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Beautiful transgressions: subversion and visibility in YouTube's beauty community

dc.contributor.authorMarshall-McKelvey, Kira, author
dc.contributor.authorElkins, Evan, advisor
dc.contributor.authorHughes, Kit, committee member
dc.contributor.authorAnderson, Karrin, committee member
dc.contributor.authorArthur, Tori, committee member
dc.description.abstractYouTube influencers must navigate the platform's capricious algorithm in order to achieve and maintain visibility online. The attention economy necessitates visibility labor for YouTubers to succeed in digital content creation. In particular, YouTubers must consider advertiser guidelines so that their content gets monetized (and subsequently rendered more visible). Content on YouTube that achieves high visibility tends to reinforce hegemonic logics of self-branding and gender. The beauty community, which produces feminized cultural outputs, is a highly commercial space on YouTube that rewards capitalist-affirming logics of gender and women's empowerment. Working in conversation with scholarship that explores the resistive possibilities of "LeftTube" (leftist YouTube), I highlight subversive tactics that women beauty gurus use without sacrificing their visibility online. Threading in discourse of play and fun, I argue that women beauty gurus can subvert postfeminist, neoliberal norms that discipline and confine gender performance. I first identify the normative genre conventions of the contemporary YouTube beauty community. Then I argue that RawBeautyKristi challenges norms of new momism and the "always on" digital entrepreneur by performing negative affect as a symptom of alienation, decentering western and masculine temporal structures, and complicating aesthetic labor in relation to neoliberal motherhood. Next, I argue that Nappyheadedjojoba performs platform-specific-intimacy to activate an ostensibly apolitical audience. Specifically, on YouTube, her incongruous references to makeup relieve tension, she utilizes beauty-specific terminology to familiarize her politics, she engages respectability politics, and she incorporates self-promotion as relational labor. On Patreon, she positions audience support as promoting creative liberty, she employs self-disclosure in relation to her politics, and she engages ratchetry as resistance. These strategies cultivate a sort of political authenticity. Lastly, Jenna Marbles's playful performance of failure to be part of YouTube's beauty community lluminates the inaccessibility of a seemingly open, democratizing space. By positioning herself as a YouTube viewer who unsuccessfully attempts tutorials, framing excess in contrast to the quest for natural beauty, exaggerating her status as an aging 32-33 year old lady, and flouting YouTube's self-branding conventions, Mourey reveals an attention economy in the beauty community that privileges postfeminist norms of age, beauty, and femininity. Ultimately, my dissertation aims to provide those in precarious positions with tactics to challenge dominant structures in ways that are invisible to those in power.
dc.format.mediumborn digital
dc.format.mediumdoctoral dissertations
dc.publisherColorado State University. Libraries
dc.rightsCopyright and other restrictions may apply. User is responsible for compliance with all applicable laws. For information about copyright law, please see
dc.subjectbeauty community
dc.titleBeautiful transgressions: subversion and visibility in YouTube's beauty community
dcterms.rights.dplaThis Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights ( You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s). Studies State University of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


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