Sparkly eye shadow? These (male) beauty bloggers are experts, with six-figure incomes

Beauty blogger James Charles is the first male "face" of CoverGirl mascara.
Beauty blogger James Charles is the first male "face" of CoverGirl mascara. PHOTO: YOUTUBE/JAMES CHARLES

(NYTimes) - These beauty bloggers have nailed the perfect cat eye and the art of contouring. They help millions of followers navigate the rocky shoals of choosing the best mascara and the longest-lasting foundation. Some now earn six-figure incomes from their adoring audiences, thanks to partnerships with major brands eager to profit from their street cred.

They are also guys.

They may not be household names, but they do have huge followings.

James Charles, a 17-year-old New Yorker who is the first male "face" of CoverGirl mascara, has 1.5 million Instagram followers. Manny Gutierrez, who is known online as Manny Mua, has 3.3 million of them; his followers are known as Mannyacs and his Instagram page leads with the slogan: "I think boys deserve just as much cosmetic recognition."

Online personalities like Charles and Gutierrez represent progressive thinking and a fresh take on an old market, said Neil Saunders, a retail analyst who is managing director of GlobalData. "A cutthroat beauty market, where differentiation is vital, has been keen to capitalise on male bloggers," he said.

These bloggers tend to project a very traditionally feminine beauty aesthetic - forget facial hair, think Kardashian-style eyelashes. Many of them are gay and say that their followers' virtual embrace offers powerful reinforcement.

"I came out when I was 12, but I only started doing makeup 18 months ago," Charles said. "I started doing it on myself, and my parents thought I was transgender. I'm not. It took a lot for me to explain it to them."

Alex Rivera, a 26-year-old beauty blogger based in suburban Chicago who is gay, said the world of cosmetics had been "a really great support system" for him, adding, "You feel different because of your sexuality and orientation, but they're a welcoming community."

Charles, who finished high school this year and moved to Los Angeles, specialises in how-to videos that can take him from 90 minutes to seven hours to produce. In a recent one, called Valentine's Day Glitter Makeup Tutorial, he shows viewers in just under 12 minutes how to recreate a pink lipstick and eyeliner look. Along the way, he promotes many products by name, as well as a video game that sponsored the segment.

"I've always been an internet kid," Charles said. "I'd watched makeup tutorials on YouTube for five years, and I started practicing on my friends."

Like other beauty bloggers, he makes money through affiliate deals; by collecting a portion of the sales of the products he promotes; by attending live events; by one-off deals with major brands; and through YouTube advertising.

Fans of Charles and other male beauty bloggers are heavy consumers - of both the videos and the products they endorse. Jordyn Birden, a 19-year-old student at Virginia Tech, watches five or six male beauty blogs every day, each one about 15 minutes long. "It's like an addiction," she said.

Watching these bloggers has "upped my game" in terms of beauty tricks, Birden said. "I look at their techniques - how they do their eyeliner - and I pick up their skills," she said. So far she said she had learned "how to create highlights, how to do eyeliner, the glory of highlighting".

The most successful beauty bloggers use everyday drugstore brands. "They do have an influence on the things I buy," Birden said. "Most of the time they do recommend things that are affordable to people like us. If the artist doesn't bring up a drugstore brand, it turns you off."

Hillary Kline, 29, who works in public relations in Minneapolis, loves male beauty bloggers. "I like seeing how other people create looks," she said.

Her favourite is Patrick Simondac, known online as Patrick Starrr, who dresses in drag, is sponsored by Smashbox cosmetics and other companies and has 2.1 million YouTube subscribers.

Simondac is "fun, quirky and creative", Kline said, adding, "He's one of the prettiest men I've ever seen." He is also affiliated with the beauty brands Tarte and Benefit, two of Kline's favorites. "His videos suck you in," she said. "They're really good at selling products."

Some beauty bloggers - and their highly protective managers - zealously guard how much income they are earning. When a cordial Charles was asked the value of his groundbreaking CoverGirl deal, two managers sitting in on the interview snapped, "His finances are private."

Laura Brinker, a consumer beauty executive at Coty, the parent company of CoverGirl, was equally unforthcoming. "The ways in which CoverGirl partners with influencers are confidential," she said in an email. "These are extremely important relationships, and specific details are competitively sensitive."

"The money talk is difficult" because every beauty blogger's goal is to remain relatable, said Rivera, who posts on Instagram and YouTube under the name @alexfaction. "If they say how much money they're making, it could be alienating."

Rivera, who has a penchant for skulls and Halloween-style makeup, recently dyed his hair blue and is moving to Los Angeles. He knows who his fans are.

"You're a warrior for the middle-class using drugstore makeup," Rivera said. "That's why they're so successful. They're not Beyoncé. They're your best friend."