Laura Lee has had just about every job under the sun. At 16, she was serving cheeseburgers at a restaurant called Cheeseburger Cheeseburger. She then worked at a pet store, a daycare, a wine store, Dick’s Sporting Goods, at a dermatologist’s office—you name it, she probably worked there. “I actually had a ton of jobs,” the 33-year-old beauty and lifestyle influencer told me. “I think I quit my job like every year trying to figure out what I wanted to do.” Like many content creators, Lee felt pressure to go to college too. “I was under the impression that in order for me to have a really successful life, I needed that college degree. I didn't really feel like I'd be able to do anything without it.” So, for about three years, she was juggling working full-time as a medical assistant and going to college at night for marketing—but eventually, she dropped out. And Lee didn’t know it at the time, but it was the best decision she could have made.
Lee stumbled across YouTube by accident. One of her family members was showing her how to hook the computer up to the TV, when he randomly clicked on a Kandee Johnson YouTube video (she is one of the original beauty gurus on the platform). “When I saw it, I literally ran to my room, stole my mom's laptop and was like, ‘Who was that?’” recalls the Montgomery, Alabama, native. “From that moment, I knew that's exactly what I wanted to do. Like my heart just skipped a beat. I didn't have a computer, I didn't have any money and I didn't have a camera—and people did not have iPhones back then.” Lee spent every penny on a refurbished camcorder from eBay and would borrow her mom’s laptop on the weekends. “My very first video is still up on my channel,” says Lee. “It was over nine years ago—a contour and highlight video. It's so bad and cringy. I thought I was Kim Kardashian. I literally had no idea how to do it. It’s just so people can see how far I've come.”
Fast forward to today, and her contour skills have been perfected. Lee is still juggling a lot of jobs (but this time, they’re all jobs she loves). If she’s not filming challenges and Amazon must-have videos for her 4.58M subscribers on her main channel or vlogging her adventures with her husband, Tyler, and niece, Eryn (who she adopted in 2019), on her vlog channel, then she’s probably recording an episode of her über-popular podcast, Fool Coverage, with fellow beauty guru Manny MUA. Oh, and how could we forget two of the biggest jobs of all: overseeing her businesses, Laura Lee Los Angeles, a vegan and cruelty-free cosmetics line (pictured below), and Nudie Patootie, a curated clothing boutique (which is going through a big rebrand).
Lee quickly learned that being a content creator and running your own business are very different. “Owning your own business is harder than what it seems,” she says. “You have to put trust in other people in order to have a successful business because you absolutely can't do everything yourself. That's been one of the things that I struggle with the most [delegating]. It’s scary to give that control over, but it's the biggest blessing ever.”
And now that she’s in her 30s, she has gained not only business experience but personal experience too from her 20s. “I'm so much happier and more aware now. In my 20s, I was so confused by everything and never knew if I was doing the right thing or the wrong thing. I just didn't know what to do. Your priorities change, you care less about what people think in your 30s.”
The same goes for dealing with trolls on the internet. Sure, Lee still gets hate comments, as does anyone else brave enough to put their life online, but after almost a decade as a content creator, the only way to survive is to not care. “Hate comments are the biggest possible waste of your time on this earth,” says Lee. “I don't know this person and clearly this person doesn't know me or they wouldn't have said that.” Amen.
No matter what social media platform she posts on or what new business she dreams up, Lee will always be a YouTuber at heart. “It's a huge part of my life. It’s also been one of the most challenging things that I've ever done, and it's helped me grow as a person. I've grown so much from it. It’s helped me discover what I’m made of and how hard I can work at something and how passionate I can be.”
Who are you inspired by?
“This one may seem a little random, but for me, I’m inspired by Mr. Beast. If you don’t know who he is, he is the biggest YouTuber on the planet [editor’s note: 94.7M subscribers and counting]. He does a lot of philanthropy work. He’s a really cool guy. I look up a lot of his interviews and try to do what he did. He inspires me a lot.”
How do you unplug from work?
“Unless it’s a hair wash day, I always take a hot bath, and I either watch Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (those are my girls) or I read a book. Right now, I’m reading Jen Sincero’s third book, Badass Habits.”
How many unread emails do you have right now?
“32 (which is good for me). Me, my husband, my business partners and my employees all work out of this email. I probably check it 30 times a day like text messages.”
What do you look for in an employee?
“Initiative is key. If you hire someone with initiative, they're gonna go above and beyond. I'm always looking for people that have initiative. There are so many people who want a job just to have a job, but I'm looking for people that have initiative to do more, and they want more.”
Best piece of advice?
“‘If you believe it about yourself it’s true,’ whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. If you believe you're the smartest person ever, you're probably really smart. If you believe you can't do something, you probably can't do it. So, it's important to believe good shit about yourself!”
Worst piece of advice?
“The worst advice would be from all the people who tell me to get a real career, find a real job because being on YouTube is never going to last. People would tell me all the time like, ‘Girl! What are you doing? You gotta go back to college.’ I think it was a protective thing, but you just have to let people take a risk.”