Fashion Bloggers Turned Vloggers
by Elena Chen
Perhaps the most hard-hitting impression of the term “vlogger” is the image of a tech savvy member boarding the 21st century new media bandwagon with one four kilo camera kit in constant selfie film mode. Whilst all the most dedicated vloggers take their equipment very seriously, there is more depth and complexity to the world of vlogging than what first meets the eye. As vlogging has amassed great popularity on YouTube, the video-hosting website boasting 1.8 billion monthly users, there is a plethora of diverse genres and styles in vlogging that have grown with the online video-watching and -producing community. From the fashion bloggers turned video producers to the daily uploaders featuring their day-to-day, vlogging has become a source of revenue, a platform for advertising and a staple in modern day entertainment. Research shows that for social media users aged between 18 to 34, YouTube is the most used in comparison to other social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter or Pinterest. This piece focuses on the place of vlogging amidst the Lifestyle, Beauty and Fashion content of 3 Asian American female influencers based in Los Angeles and vlogging may be more than a source of entertainment.
A first generation Korean American YouTube influencer posting since 2010, Jenn Im is one of the OG YouTube fashion & beauty sensations with more than 2 million subscribers on YouTube. Once a channel dedicated to thrifting tips and styling dilemmas, vlogs began making more regular appearances and constitute around 50% of her posted content in the last year. A frequent traveller, Im shares her experiences abroad and at home through her vlogs, adding a more multifaceted and multidimensional perspective for viewers. Im’s channel has grown to include more personal content over the years, nuancing her upbeat persona with recent releases on her struggles as a Korean American and age pressure. Frank but respectful, Im has a sense of candour to her which translates to a “Girl Next Door” meets chic vibe, creating content which is approachable and relatable. More a weekly or monthly vlogger than daily, Im’s style of video vlogging maintains privacy and distance --- something which may prove necessary to the YouTuber lifestyle where online and offline life, and thus public and private life, are so intertwined.
Another Asian American YouTuber in the vlogging sphere of LA, Claire Marshall is a makeup artist turned beauty & lifestyle vlogger whose video work on fashion range from hauls to lookbooks. What stands out about Marshall’s vlogs are their cinematic quality, each a mini documentary with its own aesthetic character skillfully told from a place of raw vulnerability. This becomes apparent in her video on her adoptive parent Mary but also shines through in her travel vlogs, where for example in Japan we are shown clips shot both from her phone and from a professional grade camera. Marshall has a particularly sentimental perspective, her narration and music choice fit to develop a visual story that she guides and includes us in. Amidst the professionalism and personal details, Marshall’s vlogging is a feast for the cinematic eye and joy for the escapist.
Korean American Youtuber Amy Lee brings to the vlogging scene a more analytical lens as she stretches the label to include vlog-style morning shows that don’t subscribe to the more traditional structure of a vlog. In her series: “The AM with Amy”, Lee speaks on topics such as love and friendship, personal development and career direction in a Q&A advice column format, often relaying her personal experiences with some unbeknownst gem of wisdom. She has created a fair share of content following the day to day clip montage and continues to release videos on beauty & fashion (including seasonal lookbooks and outfit ideas) but the intellectual flair on Lee’s channel shows how much vlogging can illustrate the multiplicity of a Youtuber. It is also apparent in the narration of her fashion videos that an intellectual rigor has been applied to the choice of apparel along with her creativity. For her brazen take on issues of mental health and the power of self-love, Lee is a fashion/beauty/lifestyle influencer taking vlogging to a place of interrogation and introspection --- intellectualizing the idea of ‘female fashion influencer’.
As we move towards vlogging where the showcase of personality portrays a more well-rounded notion of what it means to be an influencer, certain content creators are given the opportunity to humanise the experience of social media, as an outlet for them and as a platform for their viewers. Some highlight the democratisation of talent and access because of the internet and social media outlets like YouTube, others worry about the negative emotional impact that such platforms inflict. Striding the balance between personal content and audience oriented content can be difficult and vlogging makes the personal professional and the professional personalised. Yet in this blurring of private and public, the viewer is given privileged access to other ways of life: ways of being an influencer and of being human. Whether it’s through a positive outlook, attention to cinematic quality or the intellectual pursuit, there are more dimensions to fashion and to fame than one may suspect. The comfort is in knowing that everyone is on a path of triumph and failure, and that there are many ways to live life.
It’s not hard to imagine why so many are captivated by vlogs and vloggers, and the intimacy it has all fostered. The level of personal and professional commitment that vloggers make to produce vlogs should not be underestimated. Indeed, it is clear that in vlogging much is offered up: a chance for more complex portrayals of influencers.