Armed with a laptop, makeup brush, and a creative mind, Michelle Phan has become one of YouTube's biggest stars, with some of her videos reaching upwards of 50 million views. On Oprah.com's new #OWNSHOW series "Who Am I," the beauty guru gives viewers a deeper look at the foundation of who she is and how her past has shaped her journey.
Her name means "Avalanche."
"My Vietnamese name is Tuyet Bang, which means avalanche," Phan says. "Still to this day, I'm like, 'Thanks Dad for calling me something so crazy sounding.' But now I understand how powerful this name is. Being as delicate as snow, but also with all the power that I have with my followers, we can really create an avalanche."
She was a broke college student.
Whenever I had spare time, which I rarely did as a college student, I would break out my laptop and film a beauty tutorial – whether it was how to do a smokey eye, how to take care of your skin, how to put cat litter on your face because I didn't have enough money to buy clay. But cat litter is bentonite clay, so that's a little trick," she says.
Phan has spoken about how her mother and siblings left their stepfather, without going into detail. "My stepfather left a lot of scars that I'm still trying to heal from," Phan shared in one of her YouTube videos. More recently, she saw her stepfather again and had to be fearless. "I hadn't seen him in a long time and he was very sick," she says. "And at the time, no one would help him. I never had the best relationship with him."
"I had to help him, pick him up from his bed and put him back and take care of him," she describes. "I knew that seeing him would bring back all these terrible memories, but I said, 'He's still a human being, and I'm a strong person.'"
Her artistry goes beyond makeup.
"I have sounds and pictures and images and textures that are constantly just going through my brain, and I feel like I have to share it," Phan says. "If I don't share it, I'll just go crazy and so I create because that is how I exist."
Watch more #OWNSHOW videos on Oprah.com.