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Meet… Laila Loves

The Instagram beauty queen and vlogger shares her experience of trolls, being discovered by Huda Beauty and collaborating with brands…

Photography: Claire Luxton Art / Hair and makeup: Kate Pope

Holding two candles delicately in front of her face, Laila Swann’s features are softly illuminated as she gazes into the camera’s lens. In this moment, it’s not hard to see why so many people (1 million on Instagram, to be exact) have fallen in love with her on social media. While her Instagram account (@LailaLoves) is one of her favourite social media platforms, YouTube was where Laila’s content creating journey began.

Laila shares her channel with her two siblings – Yasmin and Kel – and they create travel vlogs, prank videos and the occasional style-related video.

“I started making YouTube videos because I enjoyed watching them. I did makeup tutorials for a while but I wouldn’t get that many views, maybe 1,000 views in a month.

“So I decided to film my holidays, because travel vlogs were growing in popularity. It was so exciting to watch people across the globe, and I had more of an interest in it than beauty content. I started vlogging the family holidays I went on with my brother and sister. It picked up very quickly for us because our sibling relationships were relatable. People would message us and say that we reminded them of their own siblings.”

After starting their YouTube channel in 2013 – and amassing 160,000,000+ views since then – the next social media platform Laila began creating content for was Instagram. She now posts twice a day (one photo and one video) on the app, and believes that a shout out from Huda Beauty really accelerated her growth.

“People got to know us through the YouTube videos. When I started an Instagram account, I decided to use it to boost my beauty and fashion content. I had so many friends who were doing makeup videos on Instagram, so I decided to give those a go as I wanted to film quick beauty videos rather than drag it out over 10 minutes to upload to YouTube.

“After starting my makeup videos on Instagram I got reposted by Huda Beauty and she now follows me. From that I started to get reposted by other accounts and my own account grew really quickly. I was a bit taken aback.

“Reposts on Instagram can boost your following so much. I remember I woke up and I had 20,000 extra followers from the repost by Huda. Honestly, I was shocked. You can imagine how many brands and people follow her account – she has 31.2 million followers – and all of those people filter over. They discovered me and started looking through my page. Brands then began to contact me about working with them.”

As her account has grown, and her beauty videos have become more and more popular, Laila has often found herself travelling across the globe to celebrate product launches with some of her favourite brands. While these trips may seem like pure, unadulterated fun to her audience, Laila works hard to ensure they don’t interrupt her uploading schedule.

“I have to strategically plan everything before I go on press trips. I’ll look at the itinerary, I’ll see where we are going, plan the outfits I’m going to take and then film in batches before I go, so I’ll still have video content to post while I’m away. I make sure I’m mindful of the brands I feature in those videos, though. For example, I went to LA last year with MAC so the content I pre-filmed focused on MAC products. I wouldn’t want to be on a press trip while posting content about another brand because then it feels mismatched.

“Press trips are a lot of fun, especially because I have a group of friends who are influencers. I went on five trips last year with my friends, and they were so much fun. It very much is work and play, we bounce off of each other and we help each other out with content. Having friends within the same industry makes things a lot easier.”

While most beauty brands aren’t new to collaborating with social media stars on content, Laila feels that there has been a shift over the past 18 months towards brands and influencers collaborating on specific products (or collections), instead of just using their platforms as a place to promote their latest launches.

“I feel like 2017 was a turning point on social media, a lot of brands realised it was an amazing place to market their products via creatives who are sharing incredible content.

“I’ve seen so many more collaborations between beauty brands and influencers. My friend Thuy Le (@xthuyle) recently came out with a collaboration with Lottie London and it was so good! I felt really proud and she felt that she had accomplished something huge. My other friends Jamie (@jamiegenevieve) and Patricia (@Thepatriciabright) also had collaborations with MAC on their own custom lipsticks in 2018.

“It’s surreal to see your friends’ names on products. You feel so proud of them, and I’ve seen more and more of it over the past year. I also love seeing other people create makeup tutorials using their products. When you’ve watched someone grow their platform over a few years, it’s exciting to see them launch something of their own.”

Collaborating with brands on huge projects, visiting exotic locations with your friends and having access to a large (and loyal) following paints life as a beauty influencer as very charmed. And while Laila is very grateful for the benefits to her chosen career, she is quick to also cast light on just how savvy (and hard working) you have to be to ensure you don’t get taken advantage of.

“As a content creator, you are the editor, the photographer, the lawyer, the head of finance, the everything. I was ok with doing it all when I started out, but it did eventually get to a point where I could no longer manage it. If I was on a press trip and a brand was emailing me about content that needed approval, or I had invoices to chase, it just wasn’t manageable for me to keep doing it alone.

“I’ve been with my management for three years and they have made my life so much easier. It’s taken the stress out of the job and now I feel that I can be more creative because I’m just focused on the content, rather than the business side of things. It’s the side of being a content creator that most people don’t see. They just see the end product of the content, so they think it’s easy to do. It’s fun managing yourself when you’re first starting out in the industry, but it is time consuming so at a certain point you end up needing management.”

Another negative to being an influencer is the unwanted attention your images (or videos) can attract online, especially if they appear on the Instagram ‘explore’ or YouTube ‘trending’ pages. Laila tends to ignore any negativity in her comments, and finds blocking certain words and phrases a good way to avoid seeing nasty comments.

“When it comes to negative comments, for my own sanity, I will block words on Instagram. I go through my comments and try to respond to as many people as I can within the first hour of posting, and sometimes I will see something nasty. When it comes to trolling, and being trolled, you just have to have a thick skin. The internet has made people feel entitled to say whatever they want, and the excuse they use is that you’ve decided to share your content publicly. I ignore trolls, because if I give them attention then it doesn’t ever stop.”

Luckily, the majority of Laila’s audience are fans who find her content inspiring and entertaining. Wherever she is in the world (Laila travels between London and Dubai frequently) she meets viewers of her videos and is always happy to stop and chat to them.

“I meet my followers every day. Because I’m on YouTube, and our channel is very realistic (I film every and any moment of my day) I don’t shy away from meeting people.

“Luckily, we have an audience who are lovely and it feels like a family. I’m so grateful for their support, and sometimes I’m still taken aback when people do recognise me in person. I’ve met subscribers all over the world, and it makes you feel like you have a community wherever you go. You have people who support you and who feel inspired by you. It’s nice to know that our videos entertain people, and help them through the day.”