Jackie Aina Doesn't Think Talent Is Enough When It Comes to Finding Success

She even had to check herself.

Jackie Aina
Photo: Courtesy

What does it take to become a YouTube sensation? According to Jackie Aina, a self-made beauty superstar, it's only about 25% talent. The rest comes down to savvy business sense, and a whole lot of authenticity.

While Aina has come to this realization now, it would take years for her to learn this when she first started making videos. But once she did, it led to an aha moment that was her first step on the ladder of success.

To discuss further, Aina stopped by a :Blackprint and Sisters in Media event to speak with Kayla Greaves, senior beauty editor at InStyle.

In their conversation, Aina reflected back on the moment in her career that caused her to do some self-evaluation.

"I think a lot of your success is really just a testament to the power of being yourself, even if that means you're a little bit weird, quirky, and funny," Greaves asked the vlogger. "You've admitted it took you a minute to be comfortable on camera in your own skin. So what did that journey look like for you?"

"This one has a lot to do with me taking a step back as a content creator," answers Aina.

"I love this story, because it was just the perfect self-accountability moment," she continues. "I would say the fifth or sixth year into [my career] I was venting to a former friend of mine as I was watching videos. 'These girls who do these videos, they're not good at makeup. They're not even that talented. What do they do that's different from me?'"

Aina went on to lament her frustrations at the fact that they had millions of followers and she didn't at the time. Listening to her complaints, the friend told Aina that having a huge following actually was a talent. In that moment, Aina had a self-awareness check.

"I'd never thought of it that way," she reminisces. "One thing that I came to realize is — I hate to say this, this may be controversial — but talent really ain't enough. Talent is literally 25% of what it takes to do what we do."

Aina saw that there were three main factors that set the successful YouTubers apart from the rest. First, they were likable. "You can be as talented as you want, but if you're not a likable person, keep your talent, I don't care," she says.

Second, they were masters at packaging themselves. "You have to be at least somewhat business savvy," shares Aina. "Sometimes, you're an accountant. Sometimes, you're a lawyer and you're drafting contracts. You're a producer. You're a lighting tech person. It's so many things, and then on top of that, you have to be good at packaging it all in a way that people will enjoy it. And that's not easy."

VIDEO: Celebrity Makeup Artist, Vincent Oquendo recreates Jackie Aina's Neon Eyeliner Look

The third factor was the epiphainein moment for Aina: authenticity.

She decided to look past the surface level of some of the successful YouTubers she scoffed at. Instead, she challenged herself to start looking at why so many people were watching these videos, beyond the fact that they were likable and business savvy.

"The common thing I noticed was they seemed to just be themselves," she shares. Aina then looked at her own videos in comparison and what she found was surprising.

"I was like, that's not even my personality," she admits. "Why do I act so serious in my videos? I realized I'd never even sit through my own upload. I was just editing content and then putting it on YouTube, not actually enjoying it myself ... If you don't even consume your own content, what makes you think other people are?"

So Aina resolved to "loosen up and give people a little bit more me." The "silly stuff" she'd normally edit out found a home in her videos.

It took some time, but later that same year, her authenticity opened her up to an endless stream of viewers who gravitated towards her truth — no matter what that truth looked like.

Becoming one with her silly-side, which is part of who she is innately, Aina decided to do a parody video.

"At the time, 25 millimeter lashes were out of control. It was insane, it was just beyond," she laughs. "So I made it a part of the Trends We're Ditching series I used to do. I would literally film the video laughing, thinking how stupid it was and how nobody is going to watch. It was so over the top. But I'm like, 'Well, this is literally who I am, so whatever, let's just try it.'"

At the time, Aina normally saw views of 10,000 to 20,000 on a video in a month — the parody video obtained that in a day.

She quickly witnessed the views go from 50,000 to 100,000, then 600,000, and before she knew it, one million — after just three days.

"So I could have just been doing the normal stuff this whole time? I could have just been myself?" she told viewers after she came to this realization. "Now, ain't that a you-know-what. I was like, 'Okay, all right. I get it, God. I'll just be myself.'"

In the next six years, Aina has seen exponential growth with product collabs, several million views on numerous videos (the parody video ultimately grew to a viewership of over 5 million), her own product line: FORVR Mood candles, and so much more.

Go off, sis!

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