At a time when laws are cracking down on influencers to be more transparent, Jackie Aina rises above the #sponcon. Since launching her YouTube channel over a decade ago, the 31-year-old’s refreshing candor has earned her a reputation for telling it like is. She calls out brands when they’re not inclusive, holds other influencers accountable for offensive remarks, and doesn’t shy away from tough discussions about colorism in the industry. She’ll also make you laugh your ass off.
Not only has it landed her lucrative makeup collaborations, it’s led to actual change in the industry—including Too Faced’s expanded range of Born This Way foundations, which she helped create. Ahead of the launch, the beauty mogul reflects on the pressure to be the voice of a revolution and why she won’t be quiet.
When I started my YouTube channel in 2009, my goal was never to be an “influencer.” I was in the military, far away from friends and family, and really lonely. The one thing that always made me feel better was makeup.
Originally, I think part of me wanted to get on camera to show that not every person who serves their country is rough and rugged. You can be feminine and fight for freedom. So I filmed a few tutorials in my uniform, and the response was crazy. People loved that I wasn’t this out-of-reach makeup artist—just a regular girl.
Then, around 2015, I was feeling less excited by my channel and realized that I was trying to be too “professional” instead of showing my true crazy self. And that’s when I had my first viral video: a parody on all the weird beauty trends (like crazy eyebrows) from that year. Being myself paid off—I think that’s why I now have more than 2 million subscribers on YouTube.
As my fan base grew, beauty brands started sending me lots of products. But it was disappointing to receive things that wouldn’t work for my skin tone. So I really began to take on more of a voice for the black beauty community, critiquing brands that aren’t inclusive.
Some days I have to say, “Kitchen’s closed,” and log off social media.
It’s always been a tough balance. It’d be easier to water down my content—I feel like a lot of people thought that once I hit a certain milestone, 1 million subscribers, then 2 million, I’d stop talking about race or “political stuff,” as so many people call it. I don’t think it’s political; I’m just talking about experiences that are true to me. My goal is to always make people of color feel good when they come to my channel. It’s not just about putting on lipstick. It’s about people feeling beautiful, not intimidated. I’ve learned that as long as I feel passionate about a critique, it’s important to stand by it.
One downside of using my voice? People expect me to have an opinion on everything. Just because I don’t always comment on political issues doesn’t mean I don’t care about them—it just means I can’t take on the weight of everything. Some days I have to say, “Kitchen’s closed,” and log off social media.
But I’ll gladly take on all those frustrations because my platform has given me the power to make a difference. For example, I recently teamed up with Too Faced Cosmetics to help expand its Born This Way foundation range (which launched over the summer) and make sure the undertones would actually work for women of color. Jerrod Blandino, the co-founder and chief creative officer of Too Faced, could have hired anyone he wanted to help him on this project. Instead he gave a black woman a seat at the table and let me do my thing. He gave me a voice on this issue that is so important to me, and the ability to make a real change. That’s huge!
I’m really proud of the darkest shade, Ganache. After multiple tries (it kept pulling a little too red), we finally got it right, and it’s beautiful. I was so glad they were willing to keep at it. We created nine new shades, and now the line’s full spectrum has 35 colors.
Inclusion doesn’t stop at foundation, though, and that’s what I hope all beauty brands can take away from this movement. Can I use your lipsticks? Are your eyeshadows pigmented enough to show up on my skin tone? Do you have blushes that work for me? For so many brands, I still can’t use anything; it’s literally only for light skin. We still have work to do, and I won’t stop talking about it until it’s done.
For more on Jackie’s collaboration with Too Faced—and to shop the line—click here.