Following winning the Community Spirit award at Summer in the City 2017, we caught up with Em Ford to talk about self-confidence, going viral, and #YouTubers4Grenfell.
TenEighty: How’s your Summer in the City going so far?
Em: It’s been really fun actually, it’s one of those things where everyone gets together, you know it’s that one day when you’re like “Oh my god, I haven’t seen you in ages!”. I just bumped into one of my friends as well, one of my best friends. He moved to Canada last year – I haven’t seen him in a year. I was doing my panel and I was answering a question, and I looked up and was like “Oh my god, that’s John!”.
T: What’s been your favourite moment?
E: Literally just meeting everyone after my panel, it’s been so sweet. Probably got in trouble for an unofficial meet and greet I did. I’m very lucky, touch wood, very lucky I didn’t get shouted at! But no, it’s just really sweet and it really puts everything into perspective.
T: So, what’s next for Em Ford?
E: I’m trying to think about what I can say! Just lots of really exciting content that I’ve been working on. So yeah, just bigger and better, and trying to really go hard and make new videos and formats that I’ve been dying to do for the longest time. I know that’s really vague because there’s only so much I can say.
But yeah, I’ve been brewing ideas for months, and some of them even like years. I’m really excited to just, make them happen, I guess! Hopefully, lots of really exciting things over the next couple of weeks and months and going into next year, and I’m super, super excited!
T: What’s your opinion on how the beauty community is perceived on YouTube?
E: I think beauty can be one of those things that a lot of people can just take it at face value. And some people say “Oh you know, it’s just mascara or it’s just lipstick, you know, you’re a beauty YouTuber”. It’s so much more than that, and some people make beauty videos their entire life. It can be the one thing that determines whether they have a good day or the one thing that determines that they have a bad day, you know. If you have a bad makeup day, sometimes you don’t feel good about yourself.
I think, for me, it’s always about more than just makeup, and you’d be surprised at the amount of people that I meet at events like this, or the emails and messages and comments that I get from people, saying that “Watching your videos putting on makeup makes me feel more confident to go without it”.
I’ve never specifically said you don’t have to wear makeup to feel confident. I’ve never said those words on my channel, but it’s the belief that it’s actually ok to start your video without makeup. It’s ok to film an entire video without makeup. “Maybe we’re trying a weird product this week, and I’m going to do the whole video without any makeup on my face, not even mascara”. Maybe it’s just a face mask and my eyes are clear. I’m not going to put any mascara or any eye makeup on those areas to show that it’s ok to do that.
I wish that more people saw it as more than just makeup and more of how it can truly help shape how somebody feels about themselves because it’s a valuable tool. It’s really exciting.
Things like [Summer in the City] are amazing, when I meet people and they say, “I have really bad acne and watching your videos helped me learn about hygiene”, or “Watching your videos helped me learn which products not to use, or which products to try” and those things, and just, how it shapes them, it’s really exciting and heartwarming. So yeah, it’s more than just makeup and I think when people start delving into that they realise that there’s a lot more to it.
T: Absolutely, I think you certainly proved that in your video, You Look Disgusting, which is one of your most popular videos. What did you think of the reaction to the video? How did it make you feel?
E: Yeah, you know, it’s two years and it’s still like, absolutely mind blowing how it’s had… on YouTube it’s [had] 25 million views and I’ve lost count of the amount of videos that have been uploaded and have been lifted onto Facebook, which I’ve come across, or people have sent the links to me. And it’s like, 30 million views, 50 million views, you know? So I don’t know the true amount, but it’s been absolutely incredible and I never in a million years… like, how can you predict something like that would happen?
But it’s been incredible, and the response has been truly heartwarming. I have absolutely no regrets about making it, and I’d make ten of them in a row if I could; if it would really help people the way some of it helped.
For the longest time, I literally walked around with 30,000 unread emails and it took a very long time to go through them. But some of the messages that I had from people off the back of making that – like, from 18-year-old girls, or from like 60-year-old men and from parents – has been absolutely insane, and that to me is the most amazing thing, rather than the views, and rather than the press, or whatever. It’s just the messages from people, that’s what moves me and makes me feel good.
T: It’s that human experience, that connection you can have with people.
E: Exactly! And that’s the biggest thing about acne, and why I made it in the first place is because it’s that thing that you’re never supposed to talk about. You’re not supposed to discuss it. You’re supposed to just live with it and you’re not allowed to complain about it because you’re a spotty teenager. You’ll grow out of it. But that doesn’t really work when you’re in your twenties or like some of the people that write to me that are in their forties, fifties, sixties that are still dealing with it, it’s just, the misconceptions people that people have.
I’ve actually been told by dermatologists… the dermatologist that I met in Paris, he said that they use that video as an example of how the patient feels because a lot of people can be so stuck in a rut of treating the condition rather than the patient. I didn’t even ever think of it in that way, but to hear it from a doctor, that ‘”Yeah, we use your video to help other doctors realise that it’s not just a condition and how it can affect in other ways”. Who ever thought that that would happen, you know? It’s insane.
T: I wanted to talk about
# YouTubers4Grenfell. What was the main thing that made you want to fundraise for that particular cause?
E: I think the thing for me was just seeing how so many people had had their lives destroyed, and it just really… I live in London, I work in London. I have done for many years and seeing how, like, literally overnight, a community had just been torn apart, was just so heartbreaking.
When I thought about the YouTube community and how I’d felt welcomed, and about how the community rallied around me when I made my video and talked about what was happening to me personally – with all the comments and everything – having the right people around you and having a level of support meant the world to me.
People are always saying that we have these amazing platforms, which we do, we have these great gifts of these amazing platforms and for me, it was just a case of “We have this platform, I want to do something. Let’s see what we can do and let’s try and make a difference”, and it just seemed like the logical thing to do. Because we have this platform, if we all work together then we might be able to achieve something.
T: How did you feel about the community’s response to your suggestion of a livestream?
E: I was literally so touched. I sent a message out to quite a lot of creators all at the same time. I was incredibly nervous doing it because sometimes in the back of your head it’s like, “I’m a beauty creator and I’m asking people to help for something about a serious cause. How much are they really going to listen to me?”.
I was so blown away by everybody, instantly – like, within seconds – saying, “Yes, I want to be involved”, “I want to be involved”, “What can I do to help?”, “What can I do to help?”. And Niki and Sammy [Albon] – bless them – helped so much, literally messaged me straight away [saying] “What can we do to help? Let’s make this happen. We want to help you make it happen.”
So I was straight on the phone to the twins, and yeah, just hauled in some amazing help from people, and we got a really great team to help make it happen. Alfie from Creative Nerds helped make it happen, Lucy from James Grant made it happen, and Chris from Charnley Communications helped make it happen. And obviously Charlie in the YouTube Space as well. And without those people and Niki and Sammy, it wouldn’t have happened.
All the YouTubers wanting to get involved as well, that was so amazing. We had three days basically – over a weekend as well – three days to pull it together and I can’t remember how many people, but I know that we maxed out how many people we were allowed in that studio, and then we weren’t allowed any more people, so I think it’s like 40 or 50 people we got. And to get 40 or 50 YouTubers out of their house in three days notice, to come down and help fundraise for charity, and to try and make the whole thing happen, crew it up, and raise money, I still can’t believe that we managed to do it. I did sleep very well after doing it!
I was so blown away by the community support and yeah, I’m just really proud of everybody for coming together because it wasn’t a lot of notice, it wasn’t a lot of time, and everybody that came to the studio, everyone that tweeted about it, everybody that donated… It’s just amazing to see.
Everyone gives YouTubers flack for just, you know, making candy videos or whatever, and I think it’s great that everybody came together and that from one community to another. We really did do our best to help make a difference and I’m proud of everybody that got involved.
Want more from Summer in the City 2017?
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