There’s a New Boy in Town, Beauty Brands and he’s in High School
From french class to makeup tips on social media, 17-year-old Spencer Claus talks about his rise into social media stardom and balancing being a digital influencer while in high school. He’s been featured in publications like Buzzfeed, Teen Vogue, and Cosmopolitan, while working with some the top cosmetic brands.
ZOG Digital sat down with Claus and some freshly pressed juice to get the scoop on how he became a male beauty influencer and discussed the importance of his role in today's society.
ZD: How did you find yourself in the world of makeup and when did that spread to social media?
Claus: Well, I started doing makeup through theatre actually. I’m an actor primarily. When you’re on stage, you have to know how to use makeup, because if you don’t wear makeup on stage, your face basically goes away. So that’s how I got started in makeup, and I’ve been doing that since I was about 8 years old.
I started doing makeup on other people just for fun, then doing makeup on myself to practice, and then started taking pictures of that. Surprising to most, my first major platform was Twitter. I really found my footing on Twitter first. I had massed around 10,000 followers on Twitter, before even starting my Instagram page. That tends to be the reverse of how most influencers go about it.
ZD: What kind of content where you sharing on Twitter?
Claus: I shared makeup and personal opinions. Tweets tended and continue to be photo and tip-related content. I surprisingly gained a lot of engagement from photos. In October 2015, I posted a photoset that was kind of my first success to virality. It was just with a dark lipstick and people really liked it. It got around 11,000 favorites and 6,000 retweets. At the time I had minimal following, so that was huge for me. From there, I just kind of picked up momentum.
ZD: You’re only 17, how did you become a brand ambassador for several brands?
Claus: Honestly, what you hope just happens is becoming an influencer or ambassador by tagging a brand in a post. And it worked in my case. Brands and people naturally reached out by liking and commenting on posts and eventually messaging me about a partnership.
For example, I work with Tarte as a brand ambassador. The way I got involved with them was by recreating the first look I ever got attention for, the dark full lip on my dad for Father’s Day. I posted side-by-side photos of it. It ended up on Buzzfeed, Cosmopolitan, Allure, and The Daily Mail, so that was the first time my work went viral and outside of the social media realm. And that’s how Tarte found me. Their senior influencer coordinator sent me a note and the rest is history.
ZD: You’ve made the statement that makeup has no gender many times throughout social media. How do you feel that this statement and your position as a young, male beauty influencer impacts others?
Claus: It’s something that I feel more recently has been hammered in. There’s been a really big boom of male influencers with people like Jeffree Star, Patrick Starrr, James Charles, and Manny Gutierrez. Regardless of how you feel about their talent levels or personalities, what's important is that they are visible males who wear makeup and who like makeup. I think that’s the biggest thing. It’s not that boys can do makeup well, boys are better at makeup, or anything of that sorts. I think the most important thing is saying that it’s ok for men to wear makeup.
For instance, I think about a 7-year-old boy walking into Target and he sees James Charles on a CoverGirl advertisement. He now knows that is a possibility for him. I think a big issue is that when you’re growing up, you don’t always see things that you would want to be. It happens a lot with people of color and queer people. The representation isn’t always there. So adding that to the social atmosphere is one of the most important things for me.
ZD: When did you decide to start sharing posts outside of your personal profiles on social media?
Claus: I don’t think it was ever a decision I made. There was never a moment where I said “you know what, I wanted to be a social media beauty influencer.”
I posted my first photo with makeup on Twitter with no intentions of ever gain attention. Once it did though, I thought it was pretty cool. At the point where I noticed things taking off, I only had a personal Twitter. So I eventually morphed it into more of a public page. After I massed a substantial following on Twitter, I then moved to Instagram to get ahead in the industry for a more visual appearance and further my engagement.
ZD: Out of the brands that you’re working with, how many do you work with at one time?
Claus: I would say the most brands that I’ve worked with at one point would be about three. Makeup work as an influencer, unless you’re at the tippy top isn’t always super consistent. It can be pretty lucrative when you do have it though.
Claus: Yes, but not necessarily in terms of influencing style. It’s more in terms of artistry. That’s really what I try to focus on. I didn’t start doing any of this to be a celebrity, I started it to be a makeup artist. And that’s what I prefer to do, but I obviously love the social media aspect of it all. So I do look to other artists who I really admire like Sarah McGonagle, Pat McGrath, and John Worthington. What I really like about them is that they really adapt their influencing sphere to their artistry as opposed to adapting their artistry to their influencing sphere. That’s what I strive for.
ZD: When you’re not expressing yourself through makeup, what are you doing for fun?
Claus: I mean theater for sure! I really want to pursue that as a career and go to college for musical theatre.
I’m actually a skier. That’s something that I don’t really talk about much, but I’m actually on the national ski team for giant slalom. I also love to write and being in high school still have a very rigorous academic life.
ZD: Your goals clearly include theatre and makeup. Do you have anything else in your future plans?
Claus: Well my backup plan if theatre falls through and makeup doesn’t quite pan out has always been teaching. I could also teach drama!
ZD: What is it like to be a high school student as well as a social media phenomenon? And what’s that balance like?
Claus: I worry about it. I won’t lie. I worry about turning into Amanda Bynes. I know that may sound self-aggrandizing, but I worry about the long-term effects of having this kind of attention. We’ll definitely have to wait and see what the long-term effects will be, as this is my first glimpse into the brand ambassador and influencing sphere. I haven’t been here for a substantial amount of time.
This is the first generation where high schoolers are becoming viral and famous just through social media, as opposed to traditional pathways. My biggest fear in life is fizzling out. I don’t want to look back in life and realize that I peaked in high school. I want to make sure that I keep pushing forward. I will say that it is weird to be that influencer guy in high school, but I thoroughly enjoy it. You know that people are looking at you, so you just have to be very aware.