Influencer Spotlight: How Michelle Phan Built Her Empire From Scratch

Influencer Spotlight: How Michelle Phan Built Her Empire From Scratch I Mirra Blog

If you were anything like me growing up, you YouTubed every makeup look, every trending hairstyle, and everything beauty!! You also probably would recognize the beauty guru pioneer - Michell Phan. Michelle Phan has created one of YouTube’s largest success stories and continues to be a positive influence for people of all ages. 


1. Who is Michelle Phan?

2. How did her fame arise?

3. Business Start-ups

4. Michelle Phan's Self Journey

5. The Return

6. Final Thoughts

Key Points

  •  Michelle Phan started from scratch and reshaped beauty tutorials from just writing to videos as well.
  •  Michelle Phan was the co-founder of million dollar beauty company “Ipsy”.
  •  Michelle Phan’s self reflection journey allowed her to come back even more hungry to influence and change the beauty industry. 

Who is Michelle Phan?

Michelle Phan is a well known beauty influencer who was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1987, and raised by Vietnamese refugee parents. She is also commonly referred to as the “Beyonce of the beauty world”! Phan is not only a beauty influencer, but ALSO a powerful business woman and entrepreneur. She has started two extremely successful and innovative companies, which you may be familiar with: IPSY and EM cosmetics. 

Before she was a millionaire, Michelle Phan wasn’t always the so-called “Beyonce of the beauty world”. Phan had to face many hard struggles in her journey to the top. She grew up mostly having to rely on food stamps for her next meal, as well as not being able to get the education she wanted due to lack of funding. However, even Phan admits that all of her struggles shaped her into who she is today…an inspiring artist and boss business babe of the beauty industry!

How did her fame arise?

Growing up, Michelle Phan constantly visited the nail salon where her mom worked. Her mom’s nail salon was where Phan was first inspired by the hundreds of beauty magazines and all the new and upcoming beauty trends found in those magazines. This is what began her love for makeup and art in general. This was way before the start of any type of beauty vlogs and tutorials in general. 

Phan was never really interested in the math and science aspect of school, and instead preferred art. She ended up attending Ringling college of art and design for a few months, until she dropped out due to financial issues. 

Determined to make a life through what she was passionate about, Phan started a blog in 2005 where she would post written tutorials on how to attempt different makeup looks. Her blog received a lot of followers, where she began to take requests for further instruction on her looks, as well as new look requests. This led Phan to start posting videos to YouTube in 2007, based on looks from her blog. 

After constant and continuous posting, Michelle Phan gained the attention from a super popular website, BuzzFeed, where they reposted some of her makeup looks on to their site. This attention caused Phan to go viral and helped her gain over a million subscribers, a huge accomplishment for her hard work. After receiving a large following, YouTube signed her on to their partner program designed to gain more money and attraction by allowing small advertisements on their videos.

Phan continued to create original and creative content that was growing in views each week. She did tutorials on looks such as Lady Gaga “Bad Romance” tutorial, and many other celebrity themed makeup looks. 

Business Start-ups

Not only was she growing in viewers and gaining money from advertisements, but Phan was also masterminding a whole business plan for a company that would eventually become worldwide. She started Ipsy by sending out basic “glam bags” containing a sample variety of makeup products to subscribers that paid $10 a month. She would even donate the unsold items to charity every single month. After about a year of the company’s rapid growth, Forbes valued Ipsy at $500 million, which helped gain the attention of investors everywhere to help with the funding of new projects, studio locations, and even a network partnership!

In the middle of everything with Ipsy going on, Phan also was doing a brand deal with the company L'Oréal. They launched a makeup line called “EM cosmetics” which held over 200 different products. Despite Phan controlling the looks and colors of the products, the items were on average more expensive than her younger followers could afford. This led to her receiving hate online, and eventually leading to the failure of this makeup line. However, this didn’t stop Phan, as she ended up buying EM from L'Oréal later that year to try and run it on her own terms. Unfortunately, this didn’t stop the haters and trolls on the internet from bullying Phan. She ended up quitting everything in 2016 and went completely rogue to try and find herself behind the millions of dollars she was associated with.

Michelle Phan's Self Journey

I’m sure we have all at some point experienced the cruelty of the world we live in today, especially through social media. The bullying and online hate Michelle Phan received from people had a huge toll on her mental health, which led her to deciding to take a break from everything and go on a journey to find herself. She even logged out of all her social media and discontinued her YouTube videos.

Phan’s first destination was Switzerland, where she stated she could “hear her thoughts at night” because of the peace and quietness it brought. She said in many interviews that her 9 months abroad healed her due to the nature she surrounded herself with. She came back to California to find that people were still cruel, but it didn’t bother her as much as it used to because she found a new sense of peace and love within herself. And this should be a lesson for people of all ages – if you can find a way to love yourself, you won’t be as bothered by the jealous people who try to tear you down!

The Return

The third times the charm, right!? After Phan returned from her 9 months abroad, she relaunched EM for the third time with new and improved visions and strategies to help it thrive. Phan still wasn’t back to posting on YouTube because she wanted to put all of her effort into the success of her companies. Well, it worked, because EM cosmetics is now valued by Forbes as another $500 million company!

Michelle Phan eventually realized she had so many followers that loved her YouTube phase and wanted to see more. She finally released a video in 2019 titled “Hello,” where she briefly explained her time away, as well as went into depth about the new product line coming for EM cosmetics. 

Currently, this famous beauty guru is still focusing on her cosmetic line and being an influencer on most all social media platforms, even TikTok! She is only thirty years old and thriving as an inspiration to many other younger beauty influencers and followers in general.


@themichellephan Pass it @crysdo @jessyluxe @jamesmiju #fyp #passover #makeupchallege #transfomation #WerkItFromHome ♬ original sound - michellephan


Final thoughts

Michelle Phan is a prime example of how working hard and never giving up will pay off in the end. This woman is packed with the ultimate determination, kindness, and beauty. 

From all my research and watching many of Phan’s videos, I have found myself deeply inspired and moved by everything she has had to go through to get to where she is. I want to end this with a quote Phan gave on her YouTube channel that I think a lot of us can learn from–” “I spent my whole life chasing after success, only to find myself running away from the very thing that mattered: myself.” Self-love and self-recognition are two things you MUST have to live a happy life filled with the people and things you are passionate about. Let’s all work on being more like Phan and following our passions and dreams!

Written by Emma Carlson


Hyaluronic Acid for Scalp Health, Is it Too Good to be True?


  1. https://www.thelist.com/32164/facts-may-know-michelle-phan/
  2.  https://www.biography.com/personality/michelle-phan
  3. https://yoyofumedia.com/blog/michelle-phan-youtube

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

Self Care 101: The 6 Different Types of Self-Care
0 Comment
Too often, we feel swept up in day-to-day tasks, suffocated by our long-term goals, and stumped by the opposition tha ...
How to Have Good Sleep Hygiene For a Good Night’s Rest
0 Comment
Although brushing your teeth, showering, or washing your face seem like no-brainers in some of our bedtime routines, ...
Myth Busted! Do Skin Care Ingredients in Hair Care Products Work?
0 Comment
It feels like nothing is simple these days. We’ve gone from picking up the cheapest, best-scented drugstore hair prod ...