What does it really mean to be a “beauty influencer?” Sure, influencers tend to have a lot of YouTube and Instagram followers, and get some pretty envy-inducing VIP access to makeup that the rest of could only dream about, but there’s a far more important to consider when you think about what defines them: They have influence. It sounds simple, but with hundreds of thousands — or in some cases, millions — of viewers tuned into their every move, these beauty world superstars have the power to make a real difference. And this year, many of them really, really did.
From the woman who went from foster care to the face of Katy Perry’s fragrance line to women who spoke out against racism, this year’s biggest beauty influencers made a real difference in showing just how much our standards of beauty are changing. There’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to beauty, and they’re living proof of that fact. Here, 9 names who used their influence to totally change the game in 2017… And FYI? They looked really good while doing it.
The London-based DJ and model was named the first ever transgender model to star in a L’Oreal campaign, but was fired shortly thereafter over prior posts against racism. In response to the severing of her partnership with the L’Oreal, Munroe penned a powerful essay for Broadly titled, “What I Learned From Getting Fired by L’Oréal After Speaking Out Against Racism.” “By firing me for speaking out against white supremacy, L’Oréal has implied that calling someone a racist is worse than actually being one,” she wrote. “But coming out of all of this, I strongly believe this instance speaks volumes about the true motives of brands and empowerment campaigns. You can’t just use the images of people of color to profit from an untapped demographic; you need to actually support the people you are representing.” In September, British beauty brand Illamasqua announced that Munroe would be the new face of their brand, writing, “Munroe embodies diversity and individuality; she is not scared to be truly herself.” We couldn’t agree more.
Chances are, Patrick Starr’s (AKA, Patrick Simondac) YouTube channel has been in your browser history for a long time, but 2017 was the year he officially made it into your makeup collection, too. His recent holiday collab with MAC solidified what they call his “longevity and appeal” as an influencer, which in Internet lingo simply means that he is a seriously big deal…. and will be for a long time. As one of the OG boys of makeup, Patrick has paved the way for other influencers who have followed in his footsteps. “I think the hardest and best part was for my parents to accept me wearing makeup. It was a hard battle,” he told Teen Vogue last year. “At that very moment in time, I thought my parents hated me. But now looking back, it was more so to protect me from bullies in the world. I wanted to prove to them I could be a great makeup artist. I explained to them time after time that I was only practicing my craft. I wanted to look fierce with makeup. I wanted to be a great example of my job.”
As the first male brand ambassador for Maybelline, Manny “MUA” Gutierrez has earned his place as a “game changer.” He gave up medical school to pursue a career in beauty, a move that initially shocked those closest to him. “I had my struggles with my family due to misunderstanding and miscommunication,” he told Teen Vogue. “I did have push back in the beginning of my career because my parents weren’t really sure what I was going to do with my life going in the route of makeup. I was planning on medical school so when I threw the makeup wrench at them, they were not expecting that.” Boys of beauty, for the win.
Simply put, Madeline Stuart is crushing whatever beauty standards the world thinks it knows. In 2015, the inspiring teen was the first model with Down syndrome to become the face of a beauty label after she landed a contract with GlossiGirl. “The owners share my beliefs on beauty, inclusion and love,” she wrote of her decision to partner with them. Now, she’s using her influence to redefine beauty, and her viral journey has shown the Internet that there’s no “one size fits all” for beauty.
In addition to launching reliably amazing makeup, Kat Von D’s brand has always come with a very clear political stance, which became even more evident in 2017. She’s been outspoken about her anti-Trump beliefs, and earlier this year she had a memorable conversation with a contest winner upon discovering that the latter had expressed pro-Trump sentiments on social media. Despite the polarizing effects her sentiments have had on her customers, Kat has stood firmly by her beliefs. “If you want to explain to my Mother who lives in Mexico why she should pay for a wall to be built, and why she should have to deal with the negativity that comes with such anti-Mexican statements as our president has made, feel free,” she wrote in response to her decision. “If you want to explain to me why anyone should tell me what rights I have over my own body, feel free. If you want to promote someone who is anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT, anti-women, and denies climate change – feel free. But don’t throw a tantrum on my personal Instagram if I personally don’t back YOUR choices.”
If you didn’t know who Huda Kattan (or Huda Beauty, as she’s known to her many followers) was in 2016, you definitely do now… And chances are your entire makeup drawer (and holiday wish list) is filled with her goodies. The Dubai-based makeup artist-turned influencer-turned mogul started out by sharing her genius — and at times, pretttty out-there — beauty hacks with her YouTube and Instagram followers, and now has an entire lust-worthy line to back up her skills. Huda is also one of the OG Muslim beauty bloggers, and has used her massive influence to highlight the voices and talents of other Muslim influencers.
As one of the faces of Katy Perry’s INDI fragerence line, attorney and blogger Blake Von D opened up about her difficult past in foster care as a way of letting people know that they’re not alone. “There’s always someone out there you can relate to,” she told Teen Vogue. Blake started blogging as a means to connect to her true, authentic self, and has been struck by the way it’s allowed her to connect with others who may be struggling with some of the same things she’s struggled with in her life. “We all have something unique and different to add to the story, whether it be our childhood experiences, sexual identity, [or how we] express ourselves physically,” she said.
Monica Veloz is not here for anyone’s labels, and she’s got the powerful video to prove it. The beauty blogger, who’s known to her followers as MonicaStyleMuse, released a clip earlier this year in response to the “Latina Tag,” answering questions about her Dominican roots. She was met with harsh criticisms that she was “too dark to be Dominican,” which she clapped back at in the best way possible. “For me to say I’m just black, it’s just almost like saying my family doesn’t have history,” Monica said in a vlog titled “I am too Dark to be Domincan.” “So, I have to say I’m also Dominican and there’s no shame in that. It’s not saying that me being black isn’t good enough.” Her feed was flooded with comments from viewers who related to the video, and who agreed with Monica’s mission to try and “break the spectrum” of what Latina should look like.
Nyakim Gatwick spent many of her nights in middle school crying herself to sleep. Now, she’s taken to Instagram to completely change beauty standards as we know them. She first went viral after clapping back at an Uber Driver who asked her if she would bleach her skin for $10,000 (“I would never do that. I consider my skin to be a blessing,” she told him), she’s used her influence to inspire others via social media. Nicknamed “The Queen of Dark,” by her fans, Nyakim’s Instagram is filled with inspiring images and captions celebrating darker skin tones. “When I put a picture up I’m telling people that no matter what you say, I love who I am,” she told Teen Vogue. “I love my skin tone. I’m telling people that I am beautiful even though I look different than the majority of people in this world I live in.”