Meet Jackie Aina, the Nigerian-born YouTube beauty influencer pushing for inclusion
In 2009, a newlywed Jackie Aina was a military reservist in Hawaii who was bored sick and unhappy in her marriage. She quit college after two years to enlist in the military seeking new adventures. YouTube was gaining popularity at the time and Aina whiled away her boredom watching beauty vloggers. Little did she know that a little over a decade down the line, she will be one of the most sought-after beauty influencers on YouTube.
Aina has over 3.5 million subscribers on YouTube and she was the first YouTuber of color to garner over a million subscribers. What makes her stand out among other bloggers is her authenticity and advocacy for diversity in the beauty industry.
In the first video that made the certified cosmetologist go viral, she did not demonstrate her makeup prowess but let her personality pour through the screens, doing all the behind the scenes goofiness on screen. It was the end of 2014, and she did a video titled, “Makeup Trends We’re Ditching in 2015” which got over 5 million views and put her on the map.
The Nigerian-American beauty influencer has always had a knack for fashion and beauty. Her parents immigrated from Nigeria to the United States to pursue their own American dream. She was born in California’s San Gabriel Valley and the eldest of seven children: three brothers and three sisters.
“We got kicked out of a shelter, we couldn’t get to another one quick enough. And when you’re a mom of seven? It’s not easy.”
Her family struggled in the beginning especially after her parents divorced compelling them to live in shelters on three different occasions. She told Buzzfeed that she grew up with nothing; she built everything from the ground up.
Fashion was her first love because her mom would always make their clothes for them but then she also enjoyed applying makeup on her siblings whenever she got the chance to.
When her friend convinced her to start her own YouTube channel, she was hesitant because at the time there were not many African Americans in that sector.
Aina worked at MAC Cosmetics selling makeup in Hawaii. It was around that time that a 21-year-old Aina got divorced. According to her, the lack of options for people of color was so glaring. She always wanted to try new trends or learn how to do them on people with darker skin tones, but the most frequent answer was, “the trends she wanted to try wouldn’t work for her complexion.”
That was the last straw for her and eventually, she launched her channel in 2009. She made it her mission to bring diversity to the screens of her then small viewers by sharing her interests and favorite trends with people who could relate to her. At the time, she did not even know she was leading the charge to bring a much-needed representation in the beauty industry.
This paid off because, in January 2018, she was the very first person to win the YouTuber of the Year award at the NAACP’s annual Image Awards.
The award celebrated her advocacy for people of color, how she willingly shares beauty tips and techniques for people of all skin tones and the way she uses her platform to call on big beauty brands to be more inclusive with their products.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Aina once more pushed the boundaries and dared to dream a little bigger by venturing into lifestyle with the launch of her lifestyle brand FORVR Mood, which sells a variety of home products. FORVR Mood launched in August this year and the company retails silk headbands and pillowcases, with her scented candles selling fast.
“Starting a business in general is something that poses a lot of challenges but launching one throughout a pandemic was something we never prepared for,” Aina said.
“My mom’s generation has never even experienced something like this, let alone mine. So just being able to do that and do it successfully has made me so proud.”
She has not fully abandoned her makeup career as it fetches her some good income now that YouTube has been monetized. The 33-year-old still shoots and edits her own videos and comes up with original content on her own.
“My career is full of unexpected twists and turns,” Aina told Insider. “But to be honest with you, I feel like that’s been the beauty of it. I’ve always been ready to take on a challenge, and I’m always ready to take risks.”
Although the beauty industry seems saturated, Aina advises anyone who wants to venture into the field to go for it. She believes competition should never stop anyone from pursuing their dreams.
“Even though we’re all basically doing the same thing, we’re all saying it in a different voice,” she said.
“We’re all offering our own individual perspectives, our own takes, our own humor, our own personalities, and those things matter. That’s what people are looking for.”