I Went To Beauty Influencer School And Came Out The Other Side Forever Contoured


“Can you take a picture of me?” Those were the words heard most often—in elevators, on street corners, hanging off balconies, on Bourbon Street—at E.L.F.’s New Orleans BeautyScape, or what I’m calling E.L.F. presents Beauty Influencer School, an ultimate beauty getaway of panels, competition, and product trials. E.L.F. had gathered 2o of most promising micro-influencer talents—like Ronke Raji (@ronkeraji/231.3k followers), Eloise Dutton (@makeupby_elliee/247.4k followers) and Yesenia Hipolito (@yeshipolito/168.3k followers)—for three days of seminars, competition, and ‘grammable moments. The influencers were competing for their own E.L.F. makeup line and $10,000 as informational sessions bestowed invaluable tips on monetizing and growing a following. A few other media outlets were writing about makeup, and I was there to observe their influencer ways: I filled two books full of notes and recorded over ten audio interviews just to make sure I could gather any and all information.

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Much like Flavor of Love’s Charm School, I learned I needed to check my biases at the door—duck face selfies inside a Confederate soldier’s home aside. More on that later, don’t worry.

Angles are important in both New Orleans Greek revival architecture and influencer selfies.

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Ahead, ten things I learned from beauty influencer school that include everything from the necessity of accent walls to actual data that brands look for when partnering with potential individuals. In the end though, much like Frenchie, I am a beauty (influencer) school dropout.

1. You can make content anywhere.

I hadn’t been off the plane for more than two hours and content was already being created. No one had left the hotel yet, but the hotel garden boasted a trumpet mural that sent the contestants into a frenzy. As a line formed, the photo quickly turned into a shoot. Professional lighting began to materialize—seriously, one influencer whipped out Aputure Amaran LED light—and props were swapped in and out of the shot. A graffiti wall is not a time to play.

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Eat your heart out, #pinkwall.

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2. “You can’t be a one trick pony!”

One panel was about brand partnerships and what executives look for when they consider certain influencers. “You need to have something,” explained Marissa Cedarleaf, the brand manager of E.L.F. cosmetics. For some this meant a stand-up routine within a beauty video, while others offered an expertise in editing, visuals and design in their content creation. She urged potential beauty gurus to experiment and go outside of the box. Influencers aren’t just selfie experts and contour kweens, they are incredibly savvy businesspeople.

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Product shots pair best with a Valencia filter.

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3. Your content shouldn’t be polarizing.

Similar to Taylor Swift, the E.L.F. executives and founders of SIMPLY, an influencer agency, urged individuals to not get political. Trump supporters and Hillary stans can all reach across the aisle to appreciate a good beat.

The Tyra Smize, mastered.

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4. Beat Instagram at its own game.

For all those hoping to increase likes and engagement, the pros had some hacks. Instagram rewards (that is, pushes it to the top of the algorithm) stories that receive a lot of screenshots, so why not trick them at their own game? Include incentives that will push your followers to screenshot—for example, leaving a promo code, easter egg, or some other piece of exclusive content in the story alone. Also, if you engage with the explore page, you’re more likely to be featured on the explore page. A little I’ll scratch your back you scratch mine, Insta-style.

5. It’s all about engagement.

It’s useless to have six million followers and three likes on a picture. Cough you’re probably buying followers cough. Make sure you have a solid following of actual human beings replying to your content. Comments like “@insertyourbestfriend’s handle” and “omg, us” are signs that the content is generically compelling enough that it can be applied like a soft blanket across wide swaths of people.

Black Mirror, but make it happy.

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6. Be a good person.

This was repeated a number of times by the E.L.F. executives and the influencer contestants without a lot of context, TBH. But that’s likely because being a good person means something different to all of us, especially in the digital space. On Instagram, a thoughtful user responds to comments, avoids the drama, and shares likes with friends and followers alike. More holistically, being a good and authentic person is up for interpretation. But the hope is if your heart is in the right place, and you’re authentic and mindful, followers will come. Which brings me to my next point.

7. Follow your own compass.

While touring the home of a confederate general, content was being made, henny. It is not lost on any of us that honoring confederate statues and monuments is uh, rather polarizing in this country. Why delve into America’s dark history when the lighting is so good, one influencer could argue. But in the immortal words of Randy Jackson, that’s going to be a no from me, dog!!!! At one point, you have to draw the line. It’s one thing to take a picture, but when slavery is involved, a sexy selfie is never ok. Point being: It’s not easy to follow all the influencer rules all the time. By violating number 3, I leaned into number 6.

Influencers and friends Ronke Raji and Christina Vega make content gold on a French Quarter balcony.

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8. Respond to comments.

Respond to your fans, people. Again, the algorithm rewards more responses so as audience feedback increases, so does the audience. “If you post a selfie and no one comments, did you really post it?”—Instagram

9. The early bird gets the worm.

The first event at E.L.F.’s BeautyScape was on Saturday at 9A.M., but everyone’s makeup would have fit right in at a club on Friday night. A contestant in the elevator explained to me the importance of getting up early as she had woken up at 5:30A.M. to put her face on. It’s always club-o-clock on Instagram.

Influencer Mia Randria hangs on the balcony of The Napoleon House in New Orleans.

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10. Be funny. If you can’t be funny, be vulnerable.

On YouTube, it’s all about personal touches, explained Cedarleaf. “Be funny, if you can’t be funny, be vulnerable.” Let your guard down on YouTube. Cry for the content—tears of a clown are just as good. Happily (hair flip, hair flip), I am both. I met the man of my dreams, my tall glass of water, on a walking tour of New Orleans. Now, that I’ve humorously talked about my vulnerable new relationship, I am ready to influence.


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