Behind the Filter: Inside the Lives of 4 Top Beauty Instagrammers

Amanda Montell

When Denise Sanchez, now known to 863K people across the globe as @makeupbydenise, launched her Instagram account four years ago, she says it was simply to “connect with old friends.” Like most of us, Sanchez’s page was dedicated to casual posts about her everyday life, seen by a few hundred people: old high school classmates, childhood neighbors. Beauty was a passion of Sanchez’s, and eventually she’d decide to pursue makeup artistry full time. But the thought of becoming an Instagram celebrity never entered her head. “I didn’t expect social media to become such a major part of my life,” she reflects.

Starting out as a makeup artist, Sanchez decided to transition her Instagram into a purely beauty-centric account. It became a hobby, a way to express her love of makeup and to try out new looks and products. As she started devoting more and more time to posting, Sanchez says her following increased. “I noticed my numbers start to grow about two years ago,” she says. “It was a surreal feeling.”

At the time, Sanchez was working primarily as a bridal makeup artist. But as her online digits ballooned, followers came to know and admire her, and before she knew it, she’d become one of these social media quasi-celebrities we refer to as “influencers.” With this status, other gigs materialized. “As my following grew, more opportunities were presented to me,” she says. “Now I’ve had the privilege of working on projects with some of the biggest makeup companies.”

Because here’s the thing: When one’s following starts creeping toward a million, which is a major milestone in the social media industry and can open up big, heavy doors for one’s career, Instagram isn’t just “fun” anymore. “It was enjoyable as a hobby,” Sanchez says, “but in order to be truly successful on social media, time must be dedicated, and work must be put in.

Those of us with normal lives and humble Instagram followings see a beauty guru with a million followers, and it blows our minds. We wonder How did she get so many people to take an interest in her beauty tutorials and selfies? What is her life like now that a million people are watching? In other words, we’re curious (read: desperate) to know: What is it really like to have a million Instagram followers?

These aren’t the questions top beauty ’grammers are used to fielding from their fans. Luckily, we were able to speak candidly with a handful of women from the coveted million followers club.

Ever wondered what the life of a top beauty guru is really like? To hear it from the ’grammers themselves, read on.

Next up, check out this cool experiment, where we test whether Instagram or Snapchat is healthier for your mood.

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