Meet Ingrid Nilsen: Becoming a YouTube Sensation and Supporting Women Across the Globe

04/03/2015 06:10 pm ET | Updated Jun 03, 2015

Ingrid Nilsen's popularity reaches into the millions. She's a top YouTuber -- one of an elite cadre of young video stars whose focus on makeup, fashion, and lifestyle attract a vast audience of girls and young women.

In an interview with HuffPost, Ingrid displayed her belief that beauty is much more than skin deep.

Michael: You're essentially a very private person who has found herself thrust into about as public an arena as there could be.

Ingrid: That's exactly right. It is interesting to be in this space, because I know other YouTubers as well who are definitely even more private than I am. We've found ourselves in this space where our jobs are very much in the public eye, so it's a bit of a challenge to find that balance, but I think everybody eventually figures out what works for them.

Michael: So you get to dictate where the line is.

Ingrid: It is nice to have that option where I can kind of carve my own path. And it's not like I'm walking outside of my house and people are waiting outside for me, because that would be absolutely terrifying. I wouldn't be comfortable with that level of attention. I love the relationship I have with my viewers because they're always kind and respectful.

Michael: You've gone from doing videos that are strictly fashion and makeup to more introspective pieces. Tell me about that transition.

Ingrid: Another YouTuber creator said it best: "Your viewers are both your peers and your boss." So it's an interesting relationship to have, and you want people to like what you create. But you also need to do what's meaningful for you, and I just really had to sit down and think, what is meaningful to me right now? What is going to bring me fulfillment? And I just kind of crossed my fingers and hoped that people would like it, but if it wasn't getting billions of views, but there were a handful of people that really connected with it, that's all I really wanted. And that's all I've ever wanted.

Michael: What prompted the shift?

Ingrid: Last year was my biggest transitional phase, because I was 25, and like most people smack-dab in the middle of their 20s, I was figuring out who I am, and re-examining what I'm doing. It really took a lot of thought. I wanted to create things that were meaningful and a true reflection of where I am in my life. I wanted that to come across in video, but I wasn't sure how to do that.

And it just took time to get inspiration and to figure it all out mentally, and to figure myself out also. And there definitely is that pressure of "I have to keep up with the pack! Everything is moving so quickly, and I need to keep up so I don't fall behind!" But I think that it was more important to me to follow the transitional phase, as confusing as it was for me, and create something really awesome out of it, and turning it into something that I could look back on and be proud of.

Michael: Sounds like the beginning of a trend.

Ingrid: We will see a lot more of that as creators on Youtube continue to grow up, because there are still people in their teens and going from that transition to being in your 20s, and people in their 20s growing up. You're 20s just in general are weird, because you're no longer a kid, but you kind of feel I really an adult? Is this really what adult life is like? So it's an interesting time and I'm definitely still figuring it all out, one step at a time. But it's been a cool journey for sure.

Michael: A soul-searching kind of journey.

Ingrid: Soul-searching is the perfect way to describe it all. My friends around my age are going through the same thing and no one really knows how to vocalize it. It's like this internal struggle that everybody is going through.

Michael: What were the biggest takeaways from the introspective time?

Ingrid: The #1 thing is stop worrying about what everybody else is going to think. In addition, I've realized that my lifestyle has changed over time naturally, as it does especially as you get older. And I've really started to embrace a "less is more" philosophy. Living with less in turn allows me more space to do the things that are really meaningful to me. And when I'm not worried about all the material stuff, I can focus on the things that either bring me joy or serve a purpose or a combination of both. It's been something so helpful for me, and it's really helped clear my mind.

Michael: How has this been reflected in your videos?

Ingrid: I've been changing around the format of my videos so there's more of a storytelling element, where I'm sharing personal experiences and personal stories, and integrating that into my videos, with really great shooting and almost like a film quality to them. That was something I wasn't sure how people were going to react to. When I started producing stuff that wasn't just a 100 percent beauty video, and talking about things in a different way, it has been absolutely incredible to see the response. I have just never been so moved by my viewers ever...ever in all the five years I've been doing this, and it just made me want to give all of them a hug, because I felt like we were all on the same page. It's just the most amazing feeling.

Michael: You felt a need to go deeper and it actually corresponded with your audience's unspoken desire, to go deeper in their own lives.

Ingrid: That is totally true, because from the beginning I've always said that I believe that beauty is more than skin deep, and my channel has just been a way for me to really experiment with that and translate that message into video form.

Michael: Where do you see yourself going from here?

Ingrid: My overall goal with all of this is to create a community where I can support women with incredible talents. Whether it's undiscovered writers, or lesser known artists, and creating a community where that is possible and those women can be supported and their work can be shared. That's what I'm about. And I would love to have a brand with physical objects that reflect all of that. So it's all kind of a little bit vague right now, but essentially I want to create a really amazing community of women that have something awesome to share with the world, and I want
to help them share that.

Michael: Beauty and makeup brought you to a position of prominence and created awareness about you, and as a result of having that platform, you're now in the position where you can speak to broader, deeper issues that affect women you age.

Ingrid: Yes, definitely. And there are still plenty of times where I can make a video and talk about beauty products and just be a girl, and sit down and talk like I'm talking to my girlfriends. So it's just a really great balance to have, because I can dive deep and I can also talk about a pair of shoes that I've really loved wearing for the past month. And I feel like that is the dream combination.