NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- In the summer of 2007, Lauren Luke was an unknown and unassuming young single mother from Northeast England selling makeup on eBay, just getting by. Fast-forward 18 months: The 27-year-old pens a beauty column for The Guardian, has a global cosmetics line slated to launch April 27 and is a star on YouTube.
Ms. Luke embodies the self-made, skyrocketing potential of user-generated content. She started her climb to fame by posting pictures of herself wearing the makeup she was trying to sell. Viewers were eager for help, advice and practical guidance. So she ventured onto YouTube, uploading short, unedited makeup tutorials and gaining a global following as user Panacea81 -- despite the fact that she'd never had any formal training as a makeup artist.
That's when Anomaly partner Duncan Bird stepped in.
Mr. Bird was working on a beauty project for the agency last February when he stumbled upon Ms. Luke's YouTube videos. He was impressed by her friendly and down-to-earth personality and that she had 100,000 views on some videos. Every time he went back to visit, he said, Ms. Luke seemed to have attracted 100,000 more.
"There was something about Lauren that struck me as so authentic, so unusual and so interesting," Mr. Bird said.
Indeed, it's hard not to like Ms. Luke. She begins each video with a bubbly "Hiya, everyone" in her thick accent, and goes about applying her makeup without pretense -- fumbling around for makeup brushes, complaining about pimples on her skin or talking over her dogs snoring in the background.
Mr. Bird contacted Ms. Luke via Facebook, and six minutes later, he joked, she responded. Now, 11 months later, Mr. Bird has become Ms. Luke's "manager," and the debut of her cosmetics line, By Lauren Luke, is imminent. Ms. Luke has more than 5 million views on her branded YouTube channel, and her most popular video alone has reached nearly 2.5 million views. She has won over fans with her use of vibrant color and by recreating celebrities' coveted makeup looks.
For her line, Ms. Luke partnered with Anomaly and Zorbit Resources, a manufacturing, branding and design company for the beauty and cosmetic industry that has worked with Estée Lauder, Nars and L'Oréal. Ms. Luke, Anomaly and Zorbit all own stakes in the company, though Mr. Bird declined to share specifics.
While Anomaly is hard to define ("Our name is our positioning," Mr. Bird said), it has embarked on this type of relationship before, particularly with widely acclaimed chef Eric Ripert. Anomaly reportedly owns one-third of the Eric Ripert brand.
Book deal in works
Many of Ms. Luke's fans hail from North America, Mr. Bird said. By Lauren Luke will launch in North America and Europe with five eye-color kits; it plans to expand the line thereafter. Each kit has eight eye colors and a playful yet straightforward name such as "My Fierce Violets," "My Sultry Blues" or "My Vintage Glams."
Mr. Bird said the products will be "marginally better" than Mac Cosmetics' but sold at a 40% to 50% discount. He declined to name prices or retail locations.
Because Ms. Luke is such a YouTube sensation, Mr. Bird said, By Lauren Luke won't need a traditional media campaign. It has to help that she just signed a global book deal with U.K.-based publisher Hodder & Stoughton.
"What we're trying to do is make sure that everything we do is true to what Lauren is about," he said. "I'm very passionate that Lauren stays true to her own self-image."
Ms. Luke was unavailable to speak for this article but has continued to reach out to the masses on her website, bylaurenluke.com, and branded YouTube channel, as well as on Twitter.
Judging by her website, she can't wait until April 27: "My new makeup line is nearly here. I'm over the moon! I've picked the colors and names and cannot wait to show you everything. Soon, I promise!"