The life of a beauty vlogger is unfeasibly chaotic. If you’ve “made it” in the influencer community, your life is littered with endless amounts of gifted makeup, never-ending trails of publicly aired out drama with your fellow YouTubers (yes, even the ones you consider your best friends), and fans flocking in hoards wherever you go. A lifestyle like this could genuinely tear someone down, or turn them into a superficial caricature of themselves that social media wants to see. Manny Gutierrez, however, is just trying to live his life.
Gutierrez—aptly known as Manny MUA—is one of the biggest names in the beauty industry. In a world that’s catered to women and women only for so long, LGBTQ+ men like Gutierrez have worked to make the industry a level playing field, allowing the wonderful world of beauty to be a man’s game, too. Gone are the days where men have to be drag queens or go to a lucrative cosmetology school to be granted permission to wear makeup—now, all they need is an iPhone camera.
“When I started on YouTube and Instagram—I started, like, five or six years ago—I never really knew people to make a living off of YouTube or social media,” Gutierrez tells COOLS. “I did it because I felt like what I look like was under represented in social media and in the beauty scene. You know there’s not a lot of men doing it, and we got criticized so much back in the day. I never expected it to be to where it is now because I never started with the idea of, ‘Oh I’m gonna make a career and make money off of this.’ For me, I just started out a passion and it turned into something that’s more.”
His rise to Insta-stardom, however, was not that simple. Gutierrez didn’t go to cosmetology school and was gearing up to go to medical school before he found his passion project in beauty. “For me, I loved health sciences, I loved the health aspects of everything,” Gutierrez says. “I had this really big passion for beauty, so I started working at Sephora and I started realizing how much I liked it. I was like, ‘Wait, this is actually really, really fun,’ and I loved making up people and I loved working in the beauty world. I started realizing that what my desire was what to really fulfill what I felt as a passion, not what I thought I had to do for work.”
From then on, Gutierrez fought to prove that yes, a man can pick up a highlighter brush. But, that trail from novice to mogul wasn’t an easy one, especially during a time when social tension and hostility towards the LGBTQ+ community has been on the rise.
“At the beginning it was tough because I feel like the brands took it more as a fad,” he says. “Like it wasn’t something that was going to stay… They treated it like a cute little ‘boom’ moment, ready to come and go. It was like, ‘Oh well, yeah Manny is doing well but it’s not like he’s going to stay doing well. It’s not a permanent thing.’ You know, right in the beginning it was very hard for brands to take us seriously and it was very hard to get opportunities. I was missing out on opportunities that girls were getting, and I’d be like, ‘Dude what the heck? Why am I not being able to do this?’ And it would simply be because I’m a boy.”
He continues: “From that going to now, when there are so many male beauty stars and gurus… not just in the states, but internationally. Honestly, the biggest beauty influencers out there at the moment are males. So it is really, really nice to see how much it has shifted because back in the day it was not like this. It was a lot harder to, I feel like necessarily make it.”
Indeed, some of the biggest stars in beauty are in fact, men: James Charles, Jeffree Star, Patrick Starrr, and many others are not just professionally doing and reviewing makeup, but thriving as the industry’s biggest leaders. But, with this psychotic amount of success, controversy is bound to tag along for the ride. Just about every major name in the beauty industry—both male and female—have gotten tied into a few controversial subjects every now and then. Yes, that includes Gutierrez as well, but he’s since grown far past that.
“Internally I feel like I’ve changed,” he says. “I feel like I’ve grown up, and I feel like I’ve learned to be my true self. When I started … I’ve always been me, but I feel like now the audience that I have, I feel like a sense of responsibility to them. I want to be the best version of myself that I possibly can. I always put my best foot forward. I try to be the best person I can be for my audience because I want to be someone that people can trust. These kids, they look up to me. I want to be someone that is worthy of them looking up to. I really want to be a good, positive role model for these kids. I feel like now that I’ve gotten older that I have to accept the responsibility and want to be this person that helps his community.”
Unlike the others who let their pitfalls become the demise of their career, Gutierrez reinvented himself and came back a better, stronger, and more powerful force. Not only does he have over a whopping 10 million followers on all of his social media combined, but he’s also the brains behind Lunar Beauty, which is now sold at his alma mater, Sephora. While just about every single beauty guru has launched their own brand or product collaboration, Gutierrez has found nearly unfeasible amounts of success from Lunar Beauty alone. Not only is it a popular collection, but it actually works—a surprisingly hard concept for other celebrities with beauty brands to fathom.
“The reason why I wanted to create a makeup line is because I wanted to create something that I didn’t really weed out of the makeup world,” Gutierrez says. “Of course I had seen makeup brands out there are, obviously. I just felt I had a different kind of flare, a different kind look to what I wanted for a brand. And for me, it’s like I do makeup for a living. I know a lot about it, and I wanted to create products that were going to be the absolute best that I could possibly create or to the everyday person. It’s not like I’m this big ego who just wants money from all these consumers who know nothing about makeup. I’m really invested, I love makeup, and that is my passion.”
He adds: “I’ve launched this brand a little over a year now, and it’s really just crazy because it’s a very big full circle moment for me. I started working in Sephora, that’s how my makeup journey in this industry started. For now, six years later to not only have my own brand, but for my brand to be sold in Sephora is really just insane to me. I just can’t even, it almost feels surreal like it’s not really happening.”
But, the real kicker is that with all of this success, Gutierrez is actually a nice guy, which isn’t so easy to find in the superficial world that is Los Angeles’s “in” crowd. Even through a 20-minute phone-call, he found a way to illuminate a form of ingenuity that many others try to fake, but never fully execute: his voice has a heart-felt tone when he talks about his parents, and he expresses how “forever grateful” he is for the few true friends he has in his life—most notably fellow beauty guru starlet and trans activist, Nikita Dragun.
“She’s another artist that I think is completely breaking barriers and doing her thing and you know living her authentic self,” he says. “It’s really cool to see that, and I’m really proud of her. I think she’s absolutely amazing and it’s really amazing to see someone else in the LGBTQ+ community making it and thriving, all while living their true self.”
In a world where Instagram and Twitter have allow us to create FaceTuned avatars of ourselves, it’s refreshing to come across a human that actually acts, well, human.
“No one wants to see a façade,” he says. “Everyone wants to see the real you, down to earth, chill as fuck. Everyone wants to see your full moment. Luckily for me, it’s a gift to have always been like that. I’ve never really put on this façade. How I’m acting online is how I’m acting in real life, it’s the same person. I just really, really love being out there.”