With the red carpet largely on pause, celebrity makeup artist Daniel Martin is spending more time on Instagram, where he has more than 135,000 followers.
But Martin, best known as Meghan Markle’s wedding makeup artist, is also experimenting with something more raw and intimate. He’s one of the first to join a new livestream platform, Newness, a Twitch variant designed specifically for makeup and skincare obsessives.
“Newness picks up where IG live drops off,” Martin said. “You have this instant connection with these people, and I just got sucked into it.”
In February, Martin started hosting a weekly chat show on the platform, “Dishin’ with Daniel.” A recent conversation with aesthetician Joanna Vargas covered everything from the merits of eye cream (Vargas does not use) and the latest facial trends (micro-needles and radiofrequency), with questions prompted by the mostly Gen-Z audience.
“You have that connection, that QVC connection, but it’s a bit more raw,” Martin said. “And I think that’s what makes it cooler.”
It’s a platform created for today’s beauty world, which has expanded beyond the sale of serums and mascaras to become more personal. From Into the Gloss’s famous “Top Shelf” series to skincare routine reactions from influencers like Hyram, articles and videos of people’s skincare and makeup habits are everywhere online. The daily skincare routine has become a new genre of entertainment, fuelled by the self-care boom and popularised by influencers-turned-celebrities who use their regimens as a way to project a vulnerability that viewers crave online.
Newness was born out of this shift. Co-founders Jenny Qian and Youri Park met at Twitch; the former worked on the business strategy and the latter was an engineer. Both were both beauty obsessives, and closely followed influencers online. Two years ago, they began acting on a need they saw for a dedicated place for beauty influencers and fanatics, one that could avoid the headline-generating drama and harsh comment culture of existing platforms. For a more unvarnished approach, they built it around live streaming video, by its by nature unedited and often off-the-cuff.
Newness went live a year ago, and has raised $3.5 million in funding led by Sequoia with participation by Cowboy Ventures, Upside Partnership, Dream Machine and Index Ventures, and has been quietly building its foundational programming.
Streamers include Allure editor-in-chief Michelle Lee, beauty website Very Good Light editor David Yi and makeup artist Nam Vo, who is selling tickets to a “masterclass” livestream on how to achieve her signature “Dewy Dumpling” look on Newness next month. (VIP tickets, at $400 each, are already sold out.)
The company declined to share how many users it has attracted so far, but it is still in its early stages and countes less than 3,000 followers on Instagram. Web analytics firm SimilarWeb reported the site attracted 6,000 visitors in December and 7,000 in January.
“We’re seeing people, from renowned makeup artists or renowned estheticians to influencers ... that just really want to connect with their community on a deeper level, and in a much more interactive way than what we typically see on a live streaming platform,” said Qian, adding that 66 percent of viewers participate in chats.
Newness’ lineup of “creators” like former K-pop star turned cosmetics chemist Paul Baek and blogger Alex Ayaub, have to apply to join, said Qian, to ensure the community remains free from drama-starting Jeffree Star types.
It’s not about pushing sales, it’s not about showing off, it’s just being real.
“It’s not about pushing sales, it’s not about showing off, it’s just being real,” said Qian. “You’re, in some ways, co-creating that content with the creator, so there’s an element of unexpectedness.”
To squash negativity, Newness is tracking the videos, chats and direct messages for bad behaviour. Each stream has a moderator participating — sometimes a staff member, others a passionate user — who has the power to ban viewers. These moderators also serve as stewards, inviting the viewers to engage and prompting creators with questions to keep the conversation flowing. Newness even has its own currency, called crystals, that reward positive behaviour and engagement.
The result, said Sequoia Capital partner and investor Jess Lee, is an unusually intimate and supportive platform.
“It’s not the kind of stuff you normally see in the beauty community on other platforms, where it’s much more about looking your best,” she said. “It’s so much more interactive.”
Lee, who was previously the CEO of another social platform with a dedicated user base, Polyvore, calls she’s seeing “the special lightning in a bottle that you get when communities are forming.”
Newness is focused on keeping the creators who stream there happy, with much of its business model focused on helping them generate revenue and, in the future, plans to take a cut of those proceeds. Users can donate to their favourite influencers, as is already common on other platforms, or buy tickets to their streaming sessions, like Nam Vo’s upcoming class. (The talent sets its own ticket prices.) Users can also shop through Newness, with some creators already planning to launch products there, Qian said.
Qian also said she is expecting beauty brands to get involved, and hopes to announce initial participants soon. She already sees brands using private livestreams to gather product feedback, inviting loyal customers to share their opinions and be rewarded with free products or other perks.
The first priority is for Qian and the Newness team is fostering a “sticky” community and keeping the moderation going as it grows so that more influential creators get involved — and ask their thousands of users on other apps to follow along.
In the long term, Newness has big ambitions, with hopes to create appointment-viewing video series and eventually become the digital destination for behind-the-scenes content of real-life events, like major celebrity red carpets. Qian also sees possibilities to extend beyond beauty to fashion and other lifestyle themes.
“Once you get a really active community of people who are creating content, a bunch of really sticky viewers, which is starting to happen, there’s so many possibilities,” said Lee.
Disclosure: Index Ventures is part of a consortium of investors which has a minority stake in The Business of Fashion.