James Charles is a force to be reckoned with!
ET’s Lauren Zima sat down with the young YouTube sensation to chat about his whirlwind success, work ethic and building his growing beauty empire.
The 19-year-old started his channel in 2015, but officially made waves in September 2016 when he tweeted his senior high school portrait after he decided to retake the pic again in front of a ring light in full, impeccable glam featuring full brows, a flawless base and on-point highlight on the cheekbones. The tweet went viral, catching everyone’s eye including celebs (Zendaya!) and mega brands alike.
Soon after in October 2016, Charles was announced as the newest face of CoverGirl, making him the first male ambassador for the brand. He joined A-list ladies from Katy Perry to Zendaya herself, making his mark on the beauty industry. And this was only the beginning.
Since then, the makeup maven has appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, amassed nine million YouTube subscribers and Instagram followers, whom he calls his “sisters” on each platform and continues to rock the beauty sphere with his talent in creating standout, ultra-glam looks and redefining the notion of beauty and men in makeup.
This month is especially a notable time for Charles, who is launching his first makeup collection with Morphe and an apparel line of athleisure pieces.
The busy entrepreneur, who only runs on a couple of hours of sleep, revealed he has always had a business-savvy outlook, creating inspirational Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram accounts with ads beginning at the age of 12.
“I fell into makeup by accident, so literally, like, I have always wanted to start a business,” Charles tells ET. “I never knew what it was going to be, but once I started doing makeup and actually loved it, I was like, ‘Oh, this could be it.'”
As a hyperactive child growing up, Charles tended to switch his attention quickly to a variety of interests including architecture, engineering and design, but found ground with makeup.
“So as you can imagine, when I said, ‘Oh, Mom and Dad, makeup guru,’ they were like, ‘Right, sis,’ but it really took me working hard at it and getting those first few paychecks for them and myself to be like, ‘Oh yeah, this is really happening,'” he recalls. “So I fell into makeup by accident, but I found my love for it, and once I realized that I could actually turn it into a huge business, that’s when I started taking it a little bit more seriously, but it’s always something that I knew could be something.”
Working with various brands and constantly churning out original content, the social media star has learned a lot about the business of influencing, along with common mistakes young influencers make of “not recognizing their worth.”
“I think that there are so many similarities between advertisers, or between the influencers and traditional media celebrities that advertisers aren’t getting because it’s such an old-school thing working on a new-school concept, which is fine, everything takes a new learning curve. But the amount of times that we have dealt with so many really, really condescending and unfortunate conversations of people — people just not getting how influencer marketing works, and how many eyes are on these young teens who are working so hard just like so many regular traditional media celebrities is really disappointing,” Charles says. “It’s very much the same exact career of millions of kids looking up to a certain public figure and that public figure licensing their name for brand deals, for advertising, for whatever it may be and it should be treated in the same way. There’s no difference besides the way that media is being consumed as opposed to, like, there’s no difference in the way that media is being consumed aside from the fact that it’s just an older method versus a newer method.”
While the world is still navigating the relationship between media and the rising number of influencers, Charles looks to his own personal relationships with trailblazing entrepreneurs for inspiration and guidance, like Kris Jenner, who “single-handedly turned her family into a billion dollar empire.”
“She’s a genius, and what, like, anybody seems to think, building a business is probably the best talent that anyone could have and being able to leverage your name for likeness and build a brand around it — hello, that’s so smart and so good,” he notes.
So has he met his lady boss hero?
“I have. I have her phone number. She is the sweetest. I’ve met her so many times,” he says. “I’m close with her and her entire family, which is amazing.”
Charles recently collaborated on a Halloween makeup video with the youngest of the Kardashian-Jenner clan, Kylie, a fellow beauty mogul projected to be one of the youngest self-made billionaires according to Forbes.
“It was just really, really amazing. She was just so sweet,” Charles gushes about the Kylie Cosmetics founder. “It was just really amazing to see someone else in this space working really hard and just making it at a young age. She’s just a huge inspiration to me and I definitely had a similar experience to her in that people just love to tear you down and bash you and stuff, but she’s a great role model.”
With an expansive following, comes the haters, and Charles has learned the best way to tackle it is to “not care, like, literally just keep scrolling.”
“I feel like if there is someone wasting their own time to sit there and, like, write a comment, that’s some time that they could have been working on themselves or, like, building their own brand,” he says. “So, like, hello, it’s not worth it. I used to be very, very offended over that stuff and I used to always want to clap back and snap. Occasionally, I will, of course, every once in a while, but I believe that it is important to defend yourself and really stand up for what you believe in and I just really try to avoid those people because if they are wasting their own time on that, it says a lot more about them than it does about you.”
For more on Charles, see below: