- Alisha Marie McDonal and Remi Cruz are the voices of “Pretty Basic,” a podcast and accompanying YouTube channel that covers fashion, beauty, home, pop culture, mental health, and more. But mostly, it’s a weekly catch-up between best friends.
- McDonal and Cruz are two of YouTube’s most popular lifestyle vloggers, with millions of subscribers on the platform – 8 million and 2.5 million, respectively. Both have large followings on Instagram, as well.
- While practicing social distancing, the pair have been recording from their respective homes (and, in McDonal’s case, from her closet).
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
It’s a weird time to be an influencer. Alisha Marie McDonal and Remi Cruz – the Los Angeles-based YouTubers and BFFs behind the weekly podcast “Pretty Basic” – didn’t try to sugarcoat how much they’re struggling when Insider caught up with the lifestyle vlogging legends this week. Their commitment to keeping it real is one of the many reasons the pair have managed to build (and more impressively, hang onto) such a large and loyal following.
But lately, they have had to keep it even more candid than usual, as they work to overcome the logistical hurdles of socially distant content creation. McDonal, for example, has been recording the podcast from her closet. Cruz, who moved into a new home in mid-March, has been using throw blankets as a makeshift substitute for soundproofing.
“With first moving in, I just had to kinda move to whatever room had the most furniture to absorb sound,” Cruz said. “And I would just throw blankets all over the floor with, like, boxes all around and hope that it wouldn’t be echo-y. But now I’ve moved up to my office, now that it’s finally done.”
McDonal happens to be self-isolating with her editor and production coordinator, so she’s mostly been able to continue uploading as usual. And, in some ways, the circumstances have led McDonal to experiment with her channel. After Coachella was postponed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, McDonal’s fans still wanted to see her annual Coachella lookbook and vlog, for which she’d been collecting clothing and accessories since January. Instead, she modelled the outfits in her backyard, posing poolside to hilariously mimic the kind of Instagrammable moment she’d normally be having in the desert at, say, a Revolve brand activation.
“Even that Coachella video, the whole week before, while I was filming it, I kept thinking, like, is this like a bad video to do?” McDonal said. “Like, is it insensitive? Am I going to offend anyone? But then, you know, I think every creator is just trying to find their own new normal, whether it’s, you know, do you upload a video for entertainment so people can escape? Or do you upload content to help people during this time?”
“I think we’ve actually found a good balance…” she continued. “But I’m still allowing it to be a place where people can kind of escape and just enjoy, you know, a video of us doing our makeup or something.”
Unlike McDonal, Cruz doesn’t have the luxury of living with her videographer. So, for now, her main channels have taken a backseat.
“I kinda have to do everything by myself and it reminds me of like, back when I was living in college or my parents’ house trying to make videos and set up all the camera angles and things,” Cruz said.
But in a way, the return to “old school Ms. Remi Ashten-style” vlogs has been a welcome change. And McDonal, who’s been a YouTube mainstay since she was a teenager in 2008, made a similar remark at the end of a recent Amazon buying guide.
“I loved this video because it really reminded me of old school YouTube, beauty favourites, and ‘Things I’m Loving,'” McDonal said in the clip. “Let me know if you want more videos like this…I really miss doing these types of videos.”
Elaborating on this point, McDonal said this longing for “old school YouTube” is a broad trend she’s noticing on the platform. In fact, it’s the driving theory behind the approach McDonal and Cruz are taking to the content they create for their shared, “Pretty Basic” YouTube channel.
“For a long time, we’ve always said, everyone misses those OG videos,” McDonal explained. “I feel like COVID almost made it happen even more. ‘Cause a lot of creators, they moved back in with their parents and they don’t have their filming setup or they don’t have their stuff with them.”
As a result, McDonal went on, many creators in the lifestyle category have been forced to film the way an up-and-coming YouTuber would: alone, with their camera on a tripod. That kind of content, Cruz added, is effortless for her and McDonal to make for the podcast and “Pretty Basic” YouTube feed. It comes as second nature to them, after so many years in this industry.
“It’s just something we do without even having to necessarily think about it, but it just comes so easily,” Cruz said. “And I mean, we’ve been like, almost trained in that whole world of OG YouTube videos. We’ve been doing it for so long that, as our content has changed throughout the years, we still kind of miss those kinds of things. And like, not just the simplicity of the video itself, but how like fun and carefree they are.”
That’s not to say Cruz and McDonal aren’t feeling the impact of the ongoing crisis, mentally and financially. McDonal expected a hit to advertiser revenue, and even though her views were up following the onset of stay-at-home orders, she’s still making less money per video than before due to rate fluctuation. Cruz reported a similar disparity. Two of her moving vlogs raked in Vlogmas-level numbers as far as viewership, but her Adsense earnings have been cut in half.
In recent weeks, however, there have been signs of recovery. Brand deals have started to trickle back in for both women, as creators and companies alike learn to work smaller budgets. And, for now, Adsense rates appear to be climbing.
“It’s been so cool seeing brands get so creative,” McDonal said. “Even my favourite coffee shop found a way to social distance and do pickup. You know what I mean? It’s been really cool seeing people figure out like, ok, how can we make this work?”
- Read more:
- 24 times celebrities have been completely unrelatable during quarantine