While mainstream, traditional beauty institutions such as Allure and its recently released "Best of Beauty" list still matter, the real influencers these days are the young women who toil away on YouTube making videos that demystify contouring and provide the frank truth about which beauty products suck. Desi Perkins, a former freelance makeup artist, is one such vlogger.
Perkins currently has 1.4 million YouTube subscribers. Her most popular video, an eyebrow tutorial, has almost nine million views. Prior to starting a YouTube channel, though, she posted makeup pictures on Instagram, where she gained a following quickly. She currently has 1.9 million followers on the channel. (To put this into perspective, OG internet makeup guru Michelle Phan has 2 million followers; makeup artist Pat McGrath has 501,000.)
I caught up with Perkins this past weekend in New York City at Ipsy's "Generation Beauty" event, where she acted as one of the brand's so-called "stylists." (Ipsy is the subscription beauty sampling service founded by Phan a few years ago. More on what she's up to later this week.) Perkins was greeting fans at the event with her husband Steven in tow.
As is the case for personal style bloggers, successful beauty vloggers often have supportive significant others who work on their behalf behind the scenes. The Perkins have been married for three years, and Steven shot videos and photographed Desi for a year before she landed the Ipsy gig, which comes with the perks of a studio and a dedicated cameraman. He obviously adores her and is completely dedicated, as this video of him putting makeup on her attests. I sat down with the two of them to find out what it's like to be married to someone who regularly has young women running up to them squealing in excitement, which I saw play out several times at Generation Beauty.
Steven, did you know much about beauty before you started filming Desi?
Steven: Desi's always been into makeup. We'd always do runs to the MAC store or Sephora. I ran my own graphic design business and Desi was in school at the time. I'd work all day and Desi would stay home and do her makeup when she wasn't at school, and she'd be taking photos for Instagram, like close-ups of her eye makeup. I'd take photos of her when I'd get home from work. I've always had cameras around and I've always been good on Photoshop and graphic design programs. I was always the technical side of things and Desi was the creative. I still run a graphic design business, but it's probably 20 percent graphic design now and 80 percent with Desi just because it's really taken off and it's really beneficial for both of us.
What's it like living in a house full of beauty products?
Steven: I'm used to it. We just moved to a bigger house. When we were in a smaller two-bedroom house, we would get boxes of beauty products from every company. The UPS man basically knew us.
I know you show up on videos and her followers know you. Is it weird to you to be known?
Steven: It's something you have to get used to. I never knew that it would be this big. We walk around and get mobbed by hundreds of people.
Desi: It's weird when he goes to places by himself and he comes home and he says people ask to take pictures of him.
Steven: Yeah, I was in New York City for the first time about three months ago. I was walking around for my other job — I was at a convention — and people were coming up to me and recognizing me as 'Desi Makeup's' husband. And she wasn't even with me. It was a very weird realization, like Wow, I'm across the country and she's in California and people are recognizing me.
Desi: There was also a time where he lost his ID once, and someone reached out to me on social media. They had found it at a bar and they left me a comment. So I called him and I said, 'Hey where's your driver's license?' And he said, 'How did you know I lost it?' He went back and they gave it to him.
Steven: Luckily I had a different address on my ID!
Steven, you've done her makeup on video. How did you learn?
Steven: When we first started I would film Desi doing her makeup. I'd watch her do her hour or hour-and-a-half makeup routine and I was picking it up. I'm a very visual learner.
Have you done makeup on yourself?
Desi: I told him I probably wouldn't put him through that, but we'll see!
What is the hardest technique?
Steven: The eyeliner is definitely hardest. She gets the perfect point on her eyeliner and that's one thing that I don't think I could ever achieve.
I will say one of the best benefits of having Desi as a wife is when it comes to Halloween because I don't have to worry about a costume. All I have to do is sit in a chair and she'll put something on my face. Last year we did a scarecrow. She's done a skull and I did a zipper face one year — that was one of the most amazing.
Desi: That was one of the first things I ever did and I did it in 15 minutes because we were running late. It ended up one of my most-liked makeup [pictures].
Have you ever had a disconcerting experience where fans get too personal or you get unwanted attention from guys?
Steven: Her demographic is 97% female, so we don't really run into the creepy guys.
Desi: Snapchat sends the occasional [dick pic] but he blocks them, so we're good. And somebody did Snapchat the outside of my house once and I got really freaked out. Also, I accidentally once Snapchatted my GPS when I was in my car, but it was actually my old address, and I had just moved. I was so thankful because in two seconds everyone was like, "Oh, you just leaked your address." You have to be so careful with things like that.
Steven: And there was one time where we tweeted we were going to go to a restaurant. Then we showed up and there were three people waiting for us at the restaurant.
Desi: But we didn't say which restaurant, like where or what city. Nothing.
Steven: We asked them, "How did you know we were coming to this one?" And they were like, "Oh, we've seen Steven at the grocery store around the corner." Things like that get a little weird sometimes.