At just 14, Nikkie de Jager started posting make-up tutorials that she filmed secretly inside her bedroom.
She was just a kid with a passion, telling news.com.au she started doing it purely because she “loved make-up”.
For years the Dutch national created videos for her YouTube channel, Nikkie Tutorials, managing to amass a following of 700,000 subscribers by the time she was 21.
But it was only the beginning.
In May 2015, she shared a seven-minute clip that changed everything, catapulting the make-up artist into online fame.
Her video “The Power of Makeup” quickly went viral, but Nikkie, now 25, said she almost didn’t share the clip, which shows her applying beauty products to one half of her face while leaving the other completely natural.
“I filmed it and I almost never uploaded it because I hated it,” she said. “It just didn’t feel right. I thought, ‘Nobody is going to get this’.”
However her boyfriend at the time convinced her to post the footage, saying he thought people would resonate with it.
“I remember uploading it and it did so bad, I said to him, ‘See, I never should have uploaded this, it’s horrible’.”
But Nikkie was wrong. Very wrong. Two weeks later she woke up one morning to find her subscriber count and video views “going nuts”. Overnight, her video had gone viral and her make-up skills were suddenly being praised all over the world.
“I thought I must be dreaming, this can’t be real. It was such a whirlwind, but I’m really proud that it happened, especially with that video,” she explained.
As a result of the video — which to date has been viewed over 40 million times — Nikkie has become a hugely influential face in the beauty industry, boasting over 12 million Instagram followers with a YouTube subscriber count to match.
Her talents with a make-up brush are so impressive, earlier this year she was named Marc Jacobs’ first artistry adviser and is reported to be worth over $US6 million ($A8.5 million). She was even listed among Forbes “Top Influencers” in 2017.
“I never ever imagined that this is where I would end up. I started when I was 14 years old, I was insecure, I got bullied and life was not that great. I just started my channel for the love of makeup, and now I’m in Sydney talking about it, which is really weird but really special too,” she said.
But with the success comes criticism, which in the beauty bubble can be brutal. You only have to look at the recent rise and fall of fellow beauty YouTube star James Charles — who was slammed by fans during a very public fallout with his former friend Tati Westbrook — for evidence of that.
Nikkie too has been on the receiving end of nasty remarks online, something she shrugs off as “part of the job”.
“It’s never nice but it’s part of the job which was really hard for me to accept when I was younger,” she said.
Describing mean and cruel comments as “devastating”, Nikkie said Kim Kardashian helped her to let go of the cyberbullies.
“She said, ‘Listen, that person writes that comment, it took that person maybe two seconds of emotion. Don’t let their two seconds of emotion drain your entire day, it’s not worth it’,” Nikkie explained.
“And she goes through the ringer on a daily, sometimes hourly basis, so I knew it was such good advice.”
The pair worked together when Nikkie gave Kim a “power of makeup” makeover, applying products to just one half of the famous reality star’s face. She’s also done the same to Hollywood actress Drew Barrymore and has more famous faces in the pipeline.
“It’s funny, as it’s not the sort of thing you do to an elite person. But it’s proof that the video resonated with so many,” Nikkie said.
As well as having some of the most recognisable women in the world let her do their make-up, Nikkie’s also been travelling the world hosting Marc Jacobs masterclasses, her most recent in Sydney.
The most common question the guru is asked about is longevity, with fans desperate to know how to make their make-up stay put.
“It’s the sandwich technique. You have to layer and set and then apply some new and then set again, and it’s like this whole process,” she said.
But if you’re new to beauty and looking to dip your toe in, Nikkie has a few tips too.
“Take it one step at a time when you’re just starting off. Start with a tinted moisturiser or with a highlighter. Start with things that give you that boost of confidence and then build it up,” she said.
“Never ever feel like you have to do the whole shebang in one go because it can be quite overwhelming.”
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Or continue the conversation @RebekahScanlan | email@example.com
Originally published as ‘Horrible’ photo behind star’s millions