One of the first youtubers I ever laid eyes on was Michael James. I remember watching his VLOGS way back when youtube was a relatively new website and I thought he was the coolest person on this planet. To be honest, I was totally RIGHT! Michael James really is a rare jem. His unique style and positive outlook on life really inspired me to be as creative as I want to be on youtube and just be myself. His channel has blossomed into a beautiful place full of inspiration and education for men and women alike. I caught up with MJ himself to find out a bit more about his past, present & future.
What inspired you begin filming videos to upload to YouTube?
This is a question that I’ve always spent a long time pondering over – If I’m painfully honest I can’t remember the EXACT reason as to why I started posting videos on YouTube. But it started while I was in college, I always found myself in absolutely ridiculous situations, both good and bad – generally because of my appearance.
It seems going to college everyday in 8 inch pink platforms, leather trousers, asymmetric dresses with 22inch long turquoise hair would attract quite a lot of attention. What some people mind find bizarre about me is that I generally dislike attention unless I have personally invited it. However I am fully aware that alongside an image like mine just comes unwanted attention, it is a fact. But I am also proud to say that after years of evolution both physical and mental – I am now proud of myself, and attention does not bother me so. That was a little bit of a tangent, I do apologize haha.
Generally I began to film these ridiculous adventures, events and scenarios I would find myself in. I then started to put them together and upload them to YouTube, named under a self-titled series ‘The Complicated Life’. It ran for 2 years and I filmed a total of 24 episodes, people that watched these videos learnt what my life was like – I suppose they enjoyed it as it’s still going today!
You create so many beautiful and unique make up looks on your channel, where do you get your inspiration from?
The process for my video or make-up creation is usually very simple. For my comedy style videos the idea usually comes from a reaction I have to a specific thing. I NEVER intend to make a video with any sort of malice against someone, and I will check several times before publishing it to make sure I don’t offend anyone.
That being said, I can poke fun at a wide range of things and behaviours – one thing that always annoyed me so much when I was a late teenager was the general opinion that ‘Chavs’ had about me, 9 times out of 10 it would usually be painfully judgemental, horribly rude and hurt my self-esteem. Thus was born the ‘I LOVE CHAV MAKEUP’ video, in which I splat my face in orange eye-shadow for that delicate sun kissed glow they are so famous for. As I’m sure you can tell, I also have a very dry sense of humour, it has been described as ‘so dry it’s DESSICATED’ before – which has also lead to some comedy creations, sarcasm – is my virtue.
For make-up and other creative related videos my inspiration usually comes from a ‘problem’ or ‘issue’. Most of the time nowadays I have specific types of videos or looks requested, for example ‘how to attach false eyelashes’ or ‘an unusual, sexy Gothic look’ In which I reflect over what I have done before, and what is currently ‘on trend’ in regards to those looks. I then dig deep into my education and brainstorm for artist’s that represent that specific feeling, for example – Francis Bacon is a particular favourite of mine, a homosexual artist, working in a time when it was highly illegal. He created portraits of tortured bodies and people being distorted beyond recognition. That all sounds very intense in a single sentence but to convert that into a look that isn’t only eye-catching, but wearable – and also quite straightforward to create is usually the difficult part. I generally simplify things as much as I can, shape, colour, contrast and emotion etc. That’s basically quite a long way to explain how I get from a simply request, to sourcing inspiration, to brainstorming, simplifying and then coming up with something like my video ‘Gothic Tears’.
Of course, I do get requests to ‘recreate’ statement looks that celebrities, musicians or personalities have. Which is also fun! But a lot less work-intensive.
Are you self-thought in regards to make up artistry? And do you believe a person needs to under-go proper training in order to become a successful makeup artist online & otherwise?
I truly believe the phrase ‘if there’s a will, there’s a way.’ – people get into their careers or dream jobs by so many avenues or routes in this digital age. It can be difficult to know where on earth to start. While I believe being trained in the basics of makeup in a way that you feel super comfortable is most beneficial, you are also going to have to do all the work yourself – and sometimes that can make you frustrated and overwhelmed, but also incredibly proud when you are happy with something you’ve created.
For example, I first realised make-up artistry was a viable avenue for a career when I worked as a junior hairstylist in Brighton – I worked for a small chain of hairdressers and heard that a woman was coming in to one of the bigger stores to have her hair done for a wedding photo shoot. I asked if I could assist for whoever was doing her hair for that shift. They had hired a make-up artist to come in and do her make-up simultaneously and I very much fell in love with the whole transformation.
But, still to this day – that has been the only time I have been ‘formally’ trained in make-up. I believe if you really have a deep passion for whatever it is you want to do, it’s not a case of ‘if’ but a case of ‘when’.
You have such a unique style and look. I love it! What has been your biggest fashion regret/mistake?
I think my Nu-Rave phase of my late teens could quite nicely be erased from my mind haha, bright red skinny jeans with pink stilettos and blue hair? Not a chance now.
But equally, I very much try to live without regret, because without the experiences and decisions I made and had I wouldn’t be who I am today. But right now I feel like I’m on the right track to where and who I want to be.
Describe your personal style:
A fantasy super-villain from an alternative universe where magic and sorcery exist.
Name your top 5 make up essentials:
Ah! Only 5!? are you mad!? Okay.
5TH – the least important for me right now is lips colour, I currently really enjoy a plain lip.
4TH – Eyelash curler – sometimes I can go without!
3RD – Very important is Contour and Highlight! Even if I’m not wearing any base foundation, a primer and some contouring can really make a difference.
2ND – a GOOD skincare regime! Moisturiser (oil free) and a good silicon primer! THEN a good medium coverage foundation (My favourite is Mac Studio Fix Fluid NW10 mixed with a tiny dash of Face and Body in White to help it match my skin tone perfectly.)
1ST – FALSE EYELASHES! They’re just so ultra pretty. I mean… Just so pretty!
How important is creative expression to you? What other creative outlets do you enjoy?
Creative expression is ALMOST more important to me than breathing. I feel very trapped inside my own body/mind if I don’t have some sort of creative outlet – my favorite artistic quote relating to creativity is by Pablo Picasso:
“We artists are indestructible; even in a prison, or in a concentration camp, I would be almighty in my own world of art, even if I had to paint my pictures with my wet tongue on the dusty floor of my cell.”
The first time I read that it was like my mind was blown, I think being specifically taught ‘art’ in such a general term can be quite toxic to young minds, that quote made me realise that my entire life could be a piece of artwork, not just what I could create with crayons and paper. It evokes quite a dark feeling in me that rages to strive forward and create anything, whenever I can – regardless of what society says ‘I should be doing’
Aside from make-up I particularly enjoy watercolour painting and digital art – I really enjoy creating graphics, illustrations and animated visuals for my videos (and any other project I fancy doing) I also very much enjoy problem solving, whatever the problem may be – though most of the time it ends up as a highly flamboyant answer that might not be any help to anyone. But I don’t mind!
What advice do you have for people who watch your videos who feel like they have to mask their true identity (in regards to fashion, gender etc.) to conform to societies standards?
My advice is that nothing externally is ever worth how you feel internally. Society isn’t a tangible object, I’ve had it used very often as a threat against me, for example before I really had a stable idea about my career path I would often get asked ‘How will you get a job dressed like that?’ – thus turning ‘society’ into a cold hearted weapon to destroy individuality that should be celebrated.
I believe that society can only give you it’s cold hard sting if you let it – I don’t believe in saying ‘I don’t care what people think of me’ because I do, I just care about what the right people think. However those people might not be the same people all life long, but that’s okay – life is a roller-coaster and I want to be able to experience every bump and turn even if I don’t enjoy it. It’s better to live and experience than just exist.
Also I think people forget, just because you ‘don’t have a job’ or a perfect life plan formed yet, life doesn’t just simply end – everyday can be whatever you want it to be.
Do you have any advice for people who are maybe thinking about starting their own YouTube channel but are too afraid/self-conscious to do so?
I think the best advice I can give when it comes to doing something like YouTube (but this can also apply to many other areas in life) is that even small steps forward is progress. Also Mark Twain said a FANTASTIC quote that I try to point out whenever the situation calls for it – “Comparison is the death of Joy.” – because it really is, If I allow myself to get sucked into a negative mind frame where I compare everything I have done to someone else, for example a much bigger youtuber – my self evaluation will be utterly distorted and difficult to shift. Everyone does something a different way, and nothing worth having is easy to get. I very much enjoy reading auto-biographies, mostly to learn that successful people are not so different to you or I, everyone’s life story has a beginning, a middle, a twist, a romance, a horror and a tragedy, but also comedy, feel-good and an end chapter.
Personally, I like to watch youtubers who evolve before my eyes, someone who captures my attention , really enjoys what their content is about and is still exploring their thoughts/feelings and opinions. People who solidly believe one thing, never change and are completely closed off to discussion and alternative opinion only usually get one reaction from me, and that’s clicking the ‘X’ button.
What are your goals & aspirations for your YouTube channel this 2014?
I really hope that 2014 is a good year for me! I’ve had a bit of a rough ride these last few years, so I think it’s about time where I can get to a position and really sparkle. I’ve just signed with a wonderful new management company in London, which has really opened my eyes to just how insanely magical life and the internet can be. Ultimately in 2014, I would like to work with a handful of youtubers that I find creative, inspiring and good-people. While further developing my style and interests, with the fantastic group of beautiful people who enjoy and relate to the content I love to create.
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