Meet Amanda Steele, YouTuber, actress, model, and creative director behind Steele, her eponymous fashion label featuring modern pieces made to help young women feel confident and stylish.
Having started her YouTube channel at only 10 years old, Amanda grew up on the Internet, bringing her subscribers on her own journey to adulthood, her most loyal fans having watched her blossom as her channel gained traction. Throughout a near decade on YouTube, Amanda has now graduated to creating content that showcases her projects and success outside of YouTube. From a behind the scenes look into her clothing line, to what New York Fashion Week is really like, her subscribers came to see a normal teenage girl just like them, and stayed to watch Amanda grow in her personal and work life. Now with over 2.4 Million followers on Instagram, and over 2.7 Million subscribers on YouTube, Amanda offers a glimpse into the life of an influencer and content creator, providing endless inspiration to the girls whose ambitions bare striking resemblance to those of a young Amanda.
I chatted with Amanda about everything from her first viral video, to branching out and turning her brand into an empire.
THIS INTERVIEW HAS BEEN EDITED AND CONDENSED FOR BREVITY AND CLARITY.
let's go back to 10 year old Amanda... YouTube was in its infancy, the landscape was nothing like it is now. What led you to start making videos?
“I always wanted to be a fashion designer when I was younger, so I was obsessed with fashion design games on the computer, and I would sketch things out. I ended up looking up a video on how to sew on Youtube, because I wanted to learn so I could become a fashion designer… I was 9 or 10. I ended up finding fashion hauls, and then I found the whole beauty community. Compared to what it is now, [the beauty community on YouTube] was so tiny. I just loved connecting with people online as a viewer, and I just threw the idea out there and asked my mom if I could make my own channel. She was like, “Go ahead! Just don’t give out too much information about yourself.”
When I was prepping for this interview, I had to do a little bit of stalking and go back and look at some of those old videos... do you remember the first video you made that got a lot of views?
“I know the first video I ever posted on YouTube was a brown smokey eye, but I’m pretty sure it’s not public anymore. Maybe I should go back and make it public again because it would be cute and not embarrassing anymore. I did a “Middle School Makeup Tutorial”, and that was the first video I did that got a certain amount of attention, I was getting lots of comments on it. That’s when it started clicking in my head that this is what people wanted to see me do and they react to certain title, and this is where it ends up when you search [different keywords], and what videos get more views, etc. That was kind of the beginning of things.”
Was there a tipping point for you when it went from, maybe a few people will watch this to doing meet-ups and getting fan mail, etc?
“ I did my first meet-up when I had 25k subscribers. I remember it was at this one mall that I really liked, and it was insane. I was so surprised at how many people showed up. That was my first meet-up experience and [I realized] this is real life and there are real people watching me. When I was 13 is when it became very serious and it grew like crazy. This was when I was about to his 1 million subscribers and I signed [to a management agency]. I really started seeing it as a business that I had to take control of.”
HOW DID YOU MANAGE BEING 13 AND HAVING TO DEAL WITH HAVING YOUR HOBBY TURN INTO A BUSINESS?
“I loved all of it because I saw how awesome of a deal it was. I always looked up to other YouTubers and beauty gurus, so to be successful in this space with these people that I looked up to was a huge accomplishment for me. It was hard in ways, being so young and trying to find yourself and learn how to love yourself and be confident while a bunch of people are tearing you down. There was a lot of hate online and with people that I went to school with. That was a really hard part of it, and I also felt like I had to post [at a certain frequency]. It was a lot of pressure for me at such a young age.”
Do you remember your first brand deal?
“Yeah, I actually did a video with Kmart. They paid me to do a video where you style your own [Christmas] stocking. When that first came in, my mom was like, “Whoa, this is wild. This is something serious.” That’s when I started looking for a manager to handle everything.”
A lot of YouTubers who were making videos a decade ago have fallen off and become less relevant with time, or are constantly taking breaks and coming back. It seems that you've only grown over the years. How do you maintain that?
“I think that it’s about following your passion. I’m growing up and I’m changing, but so are my followers and the people [watching my videos]. I found that throughout all of the adventures I go on and different things I accomplish over the years outside of my YouTube channel, my viewers are proud of me and use it as inspiration. I’m thankful and see how blessed I am to be in a spot where I can decide I want to pursue modelling or acting, and I have such a strong support behind me. I’ve just been following what my passions are and what I want to do and the people that have stuck around are inspired.”
HOW DID YOU GET INTO ACTING?
“I acted in the series Guidance. I just thought [acting] seemed cool and I wanted to try it out. I decided to give it a go, I could be awful, I could hate it, but I wanted to try. I auditioned and the whole process of working with an acting coach… I fell in love with it. It was so much fun, it was such a great form of expression. Since then, I’ve been really into it.”
And now, you have... Steele, Your clothing line. Tell me more about what that looks like for you to step into the entrepreneur role as opposed to being the influencer.
“From the very beginning, I wanted to be a fashion designer. It was always my goal to have a clothing line. As soon as I signed with my manager, I said it was something I wanted to accomplish. It’s really excited and funny because it just feels like a passion project for me. I feel like it’s the beginning of a huge brand and the extension of an empire I’m creating, which I’m really excited about. I get to work with other people, there are a ton of other team members that do the more technical things with the brand…like numbers, and shipping, and social media. I get to just be the creative in this part, and make things that I love and I think girls would like to have access to.”
YOU’RE BALANCING THAT, AND STILL DOING YOUTUBE AND SOCIAL MEDIA… WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
“I like to work hard/play hard. If I’m working too hard and I’m not seeing my friends and I’m not relaxing and letting loose, I get really sad. It’s hard to be excited about your work when you’re sad. I like to really balance things out and focus so hard on the things I have to accomplish, get it done feel really great about accomplishing those things, and then hang out with my friends. I usually wake up and focus on what needs to get done. Sometimes it’s meetings, auditions, sometimes I need to shoot videos or make an Instagram post. It changes all the time, but I usually get things done as soon as I wake up and then relax.”
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG WOMEN LOOKING TO START THEIR OWN CHANNELS OR BUSINESSES?
“I would say it’s very important to be yourself and believe in yourself. Don’t stop, because it is very discouraging. You’re putting yourself so out there online and [you’re] so open for judgement. Especially when you first start, you’re not really sure how to handle it. So it’s easy to let negative comments stop you from posting what you love or being as out there as you normally are or would like to be. Owning what makes you different and special, that’s gonna make you stand out from others and also keep moving forward. Even if it’s tiny little steps. Don’t stop moving, and don’t let anyone’s opinions get in your way.”
This Summer, you'll be turning 20... and in some ways, that's when your adult life really begins. What's one thing that you know now that you didn't know last year?
“I feel like I’ve learned so much, even in a small amount of time. People that know me see that I go through huge life changes so quickly. I think I’ve learned more about the business side of social media and about how what you post makes people react. I’ve really found that before I was working really hard to stay who I was when I first started and was in my prime on YouTube. I have been trying to stay and be that person, but then I’m realizing that my fans know how I’ve changed and they like how I’ve changed and they like following how I’ve changed. I’ve been really learning that it’s important to embrace your change and share what you’re going through with people. You don’t have to stick to a certain image.”
What big projects do you have planned for 2019?
“I’m just really excited to keep going with Steele. It’s so new and there are endless possibilities. Having other retailers sell it, and becoming more sophisticated with the designs. Being able to make shoes and bags. It’s my dream and something I’ve always wanted to be able to do. I always look forward to more acting roles. I’ve been auditioning a lot and I actually just wrapped a TV Show called Paradise City. I don’t know exactly when it’s gonna come out because we just wrapped, but towards the end of the year, we’ll start seeing things about it. So there are definitely some things on the horizon for me.”
AND you mentioned that when you were younger, you had these dreams that you wanted to be a fashion designer… that was 10 years ago. Looking forward at the next 10 years, what are your big goals?
“I would love to not depend on my social media just as me, Amanda Steele, for my job. I would love to be able to do the Steele brand and that’s what my whole world [would] revolve around. The posting that I do and all of the art that happens in my head, things that I want to share with the world… I feel like I want to end up being able to share it through the brand. Definitely get more sophisticated designs and collaborate with people and learn more and expand. I just would love to work on incredible film projects, and to work on things that really impact people’s lives would fulfill me so much.”