A love letter to Brandi TV
Light of my life, fire of my loins, my sin, my soul etc., Brandi TV.
Before beginning my love letter to Brandi TV, I will give a short introduction for those unfamiliar with what or who I’m talking about. Described as “a comedy/make-up tutorial channel, with the occasional cover song”, Brandi TV is the YouTube identity of Brandi Fernandez (Instagram handle @djdiscobella for some reason). Brandi streams footage of herself at home eating edibles and then transforming herself into messy and chaotic versions of characters, everyone from the Grinch to Pennywise to Snow White. “Related Channels” are Jeffree Star, Jenna Marbles, James Charles - none of who I watch or particularly want to watch. At the risk of sounding stupid and infatuated, I really do think Brandi is different.
One of the things that maybe makes Brandi’s beauty tutorials so magnetic is the way she styles (or doesn’t style) them. Beauty YouTubers usually have a clean HD aesthetic, and there is a wealth of information on how to achieve the widely used look. Brandi doesn’t use backdrops or ring lights or even necessarily always shoot in the same room in her house. Sometimes she’s in her bathroom – baby wipes on top of the cistern in shot - sometimes she’s in, what looks like, a wardrobe/office space – door open, sitting on an office swivel chair and, just visible in the background, a canvas reading “but first make-up” hung under a limp feather boa on the wall behind her. It is absolutely alien from Patrick Starr’s set up of blank backdrops and bright white lights. As of February 10th 2019, it looks like she has added three smaller canvases to that wall (one says “just wing it”) and some stickers randomly composed on the door. Is this a homage to Kathleen Light’s meticulous set? Probably not, Brandi’s is a bit more “whatever” (she is a stoner, after all). It is very much an approach to decoration that I empathise with.
Yet no matter how Brandi’s sets slightly differ, all her videos have the same yellow-hued dark lighting. It is the kind of lighting reminiscent of a bygone era of MSN webcam chats or Omegle. In “Mukbang” Special Treats and Uber Eats you can literally see the glare of the light at the bottom left edges of the screen through the whole of the introduction, and also a red object overhanging into the top left corner of the frame. I mean, I’m not sure, Brandi could be much more organised than this (I don’t want to assume anything, perhaps I am just fantasising) but I definitely imagine her lighting rig to be a desk lamp balanced on a stack of books behind her camera.
As well as her relaxed approach to the “cinematography” and “set design” of her YouTube videos, Brandi has a loose relationship with the materials she chooses to use in her tutorials. In her Pennywise tutorial, after eating her homemade brownies, Brandi gives a small disclaimer before she begins applying make-up, “Real quick before we start I just wanna say I got a bunch, a BUNCH of safe make-up that I can put on my skin. I was getting a lot of messages of people that were kind of upset that I was putting acrylic paint on my face, ummmm so… I’m not doing that, so, everybody, chill out.” This is quite typical of Brandi TV. Her tutorials are messy and stoned, Pritt-sticking synthetic hair she has cut from a wig onto her eyebrows, or lathering green paint all over her face and upper body. She doesn’t blend things in properly, opting to leave fingerprints and streaks everywhere. There is no sense of responsibility that Brandi assumes when you’re watching her and she seems aware that probably no one is going to be recreating these looks because most of the time she ends up looking horrible. If you’d like to see an example of what I mean, skip to 08:16 of her “The Nun make-up” tutorial.
This is really the point of what Brandi is doing and what makes her necessary, for me at least, today on YouTube. In the current climate of HD brows, strobing and glass skin, Brandi TV’s comedy tutorials are a much-needed relief for those of us who have never owned a contouring kit. The world of beauty is regimented and cold in comparison to Brandi TV. I think of Ariel Tejada’s tutorial with Shay Mitchell, in which Ariel critiques Shay’s attempt to apply make-up with cool disapproval: “So this is why I don’t agree with Shay’s method… I don’t believe in concealing before foundation”. Unlike Ariel, Brandi’s universe has no rules and no shame, there is no right way to apply acrylic paint to your face after all. Brandi uses beauty as a vehicle for her comedy, spoofing the sincerity of make-up artists and YouTubers who are in pursuit of perfect faces.
Brandi is a self-sacrificing prankster, subjecting herself to cosmetic torture for the pleasure of her viewers. She has the spirit and soul of a low-energy Steve-O, without the need for violence (aside from when she waxes her forearms) but who knows her limits. She is funny and spontaneous, effervescent and a force of light in beauty YouTube. I will end now with one of my favourite Brandi TV moments from Spa Time/ Lit when Brandi realises the hair mask she is applying probably will never wash out. “Oh my god no, I don’t want to do this anymore. No this is too much, I’ve gone too far, I don’t... I wasn’t, I, I will not try and… oh my god...what have I done...alright. Stop. I’m not doing this, I’m not putting this throughout my whole hair.” Brandi, I could watch you forever, never change.