In a post-Kardashian world, every millennial thinks they have what it takes to go viral, but few consider what that online fame actually looks like in a person's daily life. In Elite Daily's new series Life Behind The Likes, we speak with the people you know on the internet — from the people behind major Instagram accounts to the Daaaaamn Daniels of the world who went viral for one remarkable moment of their lives — to meet the people behind the screens.
At just 18 years old, makeup artist Abby Roberts has carved out a niche for herself in the world of makeup. With over 1.3 million followers on her Instagram account and an even bigger TikTok following, the Leeds native sets herself apart by foregoing your typical glam tutorials in favor of imaginative and mind-bending transformations inspired by pop culture, memes, and TikTok challenges.
The British teen recreates countless looks, from Edward Scissorhands to the FaceApp aging challenge, with the help of makeup, prosthetics, wigs, and props — and each look is more mind-blowing than the next. Her unique style, sense of humor, and trendy challenge videos help her score millions of views and likes on her Instagram and TikTok accounts.
In just under a year, Roberts has amassed 5.3 million followers on TikTok, which is even more impressive when you consider she started her account "as a joke" and didn't start posting consistently until this past April.
When [James] Charles noticed me, that really helped to grow my following.
Even though the star's TikTok and Instagram accounts only recently went viral, Roberts has been making videos since she uploaded a YouTube tutorial when she was 11 years old. Roberts cites makeup royalty James Charles and Nikkie de Jager of NikkieTutorials as her inspiration, saying de Jager "really got [her] into makeup to begin with." Roberts appreciates Charles for more than his makeup artistry. "I just really admire that he's always so hardworking," she says.
It was actually Charles, who has 15.9 million followers on Instagram and 16.3 million subscribers on YouTube, who took her under his wing and helped her accounts really take off midway through 2018. After noticing a video of Roberts recreating one of his makeup looks on Instagram, Charles invited her to do an Instagram takeover on one of his Stories. That's when everything changed.
"I wasn’t uploading consistently or trying to make a career out of it at that point," she says. "When Charles noticed me, that really helped to grow my following."
Roberts says she looks towards pop culture and anything that's trending on TikTok for inspiration, because it helps keep her audience engaged. Roberts' recreation of the FaceApp old age filter is currently her most viewed video on TikTok with approximately 40 million views.
As her following grows, Roberts is continuously changing the style of her videos to align with the trending aesthetics of Instagram and TikTok. "In the beginning, my videos weren’t really thought out at all," she admits. "It was just me sitting down and filming, no edits, no nothing. Whereas now, especially on TikTok, I try and incorporate an element of comedy into my videos by using a funny sound or something like that."
Meanwhile, on Instagram, the teen says she favors a "more professional and edited" look, although she'll tend to go straight into the tutorial without practicing it beforehand.
"I don’t practice it or anything unless it’s something really complicated that I can’t visualize. Then, I’ll make a face chart to sketch it on paper," Roberts explains. While the time spent on each video varies by look, Roberts does all the filming and editing from beginning to end.
Roberts credits the "supportive" beauty guru community for helping her build her following and for helping mentor her as she's grown. "The community is all really interactive and we all know each other and we’re all friends," she says. "One of the beauty gurus who really helped me in the beginning of this year, Patrick Starr, I found him to be a really great mentor, and he’s always so supportive of me and all the artists in the industry."
In light of the publicity that YouTube stars' James Charles and Tati Westbrook's feud got this year, Roberts says one of the best pieces of advice she's gotten from her fellow gurus is to avoid the drama at all costs. "Focus more on the artistry and try to stay out of the drama," she says, laughing. "Staying out of the drama is important."
Roberts admits her life is a far cry from that of a usual teen. For example, she gets recognized "pretty much every time [she goes] out into town."
The star says she's "worked with all the top makeup companies" at this point, either getting sent free products, or in some instances, getting paid to use them in her tutorials.
This is my full-time career now, and I’m just enjoying this as much as I can for as long as this lasts.
"The brands will see that my account is doing well and want to approach me, and if it’s a product that I already use and a brand that I really believe in, then I’ll be happy to work with them," she says, adding that she's quite "apprehensive" about the changes to the industry, especially what effect Instagram hiding its users' likes will have.
"I think it’s definitely something that I’m worried about. I’m not in the group that has been tested with it yet, so I haven’t seen the effects of it just yet, but it’s definitely something that I’m scared about," Roberts says. "I’m scared that it’s going to drop engagement on my account, which is something that really helps brands and people to notice that my account is performing well right now."
However, she says that she's very aware that "being an influencer is not something that lasts forever," and she has a long-term plan to come out with her own brand and produce her own products in the future. "This is my full-time career now, and I’m just enjoying this as much as I can for as long as this lasts," she says.
There are a few trade-offs that many teens don't have to worry about. Roberts says she hasn't taken a day off in months, and social media is much more like work rather than a past time.
"I try not to take a break as much as I can. I don’t think I’ve taken one in quite a few months now just because consistency is the most important thing. I try and just keep posting every day," she explains, adding that thinking of ideas that are "fresh and fun" help keep Instagram and TikTok entertaining for her.
James Charles on YouTube would be my dream collaboration.
For fellow aspiring makeup artists trying to break out from the pack, Roberts says, "My biggest tip would be to be consistent, like post pretty much almost every day. It’s the best way to get your work out there, because the more stuff you produce, the more chances that you have of getting noticed online."
As for the future, Roberts says fans can expect to see her take over the makeup industry with a line of products that would be "something you haven't seen on the market before." She says, "Obviously, my makeup is not just your typical glam sort of stuff, so I think it would be something specific to my kind of artistry."
In the meantime, she's got her eye on collaborating with one of her favorite artists. "James Charles on YouTube would be my dream collaboration," she gushes. "We’ve already collaborated on TikTok, but I would absolutely love to be on one of his videos. That would be amazing."