When Lauren Luke sat in her bedroom in South Shields and uploaded her first makeup tutorial, she didn't expect anyone to watch it. But as she uploaded more and more videos under the username Panacea81, the views kept rolling in, until the count had reached 100 million (it was 134,495,850 at the time of writing this article). From providing step-by-step tutorials for achieving celebrity looks to getting creative with her own stash of products, the 32-year-old's infectious laugh and bubbly personality won the hearts of viewers around the world. Lauren now has her own line of makeup and brushes, has toured America and is back in South Shields where it all began. We caught up with her as part of her involvement in NE1's Newcastle Fashion Week, where she gave a guest presentation as NE1's headline speaker during the nine-day, city-wide fashion event
Have you always been so passionate about makeup?
Not always. It started in my teenage years. I was always called ugly – boys never looked twice and girls used to pick on me. I stood out like a sore thumb. I started putting makeup on and because I'm quite arty, I really enjoyed it. I found it so therapeutic to sit in a room and play with colours.
How did you first have the idea to put your videos on YouTube?
I had an eBay store selling makeup, and I used to love feedback more than anything else. I loved making people happy. I started selling eyeshadows on there, but instead of showing the usual boring photos of just a plain pot, I posted photos of makeup looks I'd created with them. It made the products really stand out, and loads of people asked me how I did it. That's how I came up with the idea to put a video link in the eBay listing so people could see how I'd achieved the looks.
And were you ever nervous or apprehensive about posting videos of yourself?
In the first one I didn't even speak. It was quite robotic because I wasn't really sure what I was doing, but people kept asking for more videos.
Why did you choose the name Panacea?
That's what my boyfriend calls me – a cure for all. I love the name and have always said that if I had a daughter, I'd call her that.
What was it like when you first started getting attention? Did you expect it to take off like that?
Not at all. It was a total shock – I didn't think anyone would be watching. The audience on YouTube was far bigger than I realised, and as they kept sending in requests for certain looks, I started uploading more and more videos. The views just kept flying in.
The Leona Lewis video was a big turning point as it generated millions of views (nearly four million, in fact). How did it feel to suddenly be the centre of attention?
It was quite scary, especially coming from a school background of not being liked and not having friends. But I found that everyone was commenting in a really lovely way. It felt like they were talking about someone else – it took a long time for it to sink in that I am actually a worthwhile person.
What was it like to receive the phone call offering you the chance to go to New York and create your own makeup line?
To be honest, I don't think anything went through my head! It all happened so quickly. Everyone was asking me how I felt, but I was still numb with shock. You don't get time to yourself to think until it's over. Once you've settled down a bit you look back on it all and think, 'Wow.' I love looking at all the press cuttings, which I'm so glad I kept as I couldn't remember everything I did, because at the time I was nervous and in a state of disbelief. You can't get a grasp on it until it's over.
You've been touring America and spending a lot of time in London. How does working in the North East compare?
While there are real perks to being in America, there's something special about being back in South Shields. I have a real fondness for the area and I don't think anywhere could replace it. It just feels like home. I feel so happy and settled here.
Coming from a small place like South Shields, how did you find New York?
It's just like it is on the telly! It's so beautiful. I felt very safe there, for some reason. And you can't get lost because it's laid out in blocks – we used to walk the whole length of the island just for fun. There's a very special feel about it, especially at night when all the lights come on. It's so packed with people and culture and feelings. It's absolutely unique.
What's next for you? Where do you hope to be in a year's time?
Currently the makeup brushes are sold out, which is absolutely amazing. To think there are so many people out there using my makeup brushes is crazy. That will be really fun to continue working on and developing new designs. I just love it. Another thing to focus on again is YouTube, as I've been working so hard I started to neglect my channel a bit.
Are there any negative aspects that come with putting yourself out there on the internet?
For a while I wasn't telling my viewers about what I was doing because I let the negative comments get to me, but now that I've gone back everyone has been so welcoming. I'm just taking it easy and letting them into my life rather than taking all the bad comments to heart. At first it really hurts to read them, but when you think about it, these people don't know you personally. They're just sitting at home like a troll, acting out of boredom because they don't have a life of their own. You can't let their words sit and rot inside you. Now, if I can be bothered, I just reply and say, 'Thank you for the view, you've just paid me.' That really winds them up.
What's the best thing about having a job you're so passionate about?
The fact I'm so passionate about it! It doesn't feel like work. I eat, sleep and live it. I love makeup, I love colour and I love sitting quietly with a cup of coffee and just people watching. I could do that all day long. I look at a person and think, 'Right, you'd suit these colours and this outfit.' I feel like it comes naturally to me.
What message do you have for other young people in the North East who are maybe struggling in school, but have a dream they want to follow?
Sometimes we have these dreams but because they aren't instant money makers, people around us tell us to forget about them and do something 'proper'. You end up putting your dreams on the back burner. But I've found that if you don't think about the money and you just follow what you love, it all falls into place. If you love it, you'll sell it without even realising. When I'm giving talks and presentations, I really love encouraging audiences. I want to show them that it doesn't matter how little you know, you can still make something of yourself. I want to inspire people to share their ideas and make them a reality.
Lauren's Top Tips for Summer
1 Lilacs, lavenders and dark vampy purple tones are really hot right now. If you're afraid of making your eyes look drawn when using darker shades, opt for a soft pastel lilac or lavender eye shadow, or possibly even a purple-toned lipstick.
2 Blue eyeshadow can be scary, but not this season. If you're a little wary of an all-over colour, pop blue on your eyelid then opt for a sharp electric blue eye liner, or tone it down with an all-over powder blue. Use lipsticks with a blue undertone if the blue eye idea is too much for an instant whiter-looking smile.
3 Nails have always been fun to do with so many colours, textures, effects and finishes on the market. Good old pastel shades are hugely in this season, so if you're not confident using bright makeup, go for bright nails. Choose anything from pastel blue or lilac to neon orange and yellow. Another gorgeous colour this season is pink – I'm wearing Covent Garden Place by Nails Inc and it's bang on trend.
4 Colour in the hair is very popular at the moment, so if you're feeling ultra confident add a touch of colour to your tips. Purple shades are all the rage.
5 Balayage is still a hot trend and lots of people are opting for this over ombre. Ask your hairdresser to show you how best to wear this trend. I'm dark on top with golden highlights throughout and a heavier amount of gold on the tips. It looks gorgeous and because it looks just like the sun caught my hair.
6 Sleek hair is a hard one without making it look greasy, but my advice would be to texture it and make it look deliberate by spraying the roots and slicking back, but keep a dishevelled pony tail.
7 Romantic braids and dishevelled up-dos are very in, so get creative and make it look like you've effortlessly piled your locks on top in a hurry. This look is great with highlighted hair to pick up on the ribbons of colours throughout.
8 Florals are huge this year – you can wear them from top to toe. Why not dip your toes in first with a floral cami under a white blazer, or pick a floral flowing skirt and mix it with a pastel-coloured top. Black goes with pretty much everything, especially floral, so have fun with it.
9 If you like high heels but hate how they hurt, opt for platform sandals that go with pretty much any outfit. My favourites are white, and they even have rubber soles so there's plenty of grip if you are in a rush.
10 Sun factor! It's so important. The sun is here and we're all excited, so we dash out and sit in it for hours hoping for that healthy glow. But it is so important to get the right factor for our skin to protect it from harmful UV rays. I love using tinted moisturiser with sun factors so I can look nice whilst getting that glow safely.
Lauren Luke www.laurenluke.com
YouTube: Panacea81 Twitter: @Panacea81