[Interview] Women/Nonbinary Individuals in Horror [highxlash]

We sat down virtually with the woman behind the beauty brand, highxlash, to discuss starting a beauty brand when your family doesn’t agree with it, streaming and building ones community, how terrifying Squid Game is, and how combining the things you love makes it easier to build a brand!

Monster Thoughts: To start, I noticed in your streams and on your social media you’ve tied in your lash brand with it all, especially with the name, highxlash. I saw during one of your streams you mentioned a friend who got you into doing nails and lashes gave you the idea for the name, highxlash—how important would you say a streamer’s username is to convey who they are to their audience? If very important, why? In what ways does having a username that is tied closely to oneself help foster closeness with one’s audience/followers? If not, what do you think helps convey oneself/a sense of camaraderie with the followers one has or hopes to gain?

highxlash: Fun story, I chose the name “high lash” for my lash business before I did any content creation as a profession. When I signed up for twitch, I was still just a viewer and chose the username “highxlash” almost as a filler name (I couldn’t think of anything else). I told myself, “I’ll change my username once I start streaming and I’ll figure it out then.”

Well, it’s been over a year and highxlash has stuck. I think the branding of this username works because using cannabis medicinally is such a huge part of my life that it is celebrated in my brand, and the “lash ” portion also sets the tone for the beauty content that is featured on my channel.

Jess lounging beautifully.

I think a streamer’s username is INCREDIBLY important to convey who they are to their audience. There is a huge sea of streamers and creators out there, and when someone reads a username, ideally it would stick out enough to evoke some intrigue. If you stumble onto a channel with a username resembling something like “joeshmoe7345200” what is that username communicating to you? Are you intrigued? If they are Just Chatting, what do you want to chat to them about?

I think there is a brand identity & brand personality that viewers latch onto, that is key to growth and sustainability in content creation spaces. That brand and viewer relationship is exactly why I am a very strong proponent of having a username that encompasses your branding. Sometimes you need to change your username to cater to the brand that has grown organically. I have a close friend, SensitiveJoy, who did exactly that. She’s unstoppable, and a very good example of how to embrace your audience and foster that relationship with your viewers and your brand.

The “dystopian” story rings so close to home as it pertains to folks struggling with debt, taking incredible risk to try to save their families. The scary part was how real the show felt…

MT: I seriously didn’t even connect “getting high” with the high part of your name! That’s hilarious and genius. As a business owner what are the most important aspects of what you do offline that tie into creating engaging streams?

hxl: There are SO many things that go on behind-the-scenes that most viewers might not think about. Most of the work is offline, and it does tie directly into creating engaging stream.

Some of that work means sketching and creating ideas for overlays that encompass not only your branding, but the mood of the season (I like to swap out overlays every quarter to keep it feeling fresh). When someone has your stream up, they want it to feel like they’re hanging out with you too. To me, it almost feels like building a (digital) comfy room for everyone to hang out in. Building a vibe takes a lot of brainstorming, sketching, designing, exporting, testing, the works! It’s a little exhausting to think about, to be honest, but once you have built “your vibe” things will fall into place if it feels comfy. People will stay, people will chat like they are texting their bff and filling you in on their day. I absolutely love having an intimate space for me and my viewers to chat like that, so I spend a lot of time curating a vibe visually then I pair it with some DMCA-free lo-fi music.

I also get a lot of inspiration from other creators! I do a LOT of lurking on Twitch and Twitter. I’m also the type of person who gets very excited if I feel I have things in common with others. So even when I’m lurking, I’m finding myself engaging with other creators because I get excited to meet new people and get to know them. I used to joke it’s because I’m annoying but I think in general, even outside of content creation, I value getting to know others so I am very active in a lot of creators chats or tweets (when I have the spoons, of course). I’ve built a lot of strong connections with people I’ve gotten to intimately know and that is equally important in building a strong community, and having engaging streams.

There’s a lot of work offline, but I find it all incredibly engaging and rewarding.

MT: I can attest to the amount of work needed for engaging atmosphere to build a vibe for your community. What would you say is the best way to build a community in streaming? Do you think every streamer needs to have one (a name, a Discord/Guilded, a way to interact with the streamer off stream)? If so, why? If not, do you think a streamer can grow on any platform without a community?

hxl: I think it will be very difficult to be a streamer without a community. It truly takes a village to help build your platform. I think part of community building is having a platform outside of Twitch. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a Discord / Guilded server, but it should be something else viewers can engage / interact with you – like Twitter, for example. I think as long as you have other platforms to show all your human sides, not just your curated Twitch side, it gets people to want to get to know you. Once you pair that with fostering a great community where you engage with the viewers, you will start to see growth on your main platform. People love a creator who feels accessible. Without it, there’s a disconnect and it tends to show.

MT: I definitely agree. Switching gears for a bit, what’s the favorite horror movies/tv shows you’ve watched recently? Why those? What was particularly scary about those for you?

hxl: Does Squid Game count as a horror TV show!? I know it’s probably more of a psychological thriller type of survival show, but oh my goodness.

Netflix’s Squid Game

I was drawn to the show because I basically love anything Korean Horror-esque lol (big fan of Train to Busan and Old Boy) so I wanted to give it a try. The “dystopian” story rings so close to home as it pertains to folks struggling with debt, taking incredible risk to try to save their families. The scary part was how real the show felt – the pain was visceral. As someone who grew up poor with immigrant parents, I found myself asking if I would take that risk. To be honest with you, I probably would. That scares me.

Train to Busan | Next Entertainment World

MT: I’ve yet to see it but it sounds like I’d have the same emotional responses as you. That said, how important is the beauty industry to you, personally? As mentioned before you have a lash business. Has putting on makeup given you the confidence to go about your day or does it feel like a hassle some days?

hxl: I have such a duality issue with the beauty industry. In one way, I love the beauty industry, in that, it allows for so much artistry and expression. In another way, I hate the unfair standards that are popularized in the beauty industry and I also hate how costly the materials can be – it can be extremely inaccessible to some and I can probably rant for like 10 years about it honestly. To make a long explanation short, I think beauty can be a wonderful tool for artistry, but I dislike how toxic the industry can be when it comes to standards and practices.

Personally, the beauty industry is important to me because I went a long time doing zero art in my academics or otherwise. I was laughed at when I told my parents I wanted to go to beauty school growing up (instead of traditional college) – I was basically hit with the “lol we didn’t escape genocide so you can go to beauty school.” Beauty was always something I practiced by myself, alone, while dealing with a lot of unresolved trauma. I know how much joy beauty can bring and it’s important for me to be part of the industry because I don’t want people to be scared of beauty. I want people to reframe it as an art that sparks joy and not an exclusive club that can only be done by certain people who have certain products. I like showing everyone they can play around with makeup or skincare and feel beautiful.

Makeup used to give me confidence to go about my day, but the older I get, the more I use it just for creation. I value skincare a lot, and the days I don’t stream, I don’t wear makeup – my skin thanks me for that. Makeup can be a hassle if it feels like I don’t have the spoons for it, but more often than not, I end up enjoying it after I start doing it. Makeup is so self-soothing in so many ways.

MT: I can relate. The older I get, the more I have to maintain a skin care routine. I also don’t wear makeup when I don’t stream–my pores thank me! You have such wise words for us: What advice would you give to the aspiring streamers out there?

hxl: My advice:

  1. be yourself.
  2. think about your brand goals, then think about your brand personality. 
  3. don’t feel obligated to follow in other streamers’ footsteps – everyone’s growth is different because everyone brings something different to the table. (re: brand personality, what are you bringing to the table? important to think about). 
  4. create boundaries for yourself early – make realistic decisions on when/how often you can stream so you don’t force yourself to burn out. take breaks. TAKE BREAKS! I have Monday nights off the computer after 6pm. I am now so thankful for that time.
  5. embrace change – if something works better than what you originally planned, don’t be afraid to go with the flow. try new things!
  6. have FUN! if you find yourself resenting content creation, your viewers will feel it and that community will start to crumble. remind yourself you got into this because it’s enjoyable. if you are not enjoying yourself, time to reevaluate what you want to do.
Jess, the woman behind highxlash.
Jess, the woman behind highxlash.

MT: Jess, I want to thank you for wanting to be part of this event and agreeing to answer some questions about yourself and your brand!

highxlash is a variety streamer on Twitch who plays video games while also focusing on art, beauty, mental health, and political activism.

You can find Jess at any of her links below!

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