Advertisement

Franchesca Ramsey wants you to take beauty seriously

Franchesca Ramsey wants you to take beauty seriously
Franchesca Ramsey, the woman behind the Chescaleigh YouTube channel, will lead a project called "Franchesca" debuting in the inaugural Indie Episodic lineup at Sundance. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

When Franchesca Ramsey first logged onto YouTube in May 2006, she wasn’t quite sure what her “Chescaleigh” channel would become. After all, the video-sharing website was created just a year earlier.

“For me, YouTube was about creating content because I had an interest in beauty and comedy and wanted to find a way to mix those two things and I could do it from my home, own my own time,” she said.

Less than 10 years later, however, what started out as a hobby has now become a career. With two channels under her belt — “Chescaleigh” which is a comedy channel, and “Chescalocs,” which focuses on beauty, natural hair care and styling — Ramsey has a YouTube following of over 340,000 subscribers who’ve given her over 38.5 million views. Additionally, her Twitter follower base is well over 194,000, with an Instagram of over 118,000 followers.

All of this has helped catapult her from online vlogger and content creator to a writer and contributor for “The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore” on Comedy Central and host of the MTV News web series “Decoded.” It’s a realization that Ramsey finds “so funny.”

“There’s no way I could've ever known [my career] would be what it is now,” she said. “At the time, there was no full-time YouTuber and no one was getting TV deals or hopping into mainstream media from social media.”

Beauty is largely associated with women and, unfortunately, we live in a culture that often demeans the interests of women.

Franchesca Ramsey

But Ramsey is representative of a generation of creatives that have done just that — developed an entire career and community from social media. Her latest project, an eponymous comedic culture series unveiled at the Sundance Film Festival on Tuesday as part of the newly launched Indie Episodic program, is just another way to prove that all those hours online creating content continue to pay off.

Ahead of Sundance, The Times spoke with Ramsey about her style inspiration, the stigma around beauty and fashion and what she hopes audiences will take away from the series seeking distribution out of the festival.


At what point did you realize that what you were doing on YouTube could become an actual career?

I started doing videos in 2006 and had a full-time job up until 2012 when my video “[Stuff] White Girls Say to Black Girls” went viral. That was the first time I realized this as a real thing. I got my agent from that video. I got a manager and started getting opportunities to audition for shows and tour colleges. That was the moment where I realized this thing I was doing from my apartment was turning into a way to pay my bills and continue creating content that I love.

How did this project, “Franchesca,” come together?

I was on a panel a year and a half ago and a producer at Topic was there. We started having meetings and throwing ideas around. What’s interesting is that I started with beauty and haven’t really returned until now [with this show]. It’s a chance for me to go back to my roots and a cool opportunity to talk about beauty and culture in a way that we don't really get to see very often.

Franchesca Ramsey stopped by the L.A. Times Studio during the 2018 Sundance Film Festival to talk about her film and how her career has evolved.

Most people will know you for hosting or direct-to-camera work. How is this show different and what will audiences get to see in each episode?

In every episode, friends of mine from different media — comedians, actors, writers — join me to explore a different aspect of beauty. It’s partially scripted and loosely improvised. This is different [from what I’ve done in the past] because it's more slice-of-life. It’s loosely scripted in the sense that we might have some whimsical comedic bits that happen throughout the episode, but it's also really getting a chance to see me in my natural element. I’m excited for people to see me in that way but also be introduced to some of my friends that inspire me and are doing awesome things too.

Some might say beauty and fashion are trivial matters, compared to a lot of the work you’ve done commenting on racism or other social issues. How do you respond to that?

I think it's really unfortunate that people have that outlook, but it’s not surprising because beauty is largely associated with women and, unfortunately, we live in a culture that often demeans the interests of women. When men are interested in cars or sports no one says those are trivial.

I’m very much of the mind that if it’s not hurting you or someone else, I don’t see anything wrong with it. Beauty is really cool because it's something that can make you feel good about yourself. With this series, we shed light on some of the weird or interesting beauty myths so that we can understand where they come from, why people love it and get people thinking about beauty in a different way.

Franchesca
Franchesca Ramsey in a scene from her eponymous show debuting at Sundance. Courtesy of First Look Media/Topic

Let’s talk trends and beauty remedies. What your favorite natural hair secret?

Moisture. Our hair has a propensity to get dry, especially with these winter months. I always make sure to moisturize my hair. I love natural oils, coconut oil. Moisture is one thing you can never go wrong with.

And I love gold, so I’ve been adding little gold bits to my hair which is fun. It’s like dressy, but dressy caj.

What’s your self-care routine?

The biggest thing I try to do is to unplug and give myself time away from social media and the internet. One thing I’ve started doing in the new year is that when I go to bed, plugging my phone in away from my bed so I’m not tempted to look at it in the middle of the night. And giving myself time to decompress. Now, I try to give myself an hour before I go to bed to get a really good night’s rest. It really brightens up your day.

What’s a 2017 trend that you’d like to do away with?

I don't know if this was a trend but people were turning their eyebrows into Christmas trees for the holidays, which i thought was very very strange. I hope that in 2018 when December rolls around no one's trying to make Christmas eyebrows happen.

Is there a trend of years past you’d like to resurrect?

I think the cool thing about my generation and fashion and beauty right now is that we’re very much paying homage to lots of different decades. So, I don't think anything is really off the table in terms of style. But you can’t go wrong with cat eyeliner, which is like ’60s go-go.

Who’s your fashion and beauty inspiration?

Solange, obvi. I’m trying to drop her name in as many interviews as possible so that when her Google alerts go off, she’s like, “Who’s this girl that keeps talking about me?” [laughs] Her style is everything. She takes so many risks in color and patterns, and she mixes patterns. Her hair is always gorgeous. The styles she wears are so interesting and playful.

What’s the best way to deal with online trolls?

The saying, “Don’t feed the trolls,” is easier said than done, but not giving them attention is the best way to protect your mental health and keep from wasting your time and energy.

What advice do you have for people who want to be allies of various social movements?

Make sure you listen and be willing to admit when you're wrong and be willing to learn. You're never going to be perfect. Everyone makes mistakes because we’re human. But being open to being corrected and working to better yourself is the best and first thing everybody should be working toward.

Best vacation tip?

When you go on vacation, get your eyelashes done. It will change your life. You’ll always look great for the ‘Gram.

What do you hope people take away from the show?

I want them to understand that beauty is something that's personal and unique to everyone and that it can be a way to feel good about yourself. Just investing a little time into how you look and how you feel ... there is nothing trivial or frivolous about that. If people can have their eyes opened and try something different or understand an aspect of beauty in a different way, then I think the show has done a good job.

Support our journalism

Please consider subscribing today to support stories like this one. Get full access to our signature journalism for just 99 cents for the first four weeks. Already a subscriber? Your support makes our work possible. Thank you.

Advertisement
Advertisement