Influencer Spotlight: How Renée Chow Made a Name For Herself
In the world of beauty, there are some expert influencers that have changed the game; Renée Chow is one of those influencers! If her name sounds familiar, you may recognize Renée from her popular YouTube channel Gothamista, where she covers beauty and skincare from a scientific lens. Her channel has well over 673,000 subscribers and is growing rapidly due to her ability to break down the scientific side of skincare in an easy-to-understand way. However, before Renée ever started on YouTube, she had a successful career as the General Manager of Hermes China and the eventual owner of her own brick-and-mortar lifestyle store in New York City. Drawing from her skills in her previous roles, Renée has gone on to make a significant name for herself in the industry. How did she do it?
- Renée Chow is an educational beauty influencer on YouTube who posts under the name Gothamista.
- Her educational background in product development and curation came from years as a buyer, General Manager, and store owner where she was able to work hands-on with chemists and learn the ins and outs of the business.
- Renée is continuously building her online platform and sharing more about skincare reviews and tips, beauty treatments, DIY projects, and her lifestyle.
Renée’s Early Career
Once Renée graduated from university, she returned to Hong Kong and started out as an assistant buyer for a fashion company (1). While Renée didn’t have educational experience in fashion (fashion wasn’t an available major at her school), she didn’t let it stop her and led with her ability to work well with numbers. Quickly, Renée realized that shopping and working in fashion for a living was where she wanted to be. She then became a full-fledged buyer and moved up from there, growing her skills and learning the business from the inside out.
From there, Renée went on to luxury products and started working for Hermes as a buyer, eventually becoming responsible for opening the first Hermes store in Beijing, China as the General Manager. After leaving Hermes, Renée took her entrepreneurial spirit, background in retail, skills in buying and curation, and skills she gained from working for a corporation to start her own store when she moved to the United States. In her store, Renée notes that she learned much about product development and skincare, as she developed her own product line that was popular for products such as body washes, body creams, lip balms, and body scrubs (1).
Developing this line allowed Renée to work with a chemist, which shaped her knowledge in skincare. After some time, she found her brick-and-mortar store was becoming outdated in the world of e-commerce, and then was able to sell this business to Walgreens.
Turning to YouTube
Not sure exactly what to do next, Renée knew she had to find something she was passionate about. She knew now that she couldn’t go back to being someone’s employee. Known for being the friend that always had the best cosmetic recommendations, Renée’s friend then recommended that she start a YouTube channel. Worried that she wouldn’t have the necessary skills in video editing and naturally being a private person, Renée didn’t think YouTube would be in her wheelhouse. She considered it to be a platform for young Millennials and Gen Z and didn’t feel familiar enough with YouTube (1).
After a year of contemplation - with her friend assuring her that she had the real world expertise needed to be a true beauty guru online - Renée decided to go for it. She figured it could be a hobby, but not an avenue for income. To Renée, it was an opportunity to be creative and have fun without expectations. She started to create videos on sheet masks and Korean beauty but wasn’t even aware she could monetize her videos. Her videos on K-Beauty took off, as K-Beauty became more popular and talked about online, which allowed Renée’s content to gain attention and allowed her to build a community.
The more video suggestions came from her community, the more videos Renée started to make. When asked in a podcast why she chose to film beauty videos first instead of focusing on her background in fashion, Renée notes that she never planned to just do beauty, as her channel was expected to be focused on her lifestyle (1). Once she saw that the overwhelming response from the community she was building was suggestions for beauty videos, she stayed focused on beauty and used her experience in product development to drive her content.
With her videos, Renée Chow strived to give her viewers a deeper background of the products they were buying, and subsequently, her content started to become more educational. Expecting that users on YouTube just wanted entertainment, Chow was surprised her educational content took off, but people seemed to want more of her videos discussing the ingredients and formulas of popular brands like The Ordinary. While Renée didn’t have a scientific background, she had worked hands-on with a chemist as a product developer and knew enough to be educational without overwhelming her viewers with too much-scientific information.
In Renée’s opinion, her ability to simplify the information in her videos helped boost her views (2). At this time, Renée Chow also did not take sponsorships or brand deals to promote skincare products, which set her apart from other beauty influencers and allowed her to give an honest, unbiased opinion to her audience, which furthered her credibility and popularity.
For the first two years of posting on YouTube, Renée didn’t monetize her videos. After time, she grew her channel, started monetizing, taking sponsorships from brands she loved, and turned her YouTube into a full-time job. At the same time, she was able to build her relationship with her audience while getting more up-close and personal with her videos. Now, Renée Chow discusses her skincare ritual and her skincare faves along with her educational content, giving her audience more of an insight into her everyday life through beauty. Even on her website, Renée is very open about her skin and lists her skin mood and skin concerns, which is a testament to her authenticity online – not just on her main platform of YouTube (3).
Looking to the future, Renée is continuously building her online platform and sharing more about skincare reviews and tips, beauty treatments, DIY projects, and her lifestyle. As touched upon in her podcast interview with Jennifer Ong, it could be a possibility in the future for Renée to continue making a name for herself in the industry by developing a new skincare line of her own (1). Whatever’s in Renée Chow's future – she’s definitely been a trailblazer in the world of beauty influencers and is definitely an influencer to watch in the coming years.
Written by Selena Ponton
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