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Last July, a relatively unknown beauty guru by the name of Em Ford (My Pale Skin) dared to bare all in one of 2015’s most talked about videos: “You’re Disgusting.”
With more than 18 million views to date, the video features Ford—a woman who suffers from severe adult acne—sitting against a blue backdrop putting on makeup as hateful comments materialize around her. Her video became an overnight success, spurring the trending hashtag #YouLookDisgusting with photos of empowered women going makeup-free online.
In an interview with BBC Trending, Ford said of her project: “I wanted to say, ‘You know what? Perfection isn’t real. And I’m just going to show you what I look in the morning and what I look like when I leave my house to go to work.’” The video has since been named one of the most popular beauty videos of 2015 and celebrated internationally for igniting conversations around the severity of online abuse. In the wake of her viral success, Ford recently announced that she has created a documentary with BBC Three titled Troll Hunters, airing tonight, Jan. 27.
Formerly a model (she hated it), Ford started her channel and blog in April 2014—a fact made even more impressive as she continues to juggle a growing YouTube career, filmmaking, and a full-time job at a creative agency in London. Her makeup tutorials stand out for two reasons: 1) They frequently utilize drugstore products that are financially accessible for a broad audience, and 2) they’re designed for users suffering from adult acne, a community often overlooked and underserved on YouTube.
“When you suffer with acne, it affects every part of your life. It’s made me want to cancel plans with friends; it’s made me not want to blog. I thought that I can’t enjoy myself if I go out because I feel people aren’t talking to me, they’re too busy looking at my skin,” Ford told BBC.
In some tutorials, Ford uses up to 18 products to cover her spots, encouraging views to use makeup as tools of empowerment. Ford has publicly refused any endorsements or deals, stating she will not be biased or untruthful with her fans about products about that don’t work on her sensitive skin.
Through YouTube, Ford has expanded society’s definition of beauty and empowered others to embrace their insecurities in order to live their best lives.
Screengrab via My Pale Skin/YouTube
Carly Lanning is a journalist who covers social media. Her work has been published by Psychology Today, NBC, Thrillist, and Ms. Magazine.