Makeup brushes sit in mason jars on Anna Garsia’s dresser while a Canon Rebel T4I sits pointed at a perfectly made bed – the backdrop to most of the freshman’s beauty YouTube videos.
She selects a MAC lipstick from her modest collection, preparing her makeup for her 18,000 subscribers.
In her time between classes, friends and work, Garsia has uploaded nearly 300 videos over the past four and a half years to her YouTube channel “Smilecuzurhappy,” a hobby that transformed into a part-time job that puts money in her pocket. She partnered with YouTube in 2011 and the website’s beauty network, Stylehaul, six months later.
“There is this micro-celebrity created by YouTube – I don’t want to say I am a celebrity because [I’m not], but I get to have people who care enough about what I’m saying,” she said. “Maybe I’m just saying things about makeup and beauty, but at the same time I have that ability and responsibility to promote a message of self-love and self-respect and the idea that makeup isn’t everything.”
The main staple on Garsia’s channel is her weekly beauty videos, but she also films video blogs about her daily life and on topics like homesickness and study tips. As part of her commitment to her channel, Garsia chose a single in West Hall in order to make filming videos easier while at GW.
When Garsia created her YouTube channel in 2009, she hoped it would evolve into a part-time job. It took her almost four years to reach 10,000 subscribers, a number that has now almost doubled in less than a year.
“Anna’s channel… has fun, creative beauty tutorials along with lifestyle videos to help her viewers. She has a great sense of style and her personality represents the StyleHaul brand perfectly,” said Garsia’s community manager Bridget Moriarty.
Her favorite video, a Festival Fashion video, uses more advanced cinematography, incorporating music, scenic locations and more complex editing techniques. A video tour of her bedroom has received her highest number of views yet – 346,951.
But her videos on makeup tips – like how to get ready for brunch – are the central part of her YouTube channel. She said she wears makeup nearly every day because it helps her “hold my head a little higher and [be] a little more ready to take on the world.”
Still, Garsia sees the importance of self-value without makeup.
“There was a time in my life where I didn’t feel comfortable with myself without makeup, and I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, ‘If I’m not comfortable ever leaving the house without makeup, I shouldn’t be allowed to wear it,'” she said. “I took some time off, and then when I felt beautiful again without it, I fell back into it.”
As part of her channel, small makeup companies send Garsia products about once every two months. After reviewing the products, she chooses whether to upload a review or return the product to the sender, which she does if she does not feel comfortable promoting it.
Garsia began seeing profits when she became a YouTube partner. Her salary is based on the number of views her videos receive and revenue from advertisements that appear before her videos. She said her contract with YouTube forbids her from disclosing her salary, but she equated her income to a part-time job.
She said page views, hit counts and profits don’t drive her to keep producing, though.
“If I was in it for the money, I might feel worried about views, but I just put out the content that I am interested in,” she said.
While she has to juggle time in between classes and getting accustomed to college, she said she sometimes also has to contend with hurtful feedback. But YouTube, a website known for its particularly brutal comment section, has been generally kind to Garsia, who receives mainly constructive comments.
“I appreciate constructive criticism, but sometimes there are people that just want to tear you down, and I just let those comments slide off. I have to remember that these people don’t actually know me. They are either coming from a place of hatred or misunderstanding, and it so not worth getting bogged down in things like that,” she says.
One commenter in particular caught Garsia’s attention, showcasing the consequences of sharing your life with strangers.
“There was a girl commenting on my Instagram photos and a lot of my videos, and even my best friend from back home’s Instagram, asking whether me and my boyfriend had broken up,” she said. “It just goes to show, you put those things out there and as a result you are making a decision to allow people to have that insight into your life, and there are ramifications.”