How Ipsy Is Reinventing The Cosmetics Industry
Fast Company|February 2016

YouTube star and Ipsy founder Michelle Phan is at the forefront of the social reinvention of the $39 billion cosmetics industry.

Nicole LaPorte

“Hi! I’m Michelle.” Michelle Phan is poking her head into a spacious room at the Ipsy Open Studio in Santa Monica, California, an outpost of the San Mateo–based beauty subscription company she cofounded four years ago. A young woman named Sophie Torres is sitting at a table, neatly arranging brushes, bottles, and tubes in preparation for a video tutorial she is going to film about hard-to-pull-off hairstyles. She is a member of Ipsy’s extended family of online beauty influencers, who, like Phan, are using YouTube, Instagram, and other social media to build careers as beauty gurus.

Phan is the biggest guru of all. Since 2007, when she started making videos of herself applying makeup in her bedroom and uploading them to YouTube, she has amassed a following of more than 8 million subscribers who tune in to watch her dreamy-voiced instructions on everything from “grunge beauty” to how to achieve the Daenerys Targaryen look from Game of Thrones. Now, through Ipsy, she’s helping others follow in her footsteps—last May, Ipsy opened this 10,000-square-foot studio, complete with 360-degree cameras, state-of-the-art lighting, and elaborate props, for its network of beauty vloggers to shoot their videos.

Torres seems a little flustered by the sudden appearance of the 28-year-old Phan and apologizes for not wearing any makeup. Phan, who’s dressed in a simple black turtleneck dress and colorful Nikes, smiles warmly. “It’s fine. We don’t judge here. I don’t have any makeup on either.”

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