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What It's Really Like To Be A YouTube Vlogger

Lights. Camera. “Hey guys! It’s Riann and today I’m going to be doing a video showing you guys exactly what I do to style my hair.”

After starting her channel nearly 5 years ago, Riannstar has reached YouTube stardom with 112,321 loyal subscribers and over 9,700,000 views in total. Riann, a Southern California native and recent college grad, started her YouTube channel to share helpful tips and advice on everything from makeup and hair to food and travel. Her most popular video, a tutorial on how to achieve her everyday hairstyle, has over 3,700,000 views.

“First, I split my hair into a left and right section and I take a small piece from the side…”

A wet-haired Riann appears on-screen 45 seconds into the 11 minute-long tutorial. A friendly and conversational over-voice walks viewers through the daily beauty routine, providing helpful hints and suggestions along the way.

“I’m going to take my straightener and, as I straighten, I’m going to twist outward, that is what is going to give you the pattern of the curls that I wear.” 

After brushing and blow drying, Riann holds aloft a straightener, demonstrating how she flattens and curls the ends of each section. The video concludes with footage of the finished product—wavy, natural-looking brown locks flowing down Riann’s back. 

For Riann, broadcast communications has been an area of interest since high school. “My high school had a video production program and each week we would produce our own news broadcast,” Riann says. “I was interested in being on camera talent at first, but once I learned more about being behind the camera, the more I loved that aspect of it, too!” Riann continued to take classes in broadcasting and film throughout her college career as well, so not as to lose practice with video production and newer editing technologies. After uploading a few of her early videos on YouTube, Riann realized the potential for something great—a really fun and interesting channel that would combine her love for fashion and beauty with her interest in video production.

Of the 187 videos that Riann has created, produced and posted to her channel, one video in particular stands out to her from the rest. “When the Baz Luhrmann Great Gatsby film began, I started pre-producing my Great Gatsby Lookbook”, Riann says, “I LOVE this video”. The three minute and twenty-seven second-long video, entitled “Gatsby Glamour: A Fashion Short Film Lookbook”, opens with footage of a 1920’s-styled bedroom. Riann, dressed in head to toe Gatsby-like fashion, reclines at the foot of the bed on a chaise lounge. Set to the tone of slow jazz, the rest of the video features clips of several flapper-esque outfits put together, and modelled, by Riann herself.  

What audiences may not know is that Riann’s Gatsby lookbook came to life after an entire year of planning. During this time, Riann scouted potential locations to film, saved up money for props and scavenged through thrift stores for the appropriate clothing. “In the end, this is the video I am most proud of”, Riann states, “and it was 100% just a fun project that I was passionate about making.” Today, the video has over 65,000 views.

Recognizing the plethora of talent available online, Riann finds inspiration in what other YouTubers have been able to accomplish; “What Michelle Phan has made of her YouTube stardom is truly inspiring”. Phan was just named one of Forbes “30 Under 30”, but what Riann finds most admirable is that “she actively wants to give back and provide tools for other beauty YouTubers.”

Other inspiration comes from watching movies and things found in everyday life. By observing the world around her, Riann is able to identify, and respond to, new and popular trends—a crucial part in keeping her vlog up-to-date and relevant to her audiences.

So what does this following look like? Riann chooses not to overlook the authenticity of her audience with a general response to this question. “One of my favorite things about my viewers is that there is no “average subscriber”, Riann states, “… I know each of my viewers is a unique individual”. According to YouTube Analytics, Riann’s subscribers are 90% female between the ages of 13 and 35. “Whenever I meet a subscriber in person, it really puts things in perspective. We’re all a bunch of people with similar interests in an awesome, interactive club.”

Her favorite part of doing what she does: the viewer feedback. “When someone tweets me that they tried a DIY I posted or tried a product I recommended, it really makes me feel like I’ve impacted someone’s life in a positive way.”

Another perk of Riann’s vlog is the free products that she receives from brands who want to be featured on her channel. “Many times, companies will see my videos and like my take on things or see that I already like their products and then they will reach out to collaborate with me”, Riann explained. She makes it clear, however, that she does not collaborate with just anyone; “I know that my viewers trust my opinion and I would never want to betray that trust”.

Riann’s advice to others who aspire to become a YouTube vlogger, is to “hone in on what you really love and broadcast that to the world”. “There will never be a “perfect” time to start”, she says, “you just have to go for it!”

You can check out Riannstar for yourself on YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. (@Riannstar)