Kyle De Thier got his first makeup when he was 12 or 13 years old. He swiped a stick of pink lippy and some mascara from his aunty, and promptly posted a review of the pink lipstick on his youtube channel. He also posted a video about his makeup collection – a glasses box with the pink lipstick, the mascara and a paint brush in it. And so it all began..
Before the pink lippy Kyle had been into nails “every mum has some nail polish right?” In the early days his mum would give him grief for spending all of his Warehouse vouchers on makeup,
“Sorry mum, but look where it’s got me.”
Where has it got Kyle De Thier you may well ask? Well, if you are within the 15% of his social media following that is Gisborne-based, you may well know that Kyle De Thier is one and same as social media influencer Kylee Fleek. You Tube 4.51k followers. Instagram 12.6k followers. Kylee Fleek is famous around the world for his flair in creative makeup artistry, for informative, wild, fun and funny videos.
While make up didn’t come onto the scene for Kyle until four or so years ago, his YouTube channel has been around since he was 11 when he used to play Minecraft for his viewers. He also posted vlogs - such as how to make a green screen, and choreographies of himself in front of the green screens he’d constructed.
It’s probably no surprise then that 17 year old Kyle is totally comfortable in front of a camera, “I’ve always been myself, from the start until now, I don’t think I’ve changed. I just put the camera on and start talking”. For those of us camera-shy types Kyle advises
“You just talk to it like it’s a person, it’s a bit weird but it is a person - it’s a whole lot of people actually, in one little device.”
I’m not sure that makes me feel any more confident Kyle, but that’s something for us all to keep in mind now that we’re going to be using video conferencing technology a whole lot more!
But while Kyle describes his social media style as really loud and confident, he admits that at school he’d rather keep to himself “I barely talk at school. Anywhere out of school though I’m just like I am on my social media, if not even more crazy”. Kyle’s Insta and Youtube channels provide his main sources of income, but he’s in it because he enjoys it and because the idea of being a role model appeals, “I’ve watched other people with their Youtube channels, and the idea that a young Maori boy from Gisborne, New Zealand can make it” is a huge motivation for him to use his voice. So what does Kyle have to say to other young people from Gisborne?
“No matter what restrictions you have in your life, you have to work for [what you want] and, it’s important to have role models”.
Kyle’s role models are his mum, who is a “splitting image of me and is really strong. She’s always supported me, and now more than ever”. She was a bit unsure of a 10 year old having his own hot pink lipstick when he was at intermediate, but that wasn’t because he was a boy,
“It’s not that appropriate for any young kid to be wearing hot pink lipstick!”
American makeup artist, entrepreneur, singer-songwriter, DJ, beauty YouTuber, model, Internet celebrity and founder of Jeffree Star Cosmetics is another person that Kyle looks up to - Now one of the biggest makeup brands in the world, he came from nothing, was “pretty much homeless” before launching his brand.
Are Gisborne people likely to recognise Kyle if they pass him on the street (once we’re out the other side of Lock Down)? While Kyle never goes anywhere without "his eyebrows", you’re unlikely to see Kyle sporting the incredible make up he does online, unless there’s an event of some kind.
When Kyle isn’t filming or furnishing his career in make up artistry, he’s a quiet force in our local rainbow community. His peers who have known him for a long or a short time, say how he has just always been himself, quietly confident.
It is surely this quiet confidence that draws in Kyle’s followers and friends alike, beyond the gorgeous giggle and the language that sometimes matches the extavagant hues of his makeup, Kyle has a measure of self-belief and determination we could all do with a dose of, particularly in these uncertain times.
Words by Sarah Cleave
Images X Uniquelytink Photography