In the Kit

How One Influencer Went from Flat Broke to Landing a *Huge* Maybelline Contract

Shayla Mitchell has the most incredibly-organized beauty stash we’ve ever seen.

By: Katie Becker
Photography: Tristan Kallas

Shayla Mitchell is probably best known as Makeupshayla, which is her handle on Instagram where she has 2.5 million followers and the name of her YouTube channel which has nearly half a million followers. Mitchell is one of the most powerful beauty influencers in social media, thanks to her regular makeup tutorials and flawless selfies. (For the record, she literally looks airbrushed in person.) But when you walk into her headquarters—a penthouse condo in downtown L.A.—you do not see a small army keeping up the operation as you might expect. Instead, her sprawling, impeccably-clean home is quiet and calm—decked out in perfectly matching dusty purple, gray, and silver. Mitchell and her cousin, Kayla, who is helping out for the day, are the only ones there. In a tucked-away second bedroom is an office with a camera, makeup cabinets, and a rainbow of backdrops on hangers. Beyoncé is playing, divine selfie-perfect sunlight is streaming into the living room, and everyone is immediately offered a bottle of Fiji water.

Something else you might not expect? “I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup until I went to junior prom,” she says. “How old were you at junior prom? Sixteen? My mom just never let me wear makeup. She always told me ‘You’re beautiful without makeup! You don’t need it!’”

While that is undeniably true, makeup ended up serving Mitchell in unimaginable ways. She started her career working at MAC while in college, and, while trying to make a name for herself for freelance work right around the time Instagram started, turned herself into a viral phenomenon. Last month she celebrated the launch of her collaboration with Maybelline New York, for which she created three custom shades of The Colossal Big Shot Mascara and a six-shade The City Mini eyeshadow palette sold around the country.

“We worked on the collaboration for a year,” she says. “I was thinking, ‘OK, let’s do it! But I’m not going to tell anyone about this because I don’t want to jinx it.’ When I went to the Maybelline labs, and that’s when I knew. I think that’s when I broke down in tears, too. And all the chemists were all female, by the way, which is really cool.”

Empowerment, hard work, fitness, and body positivity are some of the other themes that run through Shayla’s extremely popular content. To find out more about her beginnings—including a period of time she was completely broke—we curled up on her couch with a huge fuzzy sheepskin. And then forced her to show us her epic collections of makeup, Chanel, Gucci, and Christian Louboutin. See, mom? Makeup paid off. See it all below.

On her beginnings in makeup: “In college at Arizona State, I was working full-time at MAC, then I was doing freelance on the side, and brides during the weekend. And I was still in school! I would sleep—like 5-6 hours—but I worked a lot. Once I graduated, I transferred with MAC to Santa Monica. And I had no freelance work. No clients. I basically started over. I was so poor. I was so broke. I don’t even know how I survived! I look back and am like ‘How did I even put gas in my car?!’ It was bad. But that’s when Instagram first started. My manager said, ‘Start posting your stuff, maybe you’ll get freelance work.’”

On her beginnings in makeup, cont.: “I lived in a studio bedroom apartment. It wasn’t the worst part of town, but a bad part of town. I could only afford to buy chicken, corn... I think that’s like the cheapest thing you could buy from the grocery store. It was so bad that I would say ‘OK, I can actually skip my car payment this month and I’ll be fine. Then, I’ll just be one car payment behind.’ I remember one time when my car broke down and I took it to the repair shop and I had to walk almost two miles home. I said, ‘I’m not getting on the bus.’ So I walked the two miles home and then when I got there I forgot my freaking keys. I was like ‘This can’t get any worse!’ Those experiences keep you humble.”

“When I was younger I actually sent Pat McGrath an email. I wrote ‘I want to be a makeup artist.’ I thought it was really cool because she is a black woman. She’s Vogue. Everybody knows her. Everyone works with her. Then, recently, she actually reached out to me. She said ‘I want to film a video with you with my collection.’ She flew me out to New York and I filmed with her. She is such a boss!”

Shoes, Christian Louboutin; Mascaras, Maybelline New York x Shayla Volum Express The Colossal Big Shot Mascara

Shayla’s favorite false lashes, Lilly Lashes.

On her success in social media: “I feel like you have to be open for sure! Especially with YouTube, with Snapchat, as a blogger, you have to open up your entire life. That’s how you get people to engage with you and relate to you. It’s different now. Three years ago you could have your YouTube personality and a totally different personality in real life and it was fine. I think a lot of older YouTubers are having a hard time adjusting, but these days it’s really important to be the same person behind the lens and in person.”

Some of Shayla’s all time favorite makeup.

“I’ve been using Big Shot mascara for years. I don’t even try other mascaras. I’m really picky about foundation: Bobbi, MAC, and CoverFX are really good. The Smashbox stick foundation is really good. I don’t really try new things with brows. Right now I’m using Natasha Denona brow powder. I like powder, it looks a little bit more natural. Beautyblender really isn’t a secret, but wetting your Beautyblender makes a really big difference. It makes your foundation just look more natural. With the Smashbox, I actually put the foundation stick on and then I use Tatcha mist. It gives your skin just a bit of glow and it make the foundation set in a little bit better.”

“I feel like a body positivity spokesperson. I always tell people embrace your curves, your body. I work out a lot and I’m not super skinny, but I’m in shape, I’m fit, you know? [I also think it’s important to] just be independent. Be a strong woman. I feel like when people think of me they think ‘OK well she works out all the time, she’s really strong, she’s focused, and she’s independent.’”

Clockwise from middle top: Lipsticks, Kat Von D Everlasting Liquid Lipsticks, MAC Liquid Lipcolours; Bags, Gucci, Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton

On people trolling her: “[It happens] all the time! You just have to ignore it. If it’s bad, where I feel like I’m being harassed, then I’ll just block them, but it comes with the territory. I always tell people if it’s that bad, if the comments bother you, then maybe you shouldn’t be on Instagram. But I also get Tweets and Snaps from people telling me that they’re inspired by how confident I am. A lot of people send me pictures of before and afters—by them seeing me work out it gave them the courage to work out. I love stuff like that. Even just as a black woman, people looking at my pictures saying, ‘Oh I didn’t know I could wear this on my eyes! Thank you for inspiring me to try new things.’”

Sunglasses, Quay; Shoes, Gucci

Shayla’s drawer of Yves Saint Laurent Beauté.

“Instagram was my big break. I don’t know if you are familiar with Sugarpill Makeup. They have this gold eye shadow and it was really popular. I remember that I spent $20 on it, and for me that was a lot, but I thought hopefully somebody will repost me. That’s kind of where it took off. That was one look that really helped give me a boost for sure. People started to repost me. When Instagram first started it was all pictures, so I posted my eye looks and from there I started to get more followers and then people started to book me [for freelance work] off that. Then it got to the point where people didn’t care about my clients, they cared about how I was doing my makeup. So I started posting more of myself and then before you know it people are like ‘Hey can we pay you to post?’ And I was like ‘OK!’”

On her favorite beauty treatments: “I have a couple people I like to go [to] for facials. I just went to Shani Darden. Oh my gosh, she is amazing. She has the magic touch. I like going to Olympics Spa in K-Town and just [sitting] in the tea bath. I use to have Anastasia Beverly Hills do [my brows] and then I just don’t like bugging her because I feel like she’s really busy. She use to shape my brows and now I just kind of do them myself.”

“Authenticity is the most important thing. I don’t think it’s a secret that influencers get paid to promote products, but I’ve said no to a lot of deals because [the product] either broke me out or it did something weird. One piece of advice I always promote to bloggers is to promote what you genuinely like, even if it’s for free. That brand will eventually come to you with a deal. There’s a lot of brands that I don’t get paid to promote and I just naturally like them. Our followers and subscribers know when you’re being honest because they see what you’re using every single day.”

Shayla’s drawer of Kylie Cosmetics.

“The best experience I ever had was going to Cuba. I went to Cuba on a personal vacation and you don’t have Wi-Fi there. Have you been there? There’s no Wi-Fi. If you log on and put your phone down and blink you’ll get disconnected. We were disconnected for four days. I came back so reenergized. If you guys ever get a chance to go just go knowing you won’t have Wi-Fi and you’ll have the best time.”

Shayla’s drawer of CoverFx.

“Being self-made keeps you grounded. I don’t hang out with people who are superficial. My friends grew up [with me] in the beauty industry together—like Desi Perkin and Chrisspy. That helps keep you grounded because if you make new friends who grew up with money, they value different things. With us, we just value one another. We appreciate everything that we have. Sometimes I’ll see YouTubers complain about their job and I’m like, ‘You’re living an amazing life. You have a big house. You’re complaining?’ I wouldn’t trade that for the world.”

“I go to Hollywood Gym for boxing. My trainer is there and I do weightlifting twice a week and then I box twice a week. I love it. It’s so fun. If you’re ever upset about anything, go box. You’ll feel so much better.”

“I was so shy [as a kid]. I started playing soccer when I was in middle school and that helped. In class when they called my name, they’d always mess it up. They’d always say ‘Sharla.’ It’s so easy S-H-A-Y-L-A, but they would always mess it up and I would be afraid to raise my hand. I was very shy growing up. Super shy. But I use to love to draw. My sister, my mom, they’re all artists.”

“[There’s a misconception that this job] is easy. Creating content is hard. Just being creative, that’s the hardest part. And there’s other stuff, too. I just got a new mic and it took me almost an entire day to figure out how to set that mic up. And the software, like FinalCut Pro, is really hard. It’s even hard to have the eye to know what to film. And get the light right. It’s also expensive. Equipment isn’t cheap. It’s a huge investment. What else is hard about my job? Getting ready everyday. Doing my makeup everyday. Being on. I don’t know, it’s hard. There’s rarely a day where I’m like I’ll just sit and watch TV all day and not do anything. I’m always working. Always. ”

Bags (left to right), Chanel, Gucci, Chanel; Fragrances (left to right), Versace Bright Crystal, Chanel Chance, Clive Christian “C” Private Collection, Gucci Flora

“Influencers are going up. Look, Maybelline just collabed with a beauty blogger. That’s crazy. They use models. They use stars. I just think beauty standards are going to change and I really do think that bloggers are going to have a lot of influence. Before you would see a celebrity and say ‘Oh my Gosh. I’ll probably never see them in my life and look what they’re wearing.’ You couldn’t connect with them. You didn’t know what they did in their house. You didn’t know their family members. Nothing. With us, they know everything about us. I could be watching Game of Thrones on Sunday and so many people will be like ‘I watch Game of Thrones, too!’ Or ‘You make coffee and you have to have almond milk in it? I do that, too!” It’s that personal connection.”

Bag, Gucci; Eyeshadows: Maybelline New York x Shayla The City Mini Palette

“[My ultimate goal] is constantly changing. A year ago I said I wanted to be a face of a major makeup brand and now it’s like I kind of am. So that’s crazy! I get emotional when I talk about it. I would love to be in a commercial. When you have your own brand, though, you have to dedicate 200 percent to that brand and I’m not ready to do that. The more my brand grows, the more I grow as like a businesswoman. Five years from now I want people to be like ‘Wow, you’re such a boss. You’re so independent. You’ve come a long way.’”

Shoes, Giuseppe Zanotti

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