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Michelle Phan Screens Next-Generation Beauty Gurus With Ipsy Open Studios

A new Santa Monica studio gives budding style influencers a new canvas for their videos.


The single-story beige industrial building on Los Angeles’ west side doesn’t exactly scream glamour.

But inside, Michelle Phan hopes to launch the next generation of beauty influencers from three brilliantly white, professionally equipped stages in the newly opened Ipsy Open Studios.

The self-styled makeup guru, who has attracted 7.7 million YouTube followers with her video tutorials and built a $150 million subscription business, is using the facility to scout for the next beauty trendsetters. She’s offering aspiring beauty vloggers free access to the Santa Monica studio, its production staff and resources, in hopes of identifying promising content creators.

“I’m really good at finding the next influencer,” said Phan. “I know which person is going to resonate with this audience.”

Phan describes the Ipsy studios as partly an exercise in wish-fulfillment: Early in her career, she would have given anything for the use of such first-rate production facilities and access to experienced mentors. She’s offering one-on-one and small-group sessions and workshops, and Google Hangouts.

More than 1,000 people applied to use the facilities within an hour of Phan’s announcement.

“The numbers speak to the need,” said Ipsy President Jennifer Goldfarb. “We’re offering a different proposition. The big thing with ipsyOS: It’s no strings attached, no commissions, no fees.”

Among the first to use the facility is Karen Yeung, who has been a fashion and beauty blogger since March 2013, ever since she decided that pursuing a degree in international studies wasn’t her passion. She has won a following of some 200,000 YouTube subscribers with videos frequently set against an all-white background, though occasionally she has taken advantage of unusual settings — such as a fashion shoot from Hong Kong.

Yeung said working with Ipsy has allowed her to produce the sort of experimental videos that she lacked the technical know-how to pull off, such as one dreamy four-minute piece depicting her morning routine (with some pretty exaggerated props).

“I want to make all the crazy things in my head come to life,” Yeung said. “At Ipsy Studios I am able to do that.”

The studio provides a backdrop for networking events, like Thirsty Thursday, which give representatives of cosmetics brands the opportunity meet budding stylists like Yeung. In the last month alone, Yeung said, she has met the founders of Nudestix and is discussing a possible collaboration.

It also furthers Phan’s business objective of attracting members to Ipsy’s online beauty community of 200 bloggers, who together promote the Glam Bag. More than a million subscribers in the U.S. and Canada pay $10 a month to receive five new beauty samples or full-size products each month.

Here’s Phan talking about her journey and her business at our Code/Mobile conference last October:

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