Little Leilani Green wanted to be an influencer before there was even a word for it. Her biggest skeptics were within her own household. “Since I was younger, I’d wanted to make videos and no one understood what I meant because it wasn’t a job,” she laughs. “I would just watch TV and be like, ‘I want to make videos of myself.’ And it was kind of a joke in my family. I begged for a laptop for Christmas and nobody would get it for me. I wanted to start making videos on my laptop. So to actually see it pay off is crazy. A lot of my family don’t really understand what I do, especially the older people, but they know it’s working.” Times have certainly changed. With nearly eight million TikTok followers, Leilani has become one of the most prominent figures in the beauty world. “Social media has been my entire life. I started not knowing that I could make a career or money out of it. It went from being what I do for fun to a full-time job and I support my entire family with it, and it lets my craft be shown to millions of people. It’s basically taking your favorite activity and making money and supporting everyone you love with that money.”
She loves nothing more than chatting with her fans. No carefully cultivated influencer facade here. “I would describe it as a big sister, little sister type of vibe. I talk to my audience as if they’re my best friend on FaceTime and I like to say everything. There’s a lot of creators who put a different face on just because it’s their job, but I like to be intimate and talk about anything and everything that you would talk about with your bigger sister to my audience. They gain trust. They trust what you say and it’s super vulnerable. I feel like that’s a special way to have a connection with your audience.” She knows firsthand the extent to which that adoring idolization can shape others for the better. “It’s an indescribable feeling, because I already am an older sister to my little sister and I can see how much I affect her, and I want to be that to other people. This obviously gives me a gateway to do that. It feels amazing that girls can look at me and be like, ‘Oh wow, I look like her and I can do what she does while having a good attitude and not being that typical model who’s straight-faced with no personality.’ I love being that example.”
While some view makeup as an obligation to conform to social pressures or beauty standards, Leilani utilizes cosmetics as a window into her emotions. “There’s a lot of controversy about makeup,” she concedes. “I’ve gotten so many comments saying, ‘You look way better without makeup on,’ but I don’t put makeup on to look better. I put it on because I feel like myself when I have it on, because I can make my face the way I want to look that day. If I want to have a deep look, I’m feeling more daring that day. Or if I want to have a fresh, happy look, I can match myself with the way I feel. And I don’t think it’s making me look better or anything, but when I put makeup on, it feels like that’s my real self. Whether it’s a deep makeup look or a fresh dewy one, I feel like myself because I could create whatever I want to create with that look.” It’s a boldness that she first embraced as a preteen. That confidence has served her well as a content creator. “Ever since I was in middle school, when my mom let me wear makeup (thankfully, because it led to where I am today), I would go to school with a bright red lip and smeared on eyeliner and super bright red cheeks. My teachers would say things to my mom and I would just get a lot of stares because it didn’t look good. But I was used to not caring. I knew when I went to school, I’d be the only one in that entire school with red, bright lipstick on, but for some reason, I always loved it. I always loved being the one that just didn’t care because there’s no way you’re going to look at someone and be like, ‘Oh, that’s embarrassing.’ You look at them and think, ‘They actually did that knowing that they look crazy, but they are willingly standing out.’ I’m very quiet, but I will show up with a huge beat face and still be quiet, just with a statement piece. With that attitude, I feel like that’s what helped me be able to say and do whatever comfortably on camera.”
Anyone can celebrate themselves by playing with beauty. “I feel like you can always express your true self by either creating a trend or just with makeup. You can express whatever you want. If you’re a bright person and you want to express that, you can. It’s like a blank canvas and you can do whatever you want to it. When I put makeup on, I feel like my true self because I express myself when I do my face. It’s really an open book. You can do whatever you want with the tools and the products of makeup. It’s like therapy. It’s like journaling everything and then you look different at the end, so it’s cool too.” To those who might be grappling with dreams vs. expectations, never be afraid to be you and pursue what brings you joy. “It’s so easy to be scared or worry about what other people think. But what I’ve noticed since doing what I do is that those are the only people that stand out, the ones that don’t just go with the crowd and do the same thing as everybody else. I went to the gym in a full beat drag face one time after I filmed a video because it took three hours to do. I went to the gym, tied my hair back, and worked out. So many people came up to me saying, ‘It’s so crazy to just see someone like you show up. It brightened my day.’ And if I wasn’t like that and didn’t have that mentality not to care and just make my own path, I would not do what I’m doing. I would not be succeeding in making money in the makeup industry. I would just be like everybody else. So doing what you truly want to do and not considering what other people think can change your life.” A simple mindset shift will transform your reality in ways you never imagined.