Welcome to YouTube Millionaires, where we profile channels that have recently crossed the one million subscriber mark. There are channels crossing this threshold every week, and each creator has a story to tell about YouTube success. Read previous installments here.
This week’s installment is brought to you by the Inclusive Media Initiative by Pixability.
For three years, Nyane couldn’t get one particular video out of her head.
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In 2020, rapper Saweetie posted a video where she’s almost like a mannequin, with different clothes appearing on her, swapping out while she poses in the middle of the shot. Nyane knew instantly what the video reminded her of: being a kid and playing The Sims, or a Barbie dress-up game. She remembers the video was popular on TikTok, but eventually audiences moved on to the next trend.
Not Nyane, though. The UK-based fashion and beauty creator had gotten her start on Tumblr as a teenager, then moved to Instagram, and was now focusing on TikTok. She was looking for that one thing that would set her apart from other creators in those crowded spaces.
She thought Saweetie’s style might be that thing. But she also wasn’t sure–and she knew that style would take some serious labor.
“It seemed like a lot of work, but the outcome was just so insane,” she says. Eventually, after sitting with the idea for a couple years, she went to her partner Phil, who spent some time in film school and is an audio producer. “I just said to Phil, ‘We should really try this.’ I know he edits really well, but I didn’t know he would manage to edit my exact idea.”
He did, in fact, manage to edit her exact idea, and the result is Nyane’s signature GRWM makeup videos that look like something straight out of a video game. Bright-lit in crisp digital white, Nyane stares NPC-style, wide-eyed and expressive, at the camera while different options for things like blushes, mascara, and lipstick pop up. One gets tapped, Nyane blinks or shifts her head, and the makeup appears on her. She also switches out different wigs, and sometimes does videos in reverse, “removing” the makeup with a similar editing style. She never shows herself applying products, which at first was something she thought could put viewers and brands off from watching or working with her.
But brands like Morphe have embraced her, and her audience on TikTok has grown to 1.5 million people. This style has helped her stand out, has helped her get a working studio space, and now is helping her build out a team to make this content a long-term career.
Check out our chat with her and Phil below.
@nyane OOhh this one was fun 💕 another NPC grwm makeup, hope you like it💓 Foundation #fentybeauty pro filtr 330 #hudabeauty easy bake and snatch Highlighter #maccosmetics show gold Cheeks #sigmabeauty powder blush Lips: #anastasiabeverlyhills Lashes : #meltcosmetics individuals – Luna Lenses: #hapakristin_kr Wig from #temperhair ♬ CLOUD 333 – Bvtter
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tubefilter: Hello! Really excited to get to chat. As you know, I’m interviewing you for our column Millionaires, which is for people who recently or recently-ish hit a million followers on a social media platform. You’ve recently-ish done that on TikTok. Congratulations.
Nyane: Thank you.
Tubefilter: I’m familiar with you and with your videos, but to start off, pretend somebody’s reading this and they’ve never seen your stuff, they don’t know who you are. Give me a little bit of introduction about you and where you’re from and how you got into makeup.
Nyane: I am Nyane Lebajoa, and I’m a beauty and fashion influencer residing all over, actually, the UK and the Netherlands. I started beauty when I was– no, not beauty, actually. I started social media when I was 16 on Tumblr, and then I moved on to Instagram and now TikTok.
Tubefilter: Oh, Tumblr first?
Nyane: Yes, Tumblr first.
Tubefilter: I think you’re the first creator I’ve spoken to who said Tumblr first.
Nyane: That’s how old I am, actually. [laughs] Now I’ve moved on to TikTok and I’m concentrating on beauty and also a little bit of fashion.
Tubefilter: What drew you to TikTok?
Nyane: Because it became a big platform. A lot of people were talking about TikTok and posting videos on TikTok, and I just thought it would be cool, especially after Instagram introduced reels. I was posting on reels and I thought it would be cool to post on TikTok. Yes, that’s how it came about.
Tubefilter: Do you remember what the first video you had on TikTok that did really well was?
Nyane: My first video on TikTok actually did quite well. My friend called me up and she was like, “Your video is doing really good.” It had 35,000 views. For a first video, I think that’s pretty good. It was a video of me switching wigs. I put on seven wigs, and that was it. I was basically just switching wigs and saying like, “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.” That was my first TikTok.
Tubefilter: Very interesting. Do you remember what year it was you started posting on TikTok?
Nyane: When I posted that TikTok, the one that did good, my first one, I think it was the end of 2020. When I first started posting, actually again, because I didn’t post for another year, then when I started posting again was April 22. April 22, yes, that’s when I started posting properly.
@nyane This was fun creating another npc makeup look, what do you think ? #maccosmetics studio fix foundation nc44.5 #fentybeauty gloss bomb #anastasiabeverlyhills eye primer #benefitcosmetics brows 4.5 #meltcosmetics lashes (Leo) #hudabeauty faux filter concealer (praline) & colour corrector (papaya) + easy bake and snatch (blondie) #yslbeauty lash clash mascara #mulac powder blush palette #morphebrushes continuous prep and set mist #colourpopcosmetics spotlight highlighter #temperhair #reels #makeupreels ♬ Kids – Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein
Tubefilter: You’ve come quite far in two years, then.
Nyane: Yes, I’d say so.
Tubefilter: How have things changed for you behind the camera? What is your production schedule like these days?
Nyane: It’s insane. Basically I wake up in the morning and come here around 9:00 a.m. I start shooting at around maybe 12:00. I would shoot till 11:30 in the evening because I try to get around three to four videos in one day. We would shoot a whole day and then eat here at our studio and then go home and sleep and then do the same thing the next day. We barely get any days off. When we do get days off, I guess we come to the studio again and edit more content and reply to emails, do something else apart from recording videos.
Tubefilter: I know you have a management team at Whalar, do you have anybody else working with you? Like editors or anybody else, or is it just the two of you?
Nyane: It’s just the two of us, me and Phil. He edits all the videos. I sit and record everything by myself and then he edits in the meantime. I record, he edits, I record, he edits. It’s just both of us at the moment.
Tubefilter: Very interesting. Then do you aim to post a certain number of videos per day or per week?
Nyane: For TikTok, I try to post a video every day, but I’m trying to post two videos a day, but I can’t do that because we don’t have enough content. What I do now is I’m able to post one video a day on TikTok and then on Instagram, one video a day or five videos in seven days.
Tubefilter: Got you. I am very curious about this NPC style, this video game style you have, which is very, very cool. I’m curious to hear more about how you came up with that and how you’ve developed it.
Nyane: It came about end of last summer or middle of last summer. I just kept talking about this idea, because a while ago, I think it was in 2020, I saw a video of Saweetie, the singer. She posted, I think it was a trend on TikTok, I’m not sure. She posted a TikTok of her dressing up in clothes and she was like a mannequin or a doll. It was like a game and she did it really well. I just remembered that video that she did. It seemed like a lot of work, but the outcome was just so insane. I just thought, This is like a game. It’s like playing The Sims or some dress-up games from when I was younger. I just said to Phil, “We should really try this.” I know he edits really well, but I didn’t know he would manage to edit my exact idea to what he did. That’s how it came about. I thought of this video and I was like, “We need to do something like this.” I didn’t really think it’s going to blow up, but people loved it.
Tubefilter: Phil, I would love to hear from you about the editing process, because it’s clear there’s a lot of work going into post-production.
Phil: Yes, it is a lot of work. I think we’re at the same duration now, like how long it takes to shoot a video and how long it takes to edit. Actually, sometimes it takes longer to edit. It’s becoming more and more like sort of a design process, because adding all the effects and stuff like that is something new that I didn’t actually learn. I learned it in this process, basically.
Nyane: You’re actually learning something every day when you edit.
Phil: That’s been a lot of fun. I went to film school for a little bit. I didn’t finish anything, but I learned basic editing, like cutting, basically.
Nyane: Also you’re a music producer. That’s how you can do the sound and everything, right?
Phil: Yes. Yes. Yes.
Nyane: He’s really good. He wrote quite fast when he does the voiceover and all the other sounds and changes everything. You do it good, because he’s been doing it for a while. That’s it.
Phil: We’ve been talking about this the other day. It’s like we’ve both been working towards this the past five years or something, we just didn’t know what it was yet.
@nyane Matcha Queen 💚 Let’s do my makeup 💄 – What’s your drink of choice? Mine’s always Matcha or green tea 🍵 Wigs: #temperhair – Bubblegum pink & Tempermint Products used: #dimplecolor burnt butter hazel lenses #plouise coloured base (green with envy) & hint of mint #kimchichibeauty citrus queen lime #elfcosmetics precision liquid eyeliner #toofaced cloud crush blusher (candy clouds) #benefitcosmetics highlighter #maccosmetics lipstick (ruby woo) #revlon lipstick (wine with everything) #hudabeauty ex wife black lipstick #temperhair #reels ♬ Kyoto – ADTurnUp & Tsikuni
Tubefilter: Bringing all your skills together. I was going to ask what your background was, Phil, but no, that explains it. It’s such an interesting way to present beauty content.
Nyane: I think at the beginning I was a little bit skeptical about the idea, but then the more people liked it, I kept doing more and more. Then I thought maybe some makeup brands won’t be interested in working with me because I don’t really show the process of putting the makeup on, but it seems like people are still interested in that. I think mainly because we do see a lot of beauty influencers applying the makeup. I think what’s different about it is that it just appears.
Tubefilter: You have worked with brands?
Nyane: Yes. Yes. A lot, actually. Even before TikTok, even before we did videos, I already worked with a lot of makeup brands.
Tubefilter: Your style of video has not deterred brands from working with you?
Nyane: No, definitely not. I wouldn’t say so.
Phil: Oh, on the contrary.
Tubefilter: I was going to say, it seems like it would be more interesting because nobody else is doing it.
Phil: It’s like when we started including the little pictures of the product, throw off the packaging a little bit, I think that was also like, “Oh, this is proper like an ad now,” without it looking too much like an ad, without having to hold up the product and stuff like that.
Tubefilter: Very interesting. In terms of coming up with an idea for a video, how do you put together these different styles? How do you sustain needing multiple looks over the course of a week when you get your ideas?
Nyane: I basically get load of ideas from Pinterest. I create a mood board for each look. I always have a little mood board of the colors I’m going to use and the hairstyles I want to try. Before shooting the actual videos, I prepare the wigs once a week. Once a week I’ll have about five main wigs prepared and some other random ones would be on the side for half of the videos. I basically rely on working on mood boards and go from there.
Tubefilter: You mentioned a little bit of fashion too, are you looking to get more into fashion?
Nyane: Yes, I actually started off my social media by doing fashion. I feel like beauty kind of– I find it more, I don’t know, creative for me right now I guess, because it’s still new. I do want to do more fashion, but I think it’s a lot of effort because it’s really cold and I have to be trying on different clothes and then– it’s just a bit more effort for me, because I can sit here if I do makeup and be cozy and then you just see my face.
Tubefilter: You have a lot of creativity in your makeup. There’s one look that you just did with filigree silver lines across your face, like a mask. That one it was really cool.
Nyane: That was actually quite fun, because it was one of my old videos, but like new when I started doing the NPC style. I actually prepared it the day before. I used a glue gun and then spray-painted these random things and then put it on my face. It was really random, but it worked out, I guess.
Tubefilter: Are you developing your audience outside of having them watch your videos? Have you considered making your own makeup products or anything like that?
Nyane: Yes. This is something we actually talk about. Every week we talk about what are we going to do business-wise. I think it would be really cool to do a makeup palette or something along those lines, because previously we worked with Morphe and I had a collaboration with Morphe and it was MorpheXNyane and that did really well. We thought it would be cool to do something like that again, but I wouldn’t want to risk it right now because I feel like it would take up a lot of my efforts and time and I’m getting to know my new audience at the moment with my new content. I think that would be something that would happen maybe at the end of the year or next year.
Phil: I was just going to add, basically before TikTok and Reels became big and we really got into it, we had already started a wig brand and a clothing line. The wig brand is obviously now doing well as well, because the wigs get featured in all the videos. The clothing line has been a bit slower. It’s already there, we just basically have to develop it more and-
Nyane: Find time for it. We need assistance.
Phil: Yes, When we have the time, when we get to build a bigger team, we will absolutely get into more again. It’s just right now we’ve been really-
Nyane: It’s really difficult.
Phil: -focusing pushing because we always feel like when you have growth, you have to keep it pushing as far as it goes.
Tubefilter: Are you thinking about building out your team?
Phil: Absolutely, yes.
Phil: We’ve had a studio for like a year now. We’ve built it out to look really nice and we want to rent it out and we want to have someone run the studio and someone also running some of our day-to-day business, dealing with the agency and so on.
Nyane: We need to get an editor as well because cause it’s too much for you.
Phil: Will be nice to have extra content like vlogs and stuff like that, which I don’t get to edit, and also I’m less interested in that basically because it’s more boring. It’s not as fun as making these videos that we’re doing.
Tubefilter: I was going to say– I know that you have some long-form videos on your YouTube from a few years ago. Are you interested in doing long-form again?
Nyane: Yes, we actually shot a YouTube video before Christmas and we have an editor open it up. We definitely want to do that and we talk about it all the time, but it’s just needing someone to help or needing a team, but 100% interested in that. I think I’d love to do vlogs. I think I already have an idea of what I’d want to do on YouTube, and it would be people getting to know me and getting to know my life behind the scenes of our sheets, behind the scenes of every day.
Tubefilter: Long-form is definitely a different animal, especially with editing. I can tell, Phil, that you really like the punchy short-form editing, really works for you.
Phil: It’s so much fun. Absolutely. We’ll certainly find somebody. It’s a scaling issue, as they say, in the business sphere.
Tubefilter: Any other plans or goals for this year?
Nyane: The plans and goals, I just want to keep growing basically. Growing and seeing where it takes me, because these past months have been really exciting for us, because I’ve grown a lot on social medias. Because it’s been quite a standstill for a while, so now that this is all happening, I think we’re just focusing on this and seeing where it takes us basically by summer. I think the biggest thing would be us building our team and seeing how far we can get with everything that we do with the team.
Tubefilter: It can be difficult to reach that place as a creator where it’s like, “Okay, we have the stability and the need for a team.” Was it anything special for you hitting a million on TikTok? Because it’s a very big milestone, so I’m curious if it affected you at all?
Nyane: Yes, definitely. 100% affected me. I wanted to celebrate and I wanted to do something special for that, but at the time I was either ill or extremely busy, so I couldn’t do anything. It was extremely exciting. It was really, really cool, because when I was posting a while ago in 2022, I was growing quite fast and then I stopped posting and then it took me a while to now get to the million. I really appreciate it. Because it was a struggle. It was a struggle.
Phil: Was stuck at 50,000, somewhere around that, for a while.
Nyane: A couple of months.
Tubefilter: Do you know what broke it out of that?
Nyane: Well, because I stopped posting, that’s why I got stuck there. Then when I came back, I started posting twice a day, and that helped. Then I started doing these videos, the NPC-style makeup ones, and then people loved those and that’s what got me to the million.
@nyaneNpc grwm — Date night makeup — look from this past weekend 🤎🖤 what do we think of the final look? ☺️♬ Romantic – ADTurnUp
Tubefilter: Are you looking at doing other styles of videos? This is so unique and so interesting, but I’m just curious if you are looking at anything else?
Nyane: Yes. We talked about me doing ASMR eating once, because I love food, I thought that could be cool. Maybe even unboxing makeup and stuff, I think that could be cool like an ASMR. We want to lean into ASMR sort of videos.
Tubefilter: Okay. Got you. I’ve been on this beat for six or seven years now, and it’s rare that I can say I’ve never seen something before, but I’ve never seen your NPC makeup style before.
Phil: It was just a little jump from the dress me up, the first one, and then we were like, “Hey, we could do this with makeup. Let’s see how that goes.” It just seemed like maybe it won’t even be anything. Then we tried it, and the effect of just the makeup appearing just like, “Oh, wow, this is really like magic or something.”
Tubefilter: It’s really cool. I was flicking through some of the comments on your videos too before this, and people are so positive about it. People are excited about these videos.
Nyane: I do think on my TikTok, my following is really nice. In general, on my social media, people are really, really, really friendly and I love that. Because the internet can be a dark place, but I do find on TikTok, people are really nice and just positive and happy. It’s cute.
Tubefilter: That’s good. To wrap up, what’s been your favorite part of being on TikTok?
Nyane: My favorite part is, I think the fact that I can just post twice in a row, post whatever time of day, it’s less stressful than any other platform I’ve been on. I think that’s really exciting because I don’t have to stress about it. I can wake up in the middle of the night and be like, “Actually, I’m just going to post this now.” Also, the way the algorithm works, if I watched a video that I like, and then the next ones know that they’re going to show me that. It’s a basic thing anywhere, but I feel like TikTok has it spot on. Well, like that.
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