Ingrid Nilsen joined YouTubeÂ back in 2009 when she started posting makeup tutorials filmed in her very own bedroom. Within two years, her channel began to grow, beyond her walls and beauty world, where she discovered that her relatable content could widely inspire her audience. Almost eight years after her first YouTube video, Nilsen has evolved as a person and an influencer, creating a greater impact than she could have ever imagined.
In June 2015, Nilsen sat down to film her most challenging video yet, where she came out as gay to her nearly 4Â million subscribers. Now, two years later, she exclusively speaksÂ withYahoo Beauty to explain the remarkable ways that her life has changed since.
â€œI think the biggest change has been the depth of my relationships all around, both online and offline. Iâ€™m closer to my friends than I ever have been and I feel more connected to my community than ever before,â€ Nilsen says. â€œWhen you decide to open yourself up and share some of the vulnerable pieces inside of you, it binds you to people in ways you never couldâ€™ve imagined. Itâ€™s truly a beautiful thing.â€
But it hasnâ€™t always been beautiful or easy. As many people in the LGBTQ community have experienced, coming out is a difficult process, no matter the size of your audience. For Nilsen, it was something she had to both discover and come to terms with herself before opening up to her loyal subscribers.
In a recent video, Nilsen explains the exploratory process she went through in order to find herself, discovering her sexual identity along the way. WithÂ an upbringing like hers, where she never knew that being gay was even a possibility, the realization was met with immense confusion.
â€œI didnâ€™t even know what a lesbian was until I was almost in high school,â€ she explains, â€œand even then, when I heard the word, the connotation was derogatory, so I always associated being gay with being bad. I didnâ€™t want to be bad.â€
Nilsenâ€™s environment initially influenced her perception of what it means to be gay, as is the case for many people. But the shame that she began to feel as she discovered more about herself is the biggest thing she had to push past in order to be her happiest self.
â€œFor me, coming out was acknowledging those things and consciously deciding that I was going to move forward in truth. I stopped apologizing for the things I never shouldâ€™ve had to apologize for in the first place, and it freed me.â€
The courage that Nilsen displayed in her coming-out video is something thatâ€™s still acknowledged today, as she encourages others to live their lives unapologetically â€” a message that was integrated into the â€œBe Your Best Selfâ€ kit that she collaborated onÂ withbareMinerals this past February.
â€œThe entire kit took months of back and forth, so it has been so exciting to see it finished and out in the world,â€ she says. â€œI wanted â€˜Be Your Best Selfâ€™ on the kit bag because itâ€™s something I tell myself every day. Whether Iâ€™m wearing makeup or not, the thing that makes me feel like my best self is honesty.â€
As a biracial gay woman [sheâ€™sÂ half Thai and half Norwegian], honesty is something that remains vital in Nilsenâ€™s everyday life. Working with a major beauty brand, she makes sure to accurately representÂ gay women for the diversity that the community entails.
â€œWhen you look at the history of the beauty industry, the standard for whatâ€™s beautiful at a corporate level is extremely narrow. Itâ€™s a big reason why I was so confused and repressed in terms of my sexual identity. There were no examples of out feminine lesbians in the media and definitely not in the beauty industry. I hope that when [women] see someone who doesnâ€™t fit the stereotype of â€˜what a lesbian looks like,â€™ they find comfort and power within their own identities.â€
Representing soÂ many people does come with pressure. However, the opportunity to work with bareMineralsÂ has allowed NilsenÂ to further illustrate theÂ values that more beauty brands should stand for â€” including unwavering inclusivity.
â€œSo often Iâ€™ll see a brand projecting an image, but behind the scenes nothing is really changing,â€ Nilsen says of LGBTQ representation in the beauty industry. â€œOn one hand, I get it and itâ€™s also really cool that LGBTQ+ community is getting more mainstream recognition. On the other hand, where were all of these brands when there was no one else standing up for us? When it wasnâ€™t â€˜coolâ€™ to put up a fight? Thatâ€™s why I love bareMinerals so much. They couldâ€™ve picked anyone to be their face, but they chose me, and thatâ€™s not a coincidence, itâ€™s a reflection of their core values.â€
Though Nilsen already has numerous ways to reach her fan base, sheâ€™s continued to create outlets where people can feel comfortable exploring any and all topics. With her best friend,Â Cat Valdes, sheâ€™sÂ created a podcast called Ladies Who Lunch, where sheÂ believes no topic is off-limits. And in honor ofÂ Pride Month, theyâ€™ve dedicatedÂ time to marginalized voices.
â€œFor the month of June, weâ€™ve dedicated every episode to a different LGBTQ+ topic â€” being a gay woman, bisexuality, gender, and being a queer person of color,â€ Nilsen explains. â€œItâ€™s been one of my favorite months because weâ€™ve had so many amazing guests on the podcast. Everyone has a powerful and meaningful story to share, and Iâ€™m grateful that they shared it with us.â€
Efforts that Nilsen has made to create an inclusive space have not gone unnoticed, by the people whoÂ adore herÂ or the people who still donâ€™t understand her cause. But in response to the negativity she encounters regularly, she recognizes that itâ€™s up to her to remain self-assured.
â€œFeelings are transient, and thereâ€™s always a point where we can either choose to hold on or let go,â€ she says. â€œItâ€™s a mindfulness practice that I have to work on daily, but it has made me more grounded in who I am.â€