An Interview With Model/ Vlogger Suede BrooksLEFAIR
Although it was only around 14 degrees Fahrenheit on a blustery day in New York City, model and YouTube vlogger, Suede Brooks, brought a little bit of sunny California to our table at Jonathan Waxman’s Jams restaurant located at 1 Hotel Central Park. Industrial but comfortable- ivy grows up the outside of the restaurant, and inside the pipes and brick are exposed. The soup is hot and the newly turned 15-year-old Brooks looks cozy in her unzipped Zara brown leather jacket and striped turtleneck. She bought a one-way ticket to New York City this fashion week and doesn’t know exactly when she’ll return to the West Coast.
MR: What are you up to in New York City?
SB: I’m doing a lot of photo shoots while I’m here. I didn’t do runway this year since they weren’t paying very well and it’s a little nerve racking for me honestly.
MR: What is your favorite thing to vlog about?
SB: Fashion is my main thing although I still do makeup. I’ve been into fashion since I was eight. I was never really into sports. I was into dressing up and making YouTube videos.
That was my sport. Everyone else was a cheerleader or played basketball. I have always wanted to create my clothing line. I’m hoping to call it “Suede.” Fashion is one of my main focuses in my life. When I go back to Los Angeles, I’ll be returning to NYC eventually to really get into design.
“I started vlogging with my mom’s Iphone. I didn’t even have my own Iphone.” – Suede Brooks
MR: Do you have any thoughts about going to college yet?
SB: I just turned 15. I don’t know what I want to do yet. I just want to get my high school diploma. Who knows what I’ll do! I am saving 95% of my money. I know I won’t regret that when I’m 18. My parents are very smart.
MR: How does your family feel about all of your success vlogging and now modeling?
SB: They definitely support it in any way they can. My brother is a graphic designer. He has been doing it his whole life. He got out of high school and went straight to his career. He didn’t go to college. My sister is a blogger. She and I both do the social media thing. She’s a vegan. Think of like a crazy vegan wild chick—that’s her. They never thought in a million years that I would have a following on social media and it would be a full time job. But my parents have always been very supportive of it. I don’t know what I would do if they didn’t support me.
MR: Where did you grow up?
SB: I grew up in Henderson, Nevada. Usually when people think of Nevada, they think of the desert. It’s not really like that though. It’s not a small town but it has a small town vibe. My parents still live there and technically I do too although I’m never there. My mom and dad own a salon in Vegas. They have owned the Diva Studio salon for about 23 years. My dad owns and manages while my mom does hair. She has been doing hair her whole life.
MR: How did you handle lighting and technical aspects of vlogging?
SB: I started vlogging with my mom’s Iphone. I didn’t even have my own Iphone. After that, I upgraded to a digital camera and then I got a Canon t31 SLR. I filmed on that and I recently upgraded to a Canon 60 because of its auto focus video capabilities. In my house I have a little studio with all of my equipment now.
MR: When did you start to realize you could make a living doing this?
SB: I started my YouTube channel and it started growing. I didn’t know you could make money doing this. I just did it for fun. About a year into it I realized I could have an income. I think I made $30 for some product endorsement. I didn’t know how much you could charge when you promote product. Tyler Oakley is one of the biggest YouTubers. He wrote a book. YouTubers are the new thing. I swear. After I realized this, I contacted a management company. One of my friends, Emily Mitchell, who I met through YouTube had a manager named Megan from STX Entertainment. I reached out to Megan to ask her to manage me. Two days later I flew out to LA and she signed me. She is like my second mom almost. I am still with her to this day. Vlogging and social media are important and people are continuing to learn more and more about it. Sometimes I hold social media panels and I participate in beauty and fashion groups. But now I’m moving on to modeling. I haven’t really been doing YouTube for the past two months because I’m focusing on modeling. I don’t want to be known as “that 14 year-old YouTuber who blew up” but I also don’t want to leave my followers behind. I care about them. People think I don’t see anything that they write to me but I read every single comment. In the future, I want to do a lot of behind the scenes footage. It seems like people are really interested in the BTS of modeling and photo shoots.
MR: Which modeling agency represents you?
SB: No Ties Management. I was in Huntington Beach when I was 11. I had braces. I was just a mess. A woman came up to me and asked if I modeled. She gave me a card. Her name was Monica. It was sort of a weird interaction but we wound up meeting with her agency in Downtown San Diego. I didn’t know anything about the industry. We didn’t sign a contract until 8 months ago when I got a call from them again remarking on how my social media is blowing up and how they want to sign me right now. No Ties represents me worldwide. I signed with them because I didn’t want to worry about going to other agencies when I travel.
MR: How do you feel about product endorsements ethically?
SB: I only promote products that I genuinely like and am passionate about. I turn down so many brands. I don’t want to sell out. There are a lot of YouTubers who do it for the money and fame and all that stuff. Not me. I did a deal with Kiels a month ago because I’ve been using their products since I was 8. I did an ULTA campaign three months ago. I’ve worked with Tigi, the hair company. When they reached out to me I got really excited because my mom has used their products on me my whole life. I did a whole hairstyles video and only used Tigi. I have also worked with Too Face Cosmetics. I have so much Too Face makeup. There is a line between making YouTube videos because you are passionate about it and making YouTube videos for the money.
MR: The price that companies and brands will pay for posting has gone up, yeah?
SB: Yes, it used to be $100 bucks or $200 bucks. The amount of exposure the company gets on your Instagram is priceless. All of my followers are young girls who are interested in what I’m doing, what I’m wearing and what I’m eating and they think, “Oh if Suede’s doing it, I better do it.” And there are analytics that show this. In general, it’s nice doing modeling and social media because I can sometimes triple my rate when they see my Instagram following and I offer to post. When people ask to see my book, I tell them to check out my Instagram. In all my castings I always write my Instagram down so they can get to know me on a personal level.
MR: You said doing runway is nerve racking. Why is that?
SB: Runway makes me a little nervous because of falling. Really, that’s the only thing. Runway is one of the things I least like to do because you have to be there for seven hours and the show is only ten minutes long. There are people everywhere and it’s just so stressful.
MR: Why did you start your YouTube channel?
SB: When I first started in middle school I was being severely bullied. Throughout 6th and 7th grade, girls were bullying me and it really hurt. The cops got involved and there was a restraining order.
I got depressed. First I quit cheerleading and then I started online schooling. I was incredibly bored after that so I turned to YouTube because it made me happy. I would watch makeup tutorials and think, “maybe I can do this!” It was a hard time. The people who bullied me were family friends who lived across the street from my family and me. We went on family trips together. It started out with little things— the twin girls would constantly accuse me of copying them, copying their clothes mostly. There was a lot of social media bullying too. I didn’t know it at the time but a lot of the bullying that was happening online was actually the girls’ mother, my mom’s friend. The mom made hate accounts on social media about me. My mom and she were best friends and the whole time we thought it was the kids bullying me. It was a jealousy thing. The girls would text my friends and say things like, “Don’t hang out with Suede.” Eventually these girls made their own YouTube channel. Who’s copying whom now? It has seriously affected my family too. The bullies still live in the same house across the street. The mom tried to run me over with her car once. They constantly flip me off. Now we have a restraining order so they can’t come near our house. Honestly though, I’m glad they bullied me because I wouldn’t be here where I am today. I know a lot of girls who follow me get bullied. Everyone has their flaws and insecurities and people shouldn’t necessarily point them out. What do you get out of doing that? I do a lot of anti-bullying campaigns. I did a podcast recently in which I told my bullying story. It was an hour long. I just keep trying to have the most positive outlook at all times.