Close Encounters with Jenn Im
Most of the time, when you’re looking for makeup or fashion advice, you turn to YouTube. Chances are you’ll encounter Jenn Im’s YouTube channel, Clothes Encounters. With over 2 million subscribers, Jenn is one of the most influential beauty bloggers on the internet. Aside from beauty advice, Jenn also encourages discussions of career, family, and empowerment on her channel.
We caught up with Jenn on her recent launch of her clothing line, Eggie, and asked how she got her start, her favorite food places, and what else is in store in the near future.
By Giant Robot Media
Photos by Kevin Vu Kim.
GR: What’s the story behind your clothing line? How did it all start?
Jenn Im: My dream has always been to create my own fashion label, but to be honest, it was only within the last year that I gained the confidence to put dream to reality. With the age of the internet, I wanted to create a line that would reflect the fluid styles we see more and more today. Thanks to my business partners, I was able to start a line designed for today’s customer that loves to reinvent their look and doesn’t want to be labeled or boxed into one style. My goal with the line is to make pieces that are inclusive for all and add a twist of my Korean heritage.
GR: Where did you grow up? What was that like?
J: I grew up in a suburb fifteen minutes away from Downtown LA. Everyone is always a little surprised when I tell them I’m from Los Angeles, but I think they mean it as a compliment. Los Angeles has a bad reputation of people chasing fame, stardom and only looking out for themselves, but I see LA as home. It’s the place where I spent most of my teens sneaking out to backyard shows, driving to the Echoplex while getting it confused with the Echo and digging through vintage piles at the Rosebowl. The music and culture in LA made a huge impact on who I am today. I’m so happy my parents made the decision to plant their roots here.
GR: What were the highs and lows in your YouTube career? Was there a point when you seriously considered pursuing another career?
J: The biggest high I got from my Youtube career was gaining financial independence. I’ve been in the work force since I was fifteen and no matter how hard I worked or how many hours I put in, there would always be a scarcity of funds. Now I feel liberated knowing that I don’t have to feel that way anymore. I feel proud knowing that I put myself through college and bought a house by creating a job online. That thought will always be wild in my mind. Also with my other jobs, I was never able to really express my own creativity, and so that's what set YouTube a part from the others as being my dream job. There's no rubric or outline- it's all up to me and my expression.
My lows from my career are always due to self-doubt and burn-outs. It’s really difficult to separate my work when my work is literally me. When a video gets criticized it’s hard to not take it personally when it’s you on the screen. I’m slowly developing a thicker skin, but it’s still a work in progress. In the seven years I’ve been on Youtube, I’ve never taken a break. The digital field is a place that never sleeps. There is a constant need to feel and be "relevant." I’ve always uploaded at least one video a week and after nearly a decade of doing this, there have been some severe burn-outs where I’ve questioned my purpose. Despite these sporadic melt downs I’ve always powered through because at the end of the day, I love what I do and I love the subscribers who support me. Even if I don’t feel like it at the moment, I’ll do it anyway because the negative cloud always passes.
My YouTube journey has been a slow and steady climb, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Too much at once would have been overwhelming and overstimulating for me. If it were too stagnant, I think I might have explored other career options. I fucking love what I do because I’m building my own empire and I find it very empowering
GR: What are top five go-to restaurants or cafes to go to in LA?
J: Yangji Gamjatang for the BEST kimchi jiggae. It’s a little alarming how often I Postmate from here.
Quarters for Korean BBQ. The cheese fondue is a must.
Bestia. 100% worth the hype. Go right when they open and you won’t need a rezzie.
King Taco. The red sauuuuuuuuce.
Verve DTLA. Get the juice flight!
GR: As a vlogger, how do you manage what to share and not to share? Are there certain times you think you share too much?
J: I’ve never been the super outspoken type. Naturally I’ve always been a little shy and then come to life when I feel comfortable. This pretty much reflects my Youtube journey. Throughout the years I’ve slowly opened up, sharing stories on how I’ve overcome a challenge or lessons I’ve learned after the issue has been dealt with. However, I usually speak to issues after I've overcome them and I have had time to process. For me, it would be unhealthy to share everything that’s going on with you online - I'm very sensitive. Everyone has an opinion and listening to it all can really throw me off center.
GR: A lot of YouTube creatives like yourself have taken advantage of the platform to talk about other issues than just fashion/beauty, like politics, sex, and other social topics. What’s your take on this?
J: I think it’s amazing that more Youtube personalities are using this platform to speak up about sensitive topics. I’m navigating my way through this all and looking forward to finding a stronger voice on these important topics.
GR: How do you balance product promotion and authenticity? It’s hard when promoting certain products brings in an income.
J: I work with brands that I believe in. I look to see that their story and principles align with mine. Luckily, many of the brands that I love have organically reached out to me and I've developed long term relationships with some of my favorites. If I really love a brand, I have my team reach out to see how we can work together. End of the day, I would never want to endorse a product or item that didn’t function correctly or was subpar quality for the paycheck. Nothing is more important than the trust my subscribers have in me and my content.
GR: With the recent silent breakers in the news, have you experienced any difficulty in your work environment as a young woman entrepreneur?
J: Personally and fortunately, I haven't. Because I've created my own job on YouTube and other digital platforms, I have been able to personally choose and cultivate a team around me that supports women and women entrepreneurs. From Ben, my fiancé, who takes all my photos, videos and helps edit - to my manager, Ashley, who is a female entrepreneur herself. Additionally, given that my content is fashion, beauty and lifestyle focused, many of the outside parties who we work with, from brands, agencies to publishers are controlled by women. Given all of these factors, I have been able to inadvertently shield myself from those terrible difficulties other women must face daily.
GR: What advice do you have for aspiring young women creatives out there?
J: My best advice for young women creatives out there is to be not be afraid to collaborate and inspire each other. If there’s another creative that you love, don’t be shy to fangirl, reach out to them and grow together. We live in a society where we constantly pit ourselves against each other. It’s every person for themselves and I think that’s unhealthy. There is enough success out there for everyone and it’s important to lift others up and band together. Life isn’t about competition. It’s about connection.
To see Jenn's clothing line, checkout Eggie here.
You can checkout Jenn's Instagram here.
And her YouTube page here.