Meanwhile, a globlike egg-shaped toy named Gudetama—the latest character from lifestyle brand Sanrio—dances to the atmospheric music of Drip Drop as Phan outlines her latest project: a digital comic book, HELIOS : FEMINA, based on a story she wrote when she was 11 called “The Enchantress.” It’s about a young girl who uses sound and music to fight off evildoers and is set for release in a few weeks. She scrolls down on her laptop and points excitedly to the screen—“Look, it’s a shooting star!” she says. Her face brightens as she tugs on her matching Gudetama hoodie—not just from the celestial animation, but also from the lavender candle she’s just ignited. It’s one of her favorite scents, due to its soothing nature.
Shy and slightly jet-lagged, Phan apologizes that her computer’s desktop is disorganized. “This is so embarrassing!” she says, giggling. She bites her lightly glossed lips and runs her hand through her perfectly coiffed hair. “Sometimes I go to work with no makeup because I don’t care. I don’t need to put those expectations on my life. I want people to see that I’m not perfect, but I can always show girls how to look perfect. It’s an illusion anyone can create.” And it’s one that has brought her great renown: Her Barbie transformation tutorial has racked up more than 63 million views alone. Her Lady Gaga-inspired videos have nearly as many.
The 28-year-old explains that she’s an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: an introverted, intuitive, feeling, and judging woman. But she claims that she’s trained herself to be an extrovert. “If you believe in spirit animals, my spirit animal is a cat,” she says. “Cats like to test things, but they are totally OK with being alone in their own little world. I embrace the loneliness.”
Her Vietnamese name, Tuyet Bang, translates to “avalanche.” Her father believed that when an accumulation of snow begins to move, the force is unstoppable. The name is apt, as Phan is now a global girl-power makeup guru and new-media mogul with over eight million YouTube subscribers. Call her the Oprah or Martha Stewart of her generation—there’s no question she knows how to target and connect with her young female audience.