Most beauty vloggers are nonstop paragons of glossy-lipped perfection. Then there’s 23-year-old Rachel Whitehurst, who launched her own full-time YouTube career via a comedic, cursetastic rant called “How a Jew Spends Christmas.” Five years and 155,000 subscribers later, Whitehurst supports herself financially via an unruly combination of insights into her personal life, a knack with a blending brush, and a refusal to take the world of hair-curling tutorials and eyeshadow reviews too damn seriously. Whitehurst, who moved here from Pennsylvania last year, will be at VloggerFair when the now-annual gathering of Internet-famous folk returns to Seattle Center on August 22.
How did you get started?
Back in 2009 I had a Tumblr, and I made a comedy-type video on Christmas. It went viral and I got so many followers. They left messages saying, “You should try being a YouTuber.” I made a channel and uploaded the rant and started making beauty videos, guitar covers, things like that, and trying to find my best fit.
How weird was it to be on camera?
I was always comfortable talking to a camera; I’m a pretty loud person in general. At the time [I started this] I was in my high school’s improv troupe, which was the number-one greatest thing I’ve ever done to help me do these videos.
Do you script your videos?
I usually have the topic of the video in mind. The camera starts rolling and something inside me goes, “Hey, you know exactly what to do; let’s just talk,” and I just go.
How much do you edit them?
I edit out pauses or the times I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to say next, but there are definitely times where I completely mess up and it’s entertaining enough to leave in the video. There’s a certain amount of screwups that you can keep in your videos to show I’m a normal person and not an actress.
What prompted you to vlog full time?
For the first two years I worked at Starbucks and went to school, and it was extremely difficult. Then I started taking the time to edit my videos and make my content better. By junior year of college, brands were starting to acknowledge my presence. I quit my job at Starbucks because I couldn’t handle all the stuff I needed to be doing and I was able to make a living off it, which is still crazy.
How does that work exactly?
Originally it was just upload a video and possibly mention the product. For a while you just get products sent to you for consideration, but you don’t have to make a video about them. And sometimes there’s paid sponsorships where the brand will actually pay you to feature them in the video.
How do you balance product placements with maintaining an irreverent voice?
I probably turn down 80 percent of the deals that I’m emailed about because they want me to say nothing negative about a product, or I can’t curse.
How much do you worry about oversharing?
When my channel was really new I would vlog about anything that happened in my personal life; now that I have a larger audience, I’m more guarded. I won’t look out my window when I’m showing my apartment so you don’t know exactly where I live…but I’ll show you what my bathroom looks like.