After developing an Influencer Marketing team at Milk Makeup—at a time when the full potential of influencer partnerships hadn’t yet been widely realized—Ché March set herself apart with her knowledge of influencers and social media, specifically in the beauty space. That's precisely why we chose her as a panelist for our first event in collaboration with The Wing in January 2020. (See here.)
Her expertise provided a smooth transition to her freelance writing and editing positions at the Coveteur, HelloGiggles, and Youth to the People—all of which offered her the creative outlet that her nine-to-five didn’t. Ché sat down with This Generation to talk about spending the majority of her workday on social media, the industry relationships that led her to most of her jobs, and how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the influencer world.
This interview took place over the phone between Makena Gera in Boston and Ché March in Los Angeles.
How did you get to where you are today?
I moved to New York when I was 18 to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology for Fashion Merchandising Management, which is now Fashion Business Management. In college, I interned at College Fashionista doing trend forecasting on campus and kind of being an editor before I even understood what an editor was. I was also at Tory Burch in the PR closet and TEMPTU, which was the leader in the airbrush makeup world at the time.
I was also honing my skills as a makeup artist, and doing bridal and editorial work here and there. I made sure that I was not only staying busy, but also using New York for all it was worth, while still in school full-time. In my last two years, I started working for Warby Parker as a sales associate, and I ended up being there for four years. I transitioned from a sales associate to helping with photoshoots, styling, and a bit of social and influencer marketing—before people had really recognized the need for it.
At the tail end of that job, I ended up getting somewhat poached by Milk Makeup before they had even launched, and I became the first Customer Experience Manager. I set up all the policies and the mechanisms for how I thought a good customer experience should work. I actually created the entire customer service team, because there was no team at the time—which I didn’t know until my last job interview. But it was cool to put everything I learned from customer experience at Warby Parker into a new startup in my own way, being able to own a whole team and do everything myself.
About four months in, Milk was starting to talk about this influencer and social world, what they wanted, and what they weren’t getting. Thankfully, at Warby Parker, I had all that training—and I had also been posting my own videos on YouTube for a few years, and been involved with Instagram and other socials. So I put all my research together and pitched the idea to create an Influencer Marketing Team. They accepted it and I became the Influencer Marketing Manager, which was where I remained to the end of my four years at Milk. It was a really fantastic job in terms of learning a lot very quickly, trying things, and exploring different opportunities that—as a young brand—we could be very adventurous with.
I ended up leaving Milk in 2020 and started freelancing as my own content creator and a beauty, fashion, and lifestyle editor for outlets like Milk.xyz, Coveteur, Hello Giggles, Youth to the People, and ZitSticka—writing just a bunch of different articles about things that are new and interesting in the beauty world, specifically the clean beauty world. I’ve also been content creating for myself and other brands, and I’ve become an influencer strategist for other startups. At Milk, we really set ourselves apart in the influencer culture with how we decided to approach it—and it's something I'm very, very proud of. I was able to take what I learned from that experience and mold it into different and new startups.
Most companies recognize how crucial influencers can be to the success of their brand—but some don’t. Why are influencers such a goldmine for brands?
I think what's interesting now is that influencers are the way that people access a brand. A lot of people either don't have time or just don't feel like they want to spend their time researching a brand. But they feel like there is a reliability in influencers to really speak the truth and to be honest if they like something or if they don't. People feel like they can trust that the information they're getting from this person is real. I really think it's about the fact that influencers have found a way to make viewers feel like they are friends and family, and have created a tight bond with their fans, which is why brands should be pursuing influencer relationships as much as possible.
A lot of my position as an Influencer Marketing Manager was creative-based. From ideation to creation, fulfillment, distribution, and budgeting, I made sure I knew what was going on in the industry in terms of sustainability and social media—how people were doing unboxings, whether they were doing hauls on YouTube or just Instagram stories. I spent the majority of my day scrolling through Instagram looking for new and up-and-coming creators, or on YouTube seeing how the platform was changing, what people were talking about, who was doing really well, what the current viral videos were. I wanted to see who in the exiting-millennial-entering-Gen-Z space was really making their name known. My focus was on those influencers, the people with about 5,000 to 15,000 followers; they’re the people who I find are most important in the influencer world because they’re the most honest.
How and why did you go about making the transition to editing and beauty writing? And how did you obtain all of these freelance and contributing editor positions?
When I first started writing, I was still working full-time in influencer marketing, and I think it was just a space for me to use the creativity I felt I wasn't able to use in my nine-to-five. I needed an outlet, and writing about beauty was a way for me to get that outside of work—which we all need. We all need an escape and a release.
But a lot of the jobs that I've been getting are through relationships that I've built over the last couple of years. I always tell people that the most important thing they can do is network and create honest and true relationships because those will take you farther than you've ever expected. Of course, being knowledgeable and having a great skillset is very important because you need to be able to do the work, but most opportunities are going to come through relationships.
While I was at Milk Makeup, Milk Group had their own editorial platform, which was Milk.xyz. I became friends with the beauty editors and editorial team there. We were all in the same building, and I tend to do quite bold makeup looks, so they already knew me as the girl with the really fun looks. One day they asked me, "Hey, would you be interested in just writing about beauty? It seems like you're really interested in it." So I started writing for them. And once I had a bit of a portfolio, maybe five or six articles under my belt, I started taking those articles and pitching them to other outlets like, "Hey, here's what I write about. Here's my style."
Through a friend of mine who was working in marketing and shooting a campaign with Coveteur, I was connected with the senior beauty editor there. She really liked my style, what I wrote about, and my perspective on things, so I started writing for them. And then from there, I ended up getting picked up by HelloGiggles because the Senior Editor there saw that I wrote for Coveteur. So once one happened, one just snowballed into the next. One by one, I started getting noticed as a writer by other editors and outlets.
A lot of people probably don't know this, but when you're a contributing editor to multiple different editorial outlets, you usually are the one concepting new story ideas or trends that you think are interesting—or even future ideas that you think will become a trend. You pitch those out to the outlets that you are working with.
How do you find what to write about, and how do you keep up with an industry that’s changing so rapidly?
I work in influencer marketing, so keeping up with the times and knowing what's popular is my job—I have to do it. It just aids in my ability to pitch the most on-trend pieces because I am in the space all the time. I live on social media, I live on digital, I’m on YouTube like it's TV. I'm a vlogger as well, so I do weekly vlogs, and I know what's going on in that space. And then I also love TikTok—it’s so much fun, and it’s like the home of culture right now. There's also a new platform starting that’s kind of the beauty version of Twitch, which is called NEWNESS. So I just try to be present on all of these emerging platforms and keep in touch with everything. Whenever I see the same thing across at least two or three platforms, I'm like, "Okay, this is something that will become something."
When did you first get involved with makeup and decide to start your own YouTube channel?
I was a competitive gymnast and dancer when I was young, therefore I had to wear a lot of makeup. My sister and I also participated in a lot of musicals at our church, so we were used to having to put on makeup for all these performances. I got used to my mom putting it on me all the time and I loved watching her apply it. I figured, "Well, I could do this, it seems so fun."
When I was around 13, I started venturing off into the cosmetics aisles in Target and Walmart. My mom would let me get a couple of eyeshadows every time we went out, and I started building this little collection. When I started working, I spent all my money on cosmetics and makeup and spent hours in my room playing, and playing, and playing. And I think that's what beauty is. It's really just a big playtime. It's a time where you can feel very free and you don't have to play by the rules.
A few years later, I started working on my first group of clients, who were seniors and juniors in high school. I got to do their makeup for prom and the winter dances, and then I moved on to wedding and bridal makeup, which really pushed my skills to do more natural makeup, because at that time—let me tell you—I was rocking that bright blue and bright purple eyeshadow. I was having a blast.
I started making YouTube videos because I really enjoyed the process of filmmaking. My goal is definitely to act in a movie, and I love filmmaking and being on camera and how that changes me as a person in a really cool way. I think it highlights a lot of different points of a personality that you don't get to see every day. But I wanted to create my YouTube channel to be a part of a community of people who understood who they were, and all enjoyed doing makeup. At the time, it was mostly women who all liked the same thing, so I felt very seen in that community where I felt like I wasn't being seen too much in my everyday life or by people in school.
How has COVID-19 impacted the beauty industry as a whole—especially in terms of influencers, YouTubers, and social media content?
Like most of us, I lost a ton of clients at the beginning of COVID just because nobody knew what the heck this thing is—and I still don't think anyone really does. Anyways, I had a lot of free time so one thing I started doing was making vessels. The idea just kind of popped into my head, and I started making vessels out of glass, clay, and concrete. Then I started selling them on my Instagram.
Then in terms of the beauty industry, it's actually been quite interesting because, of course, everyone was timid in the beginning. They wanted to be hypersensitive to the situation and a lot of product launches started to slow down. But then once people got comfortable in the chaos, more chaos ensued. Everyone was trying to pick up where they left off and just launch, launch, launch every product that they'd missed over the last four, five or six months all at one time. At that point things started to turn, and the beauty world really picked up and got pretty hectic. I was kind of blown away by how many Zoom launches I was on at one time throughout the week.
The influencer space is cool because you get to see rising stars emerge. A lot of the lifestyle influencers—and even the more comedic lifestyle influencers—really, are at the helm of the platforms right now. Beauty content is not doing as well as it was before, although before COVID it was the status quo. Beauty influencers were absolutely the top of the class, top-tier, the focus of the influencer marketing world because, of course, they turned a lot of profit. And then everything stopped. People weren't buying as much in the beginning, so then lifestyle and comedy influencers, vloggers, TikTokers, and even inspirational TikTokers became really huge. So it definitely has changed the space, but I think it has changed for the better, just because we constantly need to be innovating and moving forward. I think overall, it actually has been a good thing, and this uncomfortable situation has pushed people to create better content.
Where do you see your career going in the next few years?
In the next couple of years, I definitely would like to strengthen my knowledge of the ingredient story behind products. I want to be far more knowledgeable about clean and green beauty. That is where I focus most of my attention in my writing, but I want to get down to the molecular basis of the ingredients and really understand how they actually interact with the skin. I think there are a lot of buzzwords and a lot of high-level understanding, but I want to be a lot more knowledgeable about that.
And I would just like to continue to be a creative—whatever that looks like. I want to continue to create art on my face and see where that takes me. I also recently moved to Los Angeles because I am starting to take acting classes. I've always wanted to act, and I figured that if there’s anything we've learned from 2020, you just need to go for things and not wait. You never know what's going to happen. So hopefully things in acting work out well and I can pursue something I've been dying to do for a long time.
Want to know what Ché has on while she's creating her looks?:
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.
Images Courtesy of Ché March + Tate VanderPoel Smith
Special thanks to Polaroid