Today’s post might be a little controversial, I don’t know. It’s about something I’ve been noticing, dealing with and reflecting on for some time and I think it’s a fascinating topic to open up for discussion. I’ve been teaching in FE (Further Education) for over 11 years now and in just that short time, I’ve noticed a huge shift in the make-up artistry industry and one that I’m not sure how I feel about…
Once upon a time, my students would come to college knowing very little about make-up and expecting to learn about it from their lecturers whilst on their course. In more recent years however, the YouTube generation has boomed and we’re noticing students are coming to us somewhat pre-armed with (a form of) knowledge about products and application techniques (regardless of how credible this might or might not be) because they’ve been watching make-up tutorials on YouTube. It may be that they’ve been watching a professional but more likely (due to the sheer quantity of choice for viewing), they’ve been watching someone who’s not professionally trained but who’s sharing homemade footage of their own techniques.
YouTube is a phenomenal tool that gives everyone who uses it access to a whole world of content, sharing ideas and teaching us things we wouldn’t normally have access to. That’s the whole point: accessibility. Credit where it’s due; YouTube is something I regularly call upon when researching and I almost always find what I need (I like to think I can tell if what I find is credible). But what you don’t always get from a homemade tutorial video is the professional context behind a product or an application technique. And this leads to people applying a technique/product but not really knowing why.
I’ve lost count of how many lessons I’ve had so far this year (bearing in mind I only returned to work from maternity leave at the end of February!) where I’ve asked a student to talk me through their choice of product/technique for a finished make-up look and their answer goes a little something like: “I did it like this cos I saw it on YouTube”. Just repeating that line back to you now makes me shudder… More often that not, I’ll ask a student that question because their choice of product or technique completely baffles me and I’m interested to see how much/if any thought or justification goes into it. That particular answer just says it all: they’re copying something they’ve seen with no real understanding of the context behind it… and that’s what we’re now up against. It also translates that, in some situations (like in this particular example), the student has mentally prioritized what they’ve learnt from a YouTube video over what they’ve learnt in class (because I certainly didn’t teach her to contour like that!). Which just goes to prove the impact/influence that social media is now having on people.
But what’s wrong with learning from YouTube? And herein lies the problem: I have to be careful about wording my answer, because I for one love YouTube; I use it for research often and upload my own content to it regularly, so I’m certainly not going to knock it. But there’s another side to things: anyone can upload to YouTube, regardless of their knowledge or training, so then anyone has the authority to influence. And they are doing just that…
If you search ‘make-up tutorial’ on YouTube, you’ll return in excess of 26 million videos. This number includes a mix of anything from small-time home-video makers filming their own make-up routines to the big-time ‘YouTubers’ who’ve made a full time career out of uploading content. Regardless, both have the power to influence and I wonder: do my students care if the video they watch is made by a qualified professional or not? I’m not sure what criteria my students’ apply to their search results to ensure the quality of videos they find…
On a positive note, I’m also using YouTube as a tool to enhance my students’ techniques. Trends and developments in make-up, products and techniques are always changing and recently, for example, I delivered a workshop on cut crease eye shadow, so I asked my students to use YouTube and Pinterest for research ahead of the workshop. By this point of my course my students already know the basics of product application and professional techniques, which means that when they watch something on YouTube, they can tweak a technique for a professional situation.
So what does this mean for professionals in make-up artistry? I had this conversation with my group of students recently; I was showing them a profile of a professional MUA who had done no professional qualification on the topic but instead, built her career by uploading content to YouTube, gaining such a following of subscribers that she was considered an ‘influencer’ within the industry and now works full time as an MUA in TV and film. And I posed the question: ‘how do you feel that this MUA didn’t go to college and yet still has the successful career that you’re working hard at college to get?’ It started quite the debate… Essentially: what is now our basis for judging credibility?
As I write this post my mind is flitting in every which direction, because there are so many layers to this subject and many angles to be taken into consideration. I’m also mindful that so many people have established a successful career rooted from YouTube fame and who am I to criticise? This is the way things are going and there are many positives to it but on the other hand, my concern is that the line between ‘professionally qualified’ and ‘YouTube qualified’ is becoming blurred…. What do you think?
I feel the need for a disclaimer: the sole purpose of this post is to pose a topic for conversation; I’m interested in what other people think about this and wonder what your experiences are in this area? It is not my intention to belittle or condemn anyone’s content on YouTube, qualified or not, it all has it’s place.
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Thanks for reading x