a following and building a brand on social media?
My three tips would be:
1. Be consistent with your content and post often.
2. Be yourself! As cliché as that sounds, it’s the best tool you have.
3. Lastly, I would say, if you want to work with brands, look at their page to see what kinds of things they are posting so you can make sure your content is on par with theirs so that your work can also be reposted.
Social media always shows the highlight reel but we know that it’s not always a depiction of reality. What’s a mistake you made in your career and what did you learn from it? How did you turn it into an opportunity?
It really is a highlight reel. Behind the scenes is the business side of things—which isn’t often seen. I made the mistake of trusting business projects without contracts and that was a huge learning lesson for me. I was upset about it at first but later understood I had great ideas to give and it actually gave me comfort and confidence towards my career.
With success comes opportunity, but it also means you have your hands full. What keeps you inspired and motivated to keep going even on your most challenging days?
I’ve learned that self-care is so important. It’s easy to become a workaholic, especially when you work for yourself, but if you don’t take time for yourself you can burn out and kill your motivation. I recently took a seven-day digital detox and I was incredibly amazed at how much inspiration I gained just by disconnecting.
There is so much competition in your industry, how do you set yourself apart from other major players in the industry? What is your advice for others reading this who want to achieve your success?
I only compete with the person I was the day before. You can’t compare yourself to others because, at the end of the day, it’s your journey, not theirs. I just do what makes me happy and hope people appreciate my art.
How do you define beauty? What makes you feel beautiful?
Beauty is who you are as a person on the inside. When someone is a good person, it radiates brighter than someone who is just a pretty person. I feel the most beautiful when I’m happy and people can feel it.
What is the #1 book you always recommend? Why?
I’m going to recommend a podcast because I just love listening to podcasts, “How I Built This” by Guy Raz. It’s so motivating to hear everyone’s stories of how they built their successful business.