When you first set eyes on James Charles, he comes across as any other teenager, but with really long eyelashes.
There’s a bevy of teens following him around, which makes you wonder, who is this kid? And then someone in your group screams out, “OMG, it's James!”
Even before you realize who he is and what he’s famous for, you start following him around, as if in a trance. At some point, someone whispers in your ear, “He's all over YouTube, he’s the first male CoverGirl.”
Then it hits you: You are face-to-face with CoverGirl’s first CoverBoy.
You set up an impromptu interview, ask him to stand next to a bare wall backstage at one of the busiest events of his life – Ipsy’s Gen Beauty event in San Francisco – because as his entourage reminds you, “If he goes out into the crowd, he will get mobbed.”
There are no special lights or effects, but Charles makes do with backlight from half-a-dozen iPhones. It’s all about the lighting, he says. And that perfect snapshot/Instagram photo. His entourage gets to work, and once that selfie is posted, he’s all eyes and ears and yours. At least for the next 30 seconds.
At 17, James Charles is breaking traditional gender boundaries in fashion and beauty. A talented makeup artist, his YouTube videos caught the attention of CoverGirl, the biggest makeup company in the world. And on Monday, Charles made history when his first CoverGirl commercial debuted, celebrating lash equality and starring Sofia Vergara, Katy Perry, beauty blogger Nura Afia and YouTube stars Chloe + Halle.
What’s it like to be like the first CoverBoy?
“Honestly, being the first male CoverGirl is like the most life-changing experience of like ever, it is so crazy! I just found out a few short weeks ago and my life has literally changed, obviously for the better ever since then,” a very excited Charles told us. “I’m so excited and honored to work for such an iconic brand, and I hope that everybody sees this and think they can wear makeup too, because obviously, it’s my biggest passion and hopefully I’ll be able to inspire others everywhere to create, no matter who they are.”
Charles, who hails from Bethlehem, New York, also appeared on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" Monday, talking about how using a ring light for his high school senior picture made a big difference. (He was unhappy with the way they turned out the first time around.)
“I posted them on Instagram, and they went viral, literally, overnight,” he said. “So I guess CoverGirl then saw that and here we are.”
Charles came out as gay to his parents when he was only 12. “They were so incredibly accepting … I know it’s definitely very challenging for a lot of different people so I was very thankful to have a pretty easy situation," he told DeGeneres.
He started wearing makeup only about a year ago.
"When I first told my parents I wanted to do makeup as well, that was a big thing," Charles joked on "Ellen." "They were like, 'Oh, you know, we love you no matter what. Like if you’re trans, you can tell us.' And I was like, 'Oh, I’m not trans.' (And they said) 'No, it’s OK. Like if you’re trans, you can really tell us.' (And I said) 'No, it’s really OK. I’m really not, but thank you.'"
He hopes people continue to accept his love for makeup as a way of expressing himself.
His favorite makeup? “Obviously the So Lashy!BlastPRO Mascara by CoverGirl."