LaTasha James (or LJ for short), is a beauty and lifestyle vlogger living in Detroit, Michigan. In addition to her YouTube channel and blog A Journey East, she also works in marketing by day and as a freelance writer and branding consultant by night. In her spare time, she loves trying new restaurants, discovering new music, and drinking coffee.
We took the time to interview her about what goes on behind the scenes at A Journey East, including the creative process behind making her channel, her favorite beauty products and some tips to help you build your own beauty channel.
How were you inspired to begin your channel? Where did you start?
LM: To be honest, I didn’t think too much about it. It was my junior year of college at Western Michigan University and I had been binge watching Bethany Mota videos over winter break. I had no idea that she was so famous or that there were heaps of other people attempting to do the same thing. I didn’t even know that you could monetize your videos! I just thought it was a fun way to pass the time. I’ve had a blog since I was 13 or 14, so I guess YouTube felt like a natural next step. I uploaded the “Best of 2012 Tag” on New Year’s Day 2013 and just never really stopped making videos.
What inspires you and keeps you moving forward? Why are you passionate about it?
LM: I get burnt out every once in awhile. Sometimes I don’t know why I spend so much of my time and energy on YouTube, and it’s always right when I start to think about quitting that I get a message from a young girl who tells me my Skinny Shaming video made her feel more confident about her body. Or a husband comments that I helped him decide on a gift for his wife’s birthday. I’ve had the most uplifting messages from people and it’s so strange to think that even as a small channel, I do impact people’s lives in some way. And that’s really rewarding. It’s also a responsibility, I think. I try very hard to be a good person and encourage people to do the same. I’m not saying I’m perfect but the world could use a little more positivity and I hope to shine a light in at least a few people’s lives, even if it’s just for 5 minutes while they watch a beauty video.
What’s your favorite aspect of the beauty & cosmetics industry?
LM: I have a love/hate relationship with it most days, honestly. I think it can have a really ugly side and make women and girls feel bad about ourselves, like we’re never enough. But on the flip side, it can also take a drab, boring Monday and turn it into something elegant and exciting. I guess I like to think of beauty as an accessory. I wear it when I want to, but I’m fine without it, too. It’s fun to play with and changing up your look is super fun. But at the end of the day, my naked face is what I was born with and what I will die with, so I’ve got to love that first.
What makes your brand unique from other beauty channels?
LM: I get feedback that my candidness is a selling point. I watch a lot of channels, even the really successful ones, and just feel like I’m watching a commercial. I personally am not into that, though I know a lot of people do really enjoy the high quality production, squeaky clean image, and bright white walls… I don’t know, I’ve always thought the point of having a channel is to share who you really are. And sometimes I am pure and white but other times I’ve dark and broody. I like to share all angles of my life, because I’m a real person, and real people are multi-faceted.
How do you organize/plan out your content?
LM: When I was in college I was awesome at this. I had my planner filled out at all times and sat aside certain days to film. I recently moved to Detroit and adjusting to big city life, a new relationship, and my first full-time corporate job has made organization a last priority. I film when I can and I’ve been vlogging a lot more, because I love Detroit and want to share how amazing it is with my viewers. I’ve learned that everything doesn’t need to be super meticulous. My viewers haven’t left and I feel a lot less stressed just putting out content when I feel inspired instead of forcing it out when I’m not in the mood.
What is your goal for your channel? Dreams?
Of course I would love more time to focus on my channel, but I know I’m a very small fish in a huge, gigantic pond, so making this my full-time job just isn’t realistic. I guess that would be the dream. 🙂 My goal would just be to keep going and not let haters or stress make me quit. It’s something I love, it’s something that helps people, and it’s something that has actually taught me a lot of really useful “real world” business skills. I’m so happy I have so much of my early twenties documented on my channel. Can you imagine how cool that will be to look back on when I’m older? Hopefully YouTube will still be around when I get married and have kids, because I’d love for them to see how hip I was. Ha!
Do you have any tips for others trying to break into the beauty industry?
LM: BE YOURSELF. I know that sounds cliche, but it’s true. I’m so over seeing the same products, the same filming set ups, the same thumbnails… it just gets so old! There are so many people who watch YouTube, so you’re bound to find an audience that is drawn to you and your niche.
What are your favorite beauty products or your go-to skincare regimen?
LM: My favorite beauty products are the classics: A mascara (right now I’m loving the NARS Audacious Mascara), a fun lipstick, and an eyebrow pencil. If I want to go full-glam, obviously I have a zillion other favorites, but those three are my must-haves for day to day.
What products are currently in your purse?
LM: I keep the Gallany Creme Satin Lipstick in Luxe with me at all times. It’s the perfect neutral tone that just looks great with everything. I’ve also been trying out e.l.f.’s new Mattifying Blotting Tissues which come with a mirror and everything, so they’re super handy. Other than that, I just carry a lip balm and hand moisturizer with me.
How does your personal style influence your branding?
LM: I think my personal style and my personality play a huge role in my branding. It’s funny too, because as my style has evolved I’ve noticed my branding has, too. When I first started blogging my tagline was literally “angst ridden child of the 90s” which is pretty hilarious to look back on… But I was super grungy, all about rock n roll, and sort of a wild child. I still have plenty of rock n roll in me, but I’ve grown up and mellowed out quite a bit, too. I favor a cleaner style now, with lots of black and white and easy to read fonts. It’s so much like my personal style, which has turned from dark black eyeliner and purple eyelids to matte skin, neutral tones, and simplicity.
What’s your favorite brand and why?
LM: Anomie is a store that was established by a YouTuber named ChelseaWears, and I’m pretty obsessed. I follow the store on Instagram and constantly find myself ogling over the branding and all of the fun products she selects. Deandri is a clothing line that Kat von D is frequently snapped in. I’ve yet to buy any pieces myself but I love looking at their Wednesday Addams-esque dresses. They’re super edgy but also really fashionable, and I feel like their social media game is just so on point. For beauty, I’m all over the place, but I’ve never been disappointed in Lorac.