Bella sets her camera up on a tripod, making sure to position it in front of a window to get the most light. She checks herself in the camera screen, brushes her hair behind her ears, and takes a deep breath.
"Hello guys!" She coos out to the camera; soon to the hundreds of thousands who watch the videos that she uploads each week. Bella is a beauty blogger, one of 1107 currently listed on Youtube.
A beauty blogger is somebody who writes, takes photographs, and/or makes videos ('vlogs') of or about anything that falls under the umbrella of cosmetics.
Bella talks us through some of her Favorite Things: a neon orange lipstick; a mascara with two compartments; some teeth whitening strips. Her deep blue eyes glisten when she talks; you can see, spilling out of the screen, her passion for beauty. Bella is so passionate about beauty that by the time you have finished watching her video, you are positive that your life is incomplete without an irridescent greige nail varnish.
But for all of her doe-eyed endorsement, Bella misses something out: the price. The small, iridescent nail varnish is made by Chanel, and it costs £18.
I made Bella up; choose one of her non-fictional counterparts and the script fits much the same. Some beauty bloggers are more transparent than others about how much the products that they recommend cost: the underlying point is the same; being a successful beauty blogger costs.
When beauty blogging first began to establish itself around about seven years ago, it didn't etch away at a cultural space; it strapped a load of TNT to itself a sent shockwaves through the beauty industry. Before this, traditional forms of beauty journalism - print newspapers and magazines, held the publishing ground. Women with an interest in beauty were directed to these sources because they were the only spaces where information about the beauty industry could be readily accessed.
So we are continually told: beauty blogging is good because it is democratic. The power of beauty bloggers is their number; the number of opinions expressed by beauty bloggers (of which there are thousands) decentralise the authority of beauty articles written according to dubious editorial instruction. Beauty bloggers propel us in the direction of a more libertarian press, enabling the everyday women-with no editorial agenda-to write, publish and, hopefully, tell us the truth about cosmetics.
But this narrative that we are fed about the democratisation of beauty journalism features many of the same oversights that we find in the political narratives that we trophy. In principle beauty blogging is a great democratiser; in practice the same underlying social inequalities that prevent women from entering the media prevent them from becoming successful beauty bloggers.
And it is beauty blogs that highlight this difference so starkly, when compared to other blogs, e.g. blogs about politics, or news, because beauty blogging is fueled by money. Without money, Bella wouldn't have that £18 nail varnish to share with us. She would be without props, and without props she would be without a blog. Without money, Bella wouldn't have become the twinkly beauty blogger with the audience of thousands.