This is in response to this article: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/sure-teenage-girls-need-role-models—but-not-of-the-zoella-kind-9809136.html
To me, Zoe Sugg is quite an inspiration. Not because she has flowing Rapunzel hair, not because she has a high-pitched giggle like Tinklerbell, not even because she has enormous eyes (god, how annoying) but because Zoe is a self-made woman.
At 24, she has shown that you don’t need a university degree to be successful and has highlighted the fact that intelligence (she has 3 A-grade A-Levels) and personality can mean just as much. Whilst having the same or even greater influence than many of the Disney stars that young women look up to, Zoe has created her own career by simply being herself. For many, success is easy. From day 1 there is an army of advisors carefully planning every move and creating an easy route for the ‘star’ to follow but for Zoe that hasn’t been the case.
What you’re missing is that Zoe and many other YouTubers are business people. They’re savvy, they know how to hold an audience, they have skills which those 10 years older can’t even imagine and most importantly, they’re in charge of their career. There’s no-one paving the way for them because they’re doing that themselves. Shouldn’t we be celebrating their success instead of laughing it down?
You say, ‘[her] particular brand of sickly sweet girl power brings me out in hives’ and then later remark that she could improve herself by ditching beauty to become the face of ‘digital feminism’. I find your proposal quite strange because it’s clear from the way that you brushed off her success that you don’t have any interest in feminism at all. Feminism, in my view at least, is about supporting each other- men and women- in whatever they do and are interested in, be that make-up or otherwise. It’s about standing up for those who bring joy and positivity into the world and it’s about equality. Am I wrong to suggest that a strong, self-made female is the perfect idol for young males and females?
What you also failed to mention in your piece is that Zoella did not begin on YouTube with the intention of being a ‘YouTube churn-out’ but rather as a blog early in 2009 where she would (and still continues to) update her followers on what she’s been to and the things in her life that she’s been enjoying. There has never been any exclusivity to writing solely about beauty and actually the second most popular post on her blog is titled ‘Interiors ¦ Bedroom Snippets’, runner-up only to a post on her range of yes, beauty products. If we delve a little deeper however we discover that actually although called ‘Zoella Beauty’ the products do not include make-up. Surely if she was mad about telling girls how to do their make-up like you tell us she is, she’d have bought out a range that she could plug in all those tween-tutorial that she films?
It seems to me that you haven’t done any credible research before writing your piece on Zoe. Your article shows sloppy journalism and a desire to bring someone down without any real reason to. You listed 3 videos out of 171 to illustrate your point, missing off the many important videos that give guidance and strength to her followers. Videos such as Anxiety Q&A, 2.1 million views; Dealing with Panic Attacks & Anxiety, 2.6 million views; ‘Just Say Yes’, 1 million views; not to mention the countless Daily Vlogs, where Zoe often appears unapologetically make-up free, speaking directly to her viewers about natural beauty and self-confidence. You also forgot to mention the ‘Chummy Chatter’ videos that her and her best friend make about body image; relationships and abuse; sadness and depression; boundaries and saying ‘no’. You’ve taken a part of Zoe’s persona without considering her as a whole. Everyone could seem looks-obsessed if that’s the only side of them that you show.
I’m sure I’ve come off as an obsessed fan-girl, desperately protecting my favourite YouTuber but the truth is that I’m annoyed by how you’ve torn down another female in your piece with no just cause and no basis for your dislike other than that she’s not using her power correctly. I don’t know whether or not you truly believe what you wrote or if you simply said what you did knowing there’d be a reaction and plenty of people reading your piece but both of those stances are sad ones to hold. Zoe has achieved what many haven’t; she’s stayed relevant without resorting to being controversial, she’s popular without having to buy her fans and she’s giving young males and females across the world the confidence and acceptance that they need; something which we should applaud her for.