Watching a YouTube tutorial from makeup artist Lisa Eldridge is like attending a therapy session. There's something in her posh English voice and the methodical movements of her hands, always clad in her signature rings, that leads viewers (and Fashionista editors!) to remark on her soothing qualities.
"Yea, they say that all the time!" Eldridge tells Fashionista with a laugh. "I post a video and there's at least 30 or 40 commenters saying that!"
Though she initially wasn't sure why people felt that way about her, she sort of gets it. "The make up artist job is a very nurturing job — you're trying to look after someone and make them beautiful, make them feel comfortable and safe with the work that you're doing — so I guess a lot of the qualities that make me a good make up artist also make me quite reassuring," she says.
Of course, the qualities that make Eldridge a good make up artist are what draw women to her YouTube tutorials to begin with; with over 20 years in the business, Eldridge has done beauty work for A-list actresses like Kate Winslet, campaigns with blue chip brands like Gucci, and high-fashion editorials. But despite having a full roster of dream clients, it was the draw of connecting with the everywoman that brought her to produce her own tutorials.
Eldridge launched her own YouTube channel four years ago, after an appearance on British television sent traffic to her website spiking. She was getting questions from viewers who wanted to know how to recreate a look she'd done on the show. "I thought it would really make sense to make my website more of a destination for when these people see the show, come on the website, and they can actually find the answers to all these questions that they're asking, and they'd actually be able to get something out of it," she explains.
To set herself apart — and to firmly establish her professional background — Eldridge decided to film in front of a white backdrop. But further than that, there was never a plan to production; her very first tutorial was filmed the day after a Christmas party. "I'd been out the night before and I was not looking great and I thought, 'I'll make a tutorial on how to look good the morning after a big night out,'" Eldridge explains. "It just progressed very organically from there."
It wasn't an easy decision to launch her channel; four and a half years ago, Internet tutorials were still the outpost of home-grown vloggers. "I was slightly worried because obviously I had a lot of A-list celebrity clients and YouTube was not a place for professionals in the fashion business," she says. "So I kind of stuck my neck out by doing them."
The risk paid off. Not only does Eldridge have a strong viewership base (just north of 900k subscribers on YouTube), many of those same A-list clients and fellow professional make up artists are now fans of her tutorials as well. It's not hard to see why: Eldridge combines her professional know-how with relatable, down-to-earth themes. No crazy "Game of Thrones" makeup or Kardashian contouring here — it's about helping women cover acne, or recreating a beautiful look from the red carpet. She takes ideas from women who make suggestions on her various social media channels and in the comments of her videos, requesting how to get a certain look or how to prepare for an event.
"You know, I'm very much guided by the people who follow me, by their opinions and what their interests are," she says. "Usually I'll do things where I've done a piece of work for editorial or a red carpet and I'll put the picture up and if loads of people will say, 'We love this look, can you do a tutorial?' then I'll really try to do that because it just feels like it's such a nice way of responding."
Some of Eldridge's own favorite tutorials are the ones based on real life scenarios, like the "first date" or "meeting up with the ex" videos. "We all go through these situations and people feel stressed about it or panicked about it, and that's what girlfriends are for, and I think that's where the online thing can really connect," she says. "If you can talk to someone about experiences like that, and have other people talk to each other in the comments, it's such a lovely thing to do."
Despite having landed paying gigs with brands like Chanel, for which she also does tutorials, and Boots No 7, for which she worked as creative director until last year, Eldridge doesn't allow a single paid product placement in any of her videos. "No one's paid me to feature a product, I've never been sponsored, I've never been paid by a makeup company to feature a product, and that for me is absolutely key," she says. "I make sure that it's not on my contract because to me that is so important." ("No one could pay me enough money," she adds with a laugh. "Do you know how much money people would have to pay me? With 20 years at the top of my game in the makeup industry?")
It's another reason women trust Eldridge; she's so committed to featuring only products that she believes in that she's even scrapped already-filmed and edited tutorials after finding that a product she'd used in it didn't live up to expectations. It also means that her tutorials feature everything from prestige brands to drugstore finds. Eldridge has tried hundreds of brands and isn't swayed by luxury packaging; for her, it's all about the end result on the face.
"Lots of bloggers are makeup fans because they love makeup — 'Oh this is the new collection and the packaging's cute, the color's nice,' and that's great," Eldridge explains. "Me, as a professional makeup artist, you give me a good quality brown eye shadow and I will make the actress look good. I don't care what the brand is, I don't care what the packaging is — if it works well, if she photographs well, she looks great, that's what I need for my job, my reputation, and my career."
She still reads all the comments and responds to viewers, some of whom have been with her since she started four years ago. "When I read the comments and I respond, it's coming from me, because that's the best bit for me," she explains. "It's a real person who's watched something."
At the end of the day, it's those viewers that helped build Eldridge's successful channel. Because she doesn't feature ads on her videos, YouTube and Google aren't pushing her videos in search results. "What I love is that people watch my videos and they recommend them to a friend, to their families, and they'll come and say, 'Oh, my sister told me about this,'" she says proudly. "It wasn't Google that told them, it was their friend, their sister, and I've managed to build this audience which for me is so real."
Juggling her YouTube tutorials alongside her professional work is important to her. She schedules filming for days off, regularly trying to squeeze in two or three tutorials at a shoot, and then scheduling the editing for another day off. But it's some of the most rewarding work Eldridge does. "To me, it represents that I can be doing makeup on the Gucci campaign and the next day I'm replying to somebody who's asking me a question from Mississippi about my last tutorial," she explains.
"I'm in a dream situation of being able to work on glossy campaigns and share with lots of people and connect with them," she says. "It's just a joy and a pleasure."