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@abbyroberts

TikTok superstar Abby Roberts on artistry, identity, and her huge following


TextDominic Cadogan

We speak to the make-up artist and 2020 Dazed 100er about her journey from her bedroom to breakout social media star

Like everyone else, Abby Roberts is stuck at home, spending time with her family. If you saw her at the supermarket doing an essential shop, you might think she’s just like any other 18-year-old, but go from IRL to URL and Abby boasts 1.8m followers on Instagram and an insane 8.5m on TikTok account @abbyrartistry. 

To give you an idea of the scale of her audience, it’s the same size as the entire population of Switzerland. “It’s hard to comprehend that many people,” she says over Zoom from her childhood bedroom in Leeds. “I can’t imagine that amount, I can’t visualise it.” 

@abbyrartistry

this song gives me flashbacks to my dubstep phase omfg, ib @naezrah

♬ original sound - sinistur

It might be hard to picture, but the followers are very real. They’re also desperate to see Abby’s transformative looks, which have seen her shapeshift into Darth Maul, The Grinch, and a Sim. “I just enjoy being a bunch of different people,” she explains. I do so many different looks, sometimes I don’t know who I am as a person and it’s an issue I struggle with but I try not to think about it too much.” 

There’s no guessing who or what she’ll appear as next, or which trend she will start, but, as her handle suggests, artistry is always at the forefront. It’s this she’s been focussed on during the last few months which has seen her transform into Joe Exotic, with her sister and fellow make-up aficionado, Charlotte, as Carole Baskin as well as telling people to stay home. “I’ve been really busy,” she says, reflecting on life in lockdown. “Everyone is online right now, so I’ve just been focusing on creating a lot of content and trying to make as much as I can.” 

“I just enjoy being a bunch of different people,” she explains. I do so many different looks, sometimes I don’t know who I am as a person and it’s an issue I struggle with but I try not to think about it too much” – Abby Roberts

Abby appears as one of 100 young upcoming creatives spotlighted as part of the 2020 Dazed 100 – which this year, in partnership with Converse, includes a £50,000 fund to  give some of the names featured a chance to turn their creative pursuits into reality. “My idea is to donate to The Trevor Project, it’s an organisation I found out about a few years ago at Pride. They do a lot for LGBTQ+ youth and provide a helpline for anything struggling with any issues,” Roberts explains. “I decided I wanted to donate the funds to it because it’s doing a great job and on a more personal level, I want to spotlight up and coming artists on TikTok who are part of the LGBTQ+ community.” 

Here, we speak with Abby about her journey into the world of beauty. 

@abbyrartistry

a reminder to stay at home to save lives to prevent the spread of COVID-19, pls remember to keep washing ur hands too!! anyone can get it & spread it

♬ Crave You (feat. Giselle) - Flight Facilities

How did you first get into make-up? 

Abby Roberts: I was always interested in make-up from the artistic side, beforehand. I grew up doing art all through school, it was my number one hobby outside of school too. As I got older, I started doing my own make-up for Halloween and I would do my family’s too, so we figured I was good through that. 

Then, I started doing glam make-up and posting that online when I was about 11. As the years went on, I kind of got bored of just doing the same old glam make-up so I started doing the artistic stuff I picked up from my traditional skills and put that on my face instead. I’m completely self-taught, it’s just been a long process of trial and error, and a lot of watching YouTube videos from people like James Charles, NikkieTutorials, Jaclyn Hill – there are loads of people – and trying to apply those skills to myself. 

Back when you were 11, did you ever imagine it was something you’d later turn into a career? 

Abby Roberts: I always knew I wanted to have a career in something creative because that is literally me as a person, I’m just creative in every aspect. But I never thought that I would be able to do make-up online as an actual career. I thought it was so difficult and so far out of reach that it wouldn’t happen to a regular person. I was planning to do make-up on clients and stuff like that, but I didn’t really enjoy it, it wasn’t for me. Then my online stuff started taking off and I realised it could actually be possible. 

What was your first big break? 

Abby Roberts: Two years ago now when James Charles found my account on Instagram. I had recreated one of his make-up looks and he found that. He reached out to me and asked a takeover on his Instagram and I went from 50k to 100k followers overnight. 

Was it scary to have your following grow so quickly in such a short space of time? 

Abby Roberts: Definitely the first time it happened. I created a make-up trend and had gone from 10k to 50k, then James found me and it went up to 100k. It all happened so quickly, I’d gone from nobody knowing who I was whatsoever to hundreds of thousands of people following me – it was a lot. I felt like I always had to one-up my previous posts, but I’ve settled into it and I know how to handle things now. 

Do you have a message or advice for your followers? 

Abby Roberts: Just be nice to each other. There’s so much hate online nowadays and it’s important to be respectful and nice. Know that everyone on the internet has feelings too, there is a person behind that screen so be nice. 

Speaking of advice, what is some of the best advice that you’ve ever received? 

Abby Roberts: To not get involved in the drama aspect of everything. It’s easy when you’re in the community to get in your head and caught up with that side of it. But I think it’s best to just focus on the artistry and creating content.

“There’s so much hate online nowadays and it’s important to be respectful and nice. Know that everyone on the internet has feelings too, there is a person behind that screen so be nice” – Abby Roberts

What is one of your proudest achievements over the past couple of years? 

Abby Roberts: Definitely my TikTok account. It’s something I didn’t see getting to this point so I’m really proud I’ve managed to actually take it somewhere. When I began doing it, it was just kind of as a joke and it’s crazy to see how far it’s come. 

When I first joined, I didn’t even intend on posting, I just downloaded it because I heard everyone taking the mick out of it so I just wanted to see what it was all about. When I began and saw all the trends on the app, I wanted to give my own spin on it. 

Where do you get inspiration for the looks you create? 

Abby Roberts: My number one source of inspiration is pop culture and what’s trending online. I’ll always have a look on TikTok to see if there are any trends I can put my own spin on with the make-up side of things, or news on Twitter to see if there’s anything anyone is talking about. When I’m doing looks based on these things, it’s about making sure it’s relevant and something my followers would want to engage with.

Do you have a favourite look? 

Abby Roberts: Definitely my more creative ones. I did this Gucci snake look, where I painted the snake on my face. It was my profile picture for the last two years. I was so proud of it that I was like ‘I’m never changing this picture’. That’s one of my faves.

@abbyrartistry

your face is like a melody, it won’t leave my head, ib @jupitervelvet and @irisvelvet_

♬ Dark Paradise - Parov Stelar Remix - Lana Del Rey

What does the concept of beauty mean to you?

Abby Roberts: I had this question before for a school project and my answer was: ‘Beauty is not just outward, it’s how you feel on the inside’. I could do a crazy make-up look and feel beautiful or I could look like an alien another day if it’s how I feel as a person. 

How would you like to see the beauty industry improve? 

Abby Roberts: Being more accepting. The beauty community is already such a diverse community and there are so many different types of people taking part, but I think there should be a lot more people of colour being seen at the top. A lot of the top creators I know are white men and that could definitely be more diverse. 

What advice would you give to somebody looking to start out in beauty, but isn’t sure what to do? 

Abby Roberts: Practice is very important but also not being afraid to just get stuck in and get started. A big thing for anyone who is wanting to do something online is saying ‘I don’t know if I’m ready’ or ‘I don’t know if it’s the right time’. You’re never going to be ready, just start even if you’re thinking about it because you don’t know where it could take you. 

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