One of my most successful ventures with my Youtube Channel has always been Transformations, whether it's transforming into creations of my own design or emulating the icons that have inspired me growing up, it was very important to me to create something that had some genuine merit to it. Back in the day, I used to watch bloggers like Promise Phan create beautiful transformations and part of her audience was built from this style of blog. There was not anyone like me doing makeup tutorials with the full drag that encapsulated the character of choice, aside from Promise so props go to the original.
I remember watching the incredible Pixiwoo at the time create more relatable breakdowns of the supermodels, and I initially started with supermodels as my first set of looks. I wanted to create a series where I actually linked in my own work as a model with what I was doing, because even in 2011 people actually looked down a lot on youtubers and no one really engaged with the idea that you could make a legitimate income from it. I saw Richie Nickel, Petrilude, Alex Reed Thompson and a handful of other people do makeup tutorials, but noone created tutorials like the girls and noone was getting the same sponsorships.
Side note, during this time I actually tweeted in a very spontaneous moment to Tyra that I'd transformed into her for my channel! She then followed me back, DMed me and two months later created this gallery that would be featured on ANTM. Now being an inspiration to people of that caliber is honestly a stamp of approval because you never know when you start out and you're not the girl next door, what people are gonna look for. I actually saw Miss Fame who I later joined on a panel at Drag Con, for the first time, when she did a blackface version of my Tyra look at the club Room Service in NYC.
So later on during this process, I began to try and work out how the girls were getting all the views and I remember there was a blogger called Diamonds or something, who had extremely bad acne and would do fantastic coverage videos. Most of her videos went viral because she would link them in a way that was almost clickbait, so I thought to myself at this time that if I was going to do the transformations like Promise, I'd have to figure out a way of getting people to click on the vides. So for some time I actually worked tirelessly to get the videos out on the same day as the release of the music videos of the celebrities, so I gained a lot of traction doing Katy Perry, Rihanna, Beyonce on the morning the surprise album dropped... and Miley Cyrus!
My Miley tutorial blew up instantly and every news article with a younger demographic asked to interview me that morning, which I was grateful to oblige! You can see back in the day how I had used an actual notebook to stick the eyeshadows in, because I couldn't find a palette on the market to contain them all. I used products I had made with a german manufacturer as eyeshadows, they were inspired by Sugarpills formula and heavily pigmented. I also used Mac and so on at the time. Long story short, I am extremely grateful that I am the first LGBT blogger to have gone viral and gained mainstream recognition for my art, and to have inspired a slew of people to do the same.
So the story was picked up by Buzzfeed when I was 21, it later went onto the Daily Mail, this was my first article under Joseph Harwood as my birth name is Joseph Lawrence, so it was a major thing! We worked with Now Magazine who asked me to do a weekly transformation and I even transformed their entire beauty team. I did an article for G1 Brasil, I interviewed for several publications across Eastern Europe and all my subscribers were forwarding me on the news in France, Sweden, Czechoslovakia. It was an insane achievement!
So when I initially started I again, wanted to make the same moves as Pixiwoo so what I aimed for was beautified versions of whomever I was inspired to transform into. They were not direct transformations as in, I would paint my face to become that person, I wanted to pay homage to the icons that I love and use props to build that image. More specific examples are in the case of my Marilyn and Michael transformations, it's more deliberate so people at home can relate and follow along!
At the end of 2016 I was finding youtube a very confusing and unpleasant place to post on, because the platform has been arranged into an automated money making system where playlists continue to play adverts even when you're out the room. Youtube has arranged videos in a way where you need one instance of virality on a video to be promoted, and that comes from a combination of outside interaction and joining the current trending styles of videos. We are sent buzzwords from the networks as to what is popping at the time, which challenges to bounce off of and it's an impossible situation if you're goal is to be anonymous in your posting, aka moi. I look different in every video and post entirely when I feel like it. My motivation was never to be famous online, it was to create something that wasn't already there. So it just was not designed for me. But the reality is what I've achieved has pioneered a wave of bloggers and Google recognized that fact. I have been approached to be involved with Youtubes videos before, I've turned the idea down. Particularly the LGBT videos. But to be asked to be involved in the Google End of Year Highlights that almost 35 million people have watched from Twitter and Youtube, that was pretty astounding.
So Google designed the section to pay homage to David Bowie around my transformations and I don't think I could have asked for any higher reward during a time where I was demotivated by the platform!
I am very inspired to create some more transformations, I've seen so many unusual emulations of my work in the last year and I think some quality control is a necessity. There is a lot of post production editing in play, even to the extent of taking stock photographs of the person in question that the transformation is based on, and using their actual face as part of the final image. I think it's completely absurd and something I have never done. In my early super model videos, I used my hair as a green screen and changed the colours to complete the transformation because I didn't have the money to afford wigs that would finish the image. But I have never recreated an image with someone's iris, restructured the face with liquify, smoothed out the wig line or painted in makeup where there is none. That is not the point of doing a transformation. If you wanted to use those techniques as Mathu Andersen has done with his phenomenal images of Ru, which is part of the polish of your own creation, fabulous. It's part of the creation of your own design, I often work in post with my images as I've shared with everyone in my retouching video on my channel. But if your challenge is to use paint to create a look that is transformational into someone else, that's bullshit and defeats the purpose. You might as well face swap.