Michelle Phan - Geek Girl Rising
Michelle Phan
Michelle Phan

Michelle Phan

Founder and CEO


Years in Industry? 8

Who or what inspired your career in tech? 
At a very young age, I was exposed to computers at my school.  At 8 or 9, I was already working on a Mac and PC. We had them in the library and sometimes in classrooms and I was so fascinated with those machines. I was always actually fascinated with technology. I got on the Internet when it was still in the dial-up era. I remember asking my mom not to pick up the phone when I was online and my family didn’t even comprehend what exactly the Internet was. It was so alien to them.

At heart, I am a tech girl. I tend to spend more on technology than I would on even a handbag. It would seem very unconventional, because most people assume that because I’m in beauty, I just love fashion, but it’s the other way around. I love fashion, of course, but I wouldn’t even take a second glance if a price tag was $15,000 for a telescope. I know it’s worth $15,000.

MichellePhan3How is technology changing the beauty industry? 
Technology is no longer seen as just being in the science division. It’s entered into the art world, the fashion world, and the beauty and entertainment spaces. It’s really expanded in all areas. Now, so many youths have their hands on mobile devices and phones, which are sophisticated pieces of technology. They can shoot and film whatever, and create their own content. The editing apps out there are so sophisticated and they remove that complex learning curve that a lot of content creators would have to jump over in order to upload a video piece online. Everything is made so easy. I remember when I was in college– I was in art college– we were working manually on Photoshop for our pictures. It’s funny to see how it’s catching up. I’m sure in 5 years we’ll have someone who is 21 years old filming their first major picture. That’s what we want. Technology is supposed to be about progress, and we want the next generation to be better and to constantly refine it and make easier and more accessible to more people.

A lot of my fans will come visit me at a convention and they’ll tell me firsthand that they started their own YouTube channel because of me or because of me and other content creators. It’s a very successful industry because you grow up watching these people who you feel are like your best friends and when you get that right age, you can become that person, too. That’s the beauty of it.

Who are your role models?
Kerry Diamond (former PR exec at Lancome). She is an amazing person, and she has always been a mentor in my life. She was actually the one who actually discovered me through Lancome. I give a lot of props to her for being such a forward thinker in the beauty space– when no one was even looking at digital. They didn’t even care. And now, it’s all changed. I also have some family-friends who are mentors. They keep be grounded and really help anchor me. Out in L.A. sometimes things get a little too crazy and you live in this bubble,. When I hear from them and when I talk to them, they really bring me back to reality. It’s always to have those people in your life who can ground you. Of course, I also have people who I really look up to and aspire to be like. Jack Ma, the CEO of AliBaba, really inspires me. I think he’s a visionary thinker.

What advice do you have for teens today?
Be curious about life. Before computers, I read a lot of books. I got to the point where I ran out of reading the books in my library and at the school library, so I started reading encyclopedias. I was fascinated with encyclopedias because I learned about new things, like rocks or a country or some new invention. I’m a very curious person. I’m always constantly seeking out answers for something.

Remember, school doesn’t end after you get your high school diploma. Life is a quest. Learn something new every day and give something back to life– to a cause that touches you. That’s truly how we contribute as humans.