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Beauty vlogging, intermediaries and the labour of performing expertise

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This was presented at the Media Industries Conference, Kings College London, 18-20 April 2018.
Existing work highlights the labour of women who maintain fashion and beauty blogs, drawing attention to the labour of feminised self-presentation (Duffy, 2016) and the demands of creating content and interacting with online audiences (Baym, 2015; Marwick, 2015; Morris, 2014). Underexplored in this body of work is the specialist expertise of vloggers. Some of the most popular beauty vloggers, for example, produce detailed and informative videos which involve a great deal of research and practice, as well as some prerequisite knowledge of skin and hair care.

Dominant discourses about vlogging focuses on the charisma, personality and aesthetics of online performance, while the underlying subject expertise of the vlogger and the labour put into working on and performing their expertise, is taken for granted. We argue this is particularly true for female beauty vloggers, and is at least partly due to the stylistic conventions of beauty vlogging which are packaged and reinforced by intermediaries such as Multi Channel Networks and ‘influencer’ agencies, and continue to be reproduced by aspiring vloggers. We suggest that the conventions circulated by intermediaries are tied into postfeminist forms of self-presentation which encapsulate the “imperative to look good” (Oulette, 2017:185) tied to contemporary modes of work such as vlogging. This raises questions about the role of intermediaries in stylising and packaging the specialist expertise of beauty vloggers to conform to homogenous industry tropes.

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Beauty vlogging, intermediaries and the labour of performing expertise

  1. 1. Beauty vlogging, intermediaries and the labour of performing expertise Dr Karen Patel Birmingham City University, UK
  2. 2. Vlogging – “fun, free and authentic” (Duffy and Wissinger, 2017) “Vloggers possess a certain amount of expertise in their area, which is crucial to their success. Focusing only on videos and performance [...] overlooks the extensive and diverse skills and demands associated with vlogging” (Ashton and Patel, 2018:164). Ashton, D. and Patel, K. (2018) Vlogging Careers: Everyday Expertise, Collaboration and Authenticity in S. Taylor and S. Luckman, eds. The 'New Normal' of Working Lives: Critical Studies in Contemporary Work and Employment. Palgrave Macmillan, 147-170.
  3. 3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCTTjdRnh3o Stephanie Nicole
  4. 4. Expertise Specialist skills and knowledge developed over time, which can be appropriated to a given situation, and is recognised as such. PhD - aesthetic expertise – “involves a knowledge of aesthetic codes and classifications, and skill in mastering the tools and techniques to produce a work of aesthetic value that is recognised and legitimated.”
  5. 5. “Female culture of shared knowledge” (White, 2015:144)
  6. 6. Aesthetic labour “Appearance is, we suggest, thoroughly social and cultural, and however quirkily they self-style, few people live outside the fashion- beauty complex entirely. Even rejections of it are patterned” (Elias, Gill and Scharff, 2017:19). Labour of performing expertise and aesthetic labour
  7. 7. Michelle Phan – Why I Left https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UuGpm01SPcA
  8. 8. Thank You Karen.patel@bcu.ac.uk @KarenPatel

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