Career Code: How YouTube Superstar Ingrid Nilsen Handles Internet Fame

In honor of Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power’s upcoming book, The Career Code: Must-Know Rules for a Strategic, Stylish, and Self-Made Career ($17), we’re kicking off an interview series featuring questions about the work lives of the most inspirational female leaders in the beauty industry.

There used to be only so many jobs you could have in the beauty business. You could be a makeup artist, a hairstylist, or an esthetician; you could start your own line of products; or you could have an editorial job like us Byrdie editors. You’d get a degree or certification in a related field, get an entry-level job, and work your way up the ladder. Even for creative jobs, there are traditional paths you can follow to succeed. The territory has already been mapped out. 

But this is not how Ingrid Nilsen became a household name. The YouTube sensation and beauty guru has become one of the Internet’s most trusted voices in women’s lifestyle content. Nilsen has over 7 million followers across all her social media channels (including 3.9 million subscribers to her YouTube channel alone). Her followers hang on her every word as she reviews products; walks them through her beauty routines; teaches them simple recipes, fashion, and décor tips; and educates them about important issues, like women’s health and gender identity.

Nilsen’s Internet presence has led her to opportunities beyond the web’s virtual confines, including positions as a CoverGirl Glambassador, a judge on Lifetime’s Project Runway: Threads, and a U.N. change ambassador. Since coming out in a very popular video on her channel last year, Nilsen has also become a role model for her young LGBTQ viewers. Today her platform is huge—as in hard-to-wrap-your-head-around huge—and it’s something she could never have predicted for herself. Even five years ago, it didn’t exist. 

There’s no college course called “How to Be YouTube Famous.” (Actually, it’s 2016, so I can’t even say that for sure.) At least there certainly wasn’t six years ago, when Nilsen first started her YouTube channel for fun. Nilsen is now part of a new generation of young professionals embarking on a career for which there is no precedent. For Nilsen, the territory really is uncharted. 

So how does she stay afloat? What has Nilsen learned from this unique job about what it takes to succeed? And what’s her best advice for those looking to follow in her footsteps? To find out how to slay the YouTube-star game like Ingrid Nilsen, keep scrolling.

Want more career tips? Allure’s editor in chief, Michelle Lee, has some great ones.