Click on an IAMKARENO video on YouTube and you open a digital scrapbook of perfectly curated outfits; crafty, DIY-style video editing; and quite a bit of pastel. With more than 330,000 subscribers, the channel is run by Karen Yeung, a UC Davis graduate turned YouTuber. She is now also a stylist at Ipsy, a beauty company founded by legendary beauty guru Michelle Phan.
Yeung’s videos bubble with a cheeky naivete. She reverberates the feminine spunk of a teenage girl’s mood board while creating a fusion between sporty-grunge minimalism and bubble-gum schoolgirl. Taking a quick break Friday from video editing for her channel, Yeung connected with The Daily Californian over the phone to speak about chasing dreams and cultivating her art.
The Daily Californian: Now that you’ve been on YouTube for two years, how do you feel about where you’ve come from and where you’ve gone as a content creator?
KY: It’s really surreal. Before, I lived in a town called Fremont, and I guess not many people here know about social media and YouTube. It seemed like just a bunch of numbers on my page, but once I moved to L.A., it really hit me how many real people actually watch my videos. It’s crazy.
DC: You’ve mentioned before in your videos your experience of feeling lost. What prompted your decision to turn away from a corporate career and pursue fashion and media?
KY: When I worked at Yelp, I remember sitting at my office desk one day, looking outside at the sun and wishing that instead of being stuck in one location, I could be outside doing something else. At my job, I was always thinking about all the creative things I could be potentially working on with my channel. Also, at the time, a lot of brands were reaching out to me and asking me to work with them. It was a tough decision, but I had a lot of support.
DC: In your videos, you definitely focus on the production aspect just as much as the fashion content. Tell us about your creative process when working on a new project.
KY: A lot of what I make is based on my mood, feelings or what inspires me at the time. Sometimes it may be a bit more “happy go lucky,” and sometimes it can be more “heart to heart” and real. Also, I generally don’t like to get inspiration from other YouTubers, because I think it’s easy to create the same content everyone else is. It’s difficult to remix your art as your own, so I think mixing up what I consume brings out a different story on my channel without losing the narrative of fashion and beauty.
DC: It’s interesting you mentioned not watching other YouTubers — it can probably be overwhelming to see so many other talented individuals making their own content.
KY: My boyfriend actually introduced to me a book called “Steal Like an Artist” by Austin Kleon. It basically explains how nothing is original in this world. We all take inspiration from people we look up to and remix it as our own, and even though what you create is taken from elsewhere, you can still put your own voice into it and create something new. That is the mentality I always take with my channel.
DC: Fashion is such a tricky area to navigate — it can be empowering but also beget self-doubt. How do you manage to feel comfortable in your own skin when wearing something new and unusual?
KY: I feel like fashion is an expression of personality. It takes time to reach that level of confidence, and for me, it’s taken years to develop my sense of style. I say just wear whatever you want and screw what society or people think. For someone to reach their fullest potential, they have to embrace who they are.
DC: How has social media shaped your career, and how do you balance that aspect of your life?
KY: Completely 180. For one, I wouldn’t do what I do without social media. Social media can also be a double-edged sword. It connects you with cool, like-minded individuals, but also, it can disconnect you with the real world. Since I’m always trying to capture things on my phone or camera, it’s a constant balancing act when it comes to either capturing a memory to share with the world or experiencing a moment in the present with those around you.
Contact Valerie Khau at [email protected].