How A Canadian Student Turned Her Nail Art Into A YouTube Sensation

25-year-old Sandi Ball and her nail art tutorial videos have amassed a huge following on YouTube.

Among her top videos, you’ll find such fun creations as “Angry Birds Nail Art,” “Hello Kitty Nails,” and “Gangnam Style Nails,” each with millions of views from fans.

Since starting her YouTube channel (@CutePolish) four years ago, Sandi has earned a devoted following of more than 2 million subscribers. She’s part of StyleHaul, a multi-channel beauty and fashion network with a total of more than 172 million subscribers. And with a total of more than 239 million views, CutePolish has grown to be the most popular nail art channel on YouTube.

Though millions of people tune in to her weekly nail videos, until just a few weeks ago, she had never shown her face or even revealed her identity.

Business Insider caught up with Sandi to hear more of her story.

Business Insider: How did you get started with nail art?

Sandi Ball: When I was a little girl, my mother passed down her nail polish collection to me. She had about 50 bottles and lined them up on top of a big mirror on my dresser. I fell in love with all of the different colours and finishes of the polishes. Back then, the most adventurous I would get with my polish was layering a glitter polish over a solid colour.

As I grew older, I began to see nail polish companies release polishes with long thin detailing brushes inside of them. I was really excited and bought a bunch from the store. When I went home that night, I played around creating stripes over my nails with them. And that’s when it happened — I realised my nails were tiny little canvases that could be designed in endless ways using a few simple tools such as a tiny paintbrush and toothpick.

BI: What’s the story behind your YouTube channel?

SB: Once I began creating and painting nail art designs on my nails, I would have friends and classmates compliment me on them and ask me where I had them done. I would reply with “I did them by myself!” and they would be shocked. They’d respond by saying it looked way too difficult for them to attempt. I’d assure them that it was quite simple and easy to do, but they wouldn’t believe it. So, I decided to create online videos to show girls all over the world just how fun and easy nail art can be.

BI: Was there a moment when you knew you had made it? What was that like?
SB: During the first year of my YouTube channel, I would upload nail art videos periodically. It was a hobby of mine and I didn’t take it too seriously. After a little over a year, I received an email from StyleHaul, a new multi-channel network on YouTube. They saw so much potential in me and the videos I was creating, that they offered to partner with me to help grow my channel even further.

At that point I realised I had made something really worthwhile online and decided to sign with them and invest a lot more time and effort into my channel. Within the first month, my channel boomed! I began uploading a lot more frequently and had the support from my new network to help back me up. It was incredible to see just how many girls my nail art was reaching all over the world, with numbers increasing at such a large rate daily.

BI: Where do you get inspiration for your videos?

SB: Something I’ve learned from this nail art journey is that inspiration can be found everywhere. I always keep my eyes open and look for ways to incorporate nature, fashion designs, pop culture, and everyday items into my next manicure. Another huge source of my inspiration comes from my viewers; they are always sending in requests for new nail art designs.

BI: How long does it usually take to make a video? What’s that process like? And has it changed over time?

SB: Each video takes about a week to create. It begins by brainstorming nail art design ideas and reading requests from my viewers. Once I’ve decided on a theme, I begin painting many different designs on a plastic nail wheel and then choosing my favourite one. I then film an intro featuring myself showcasing the design, the actual tutorial of how to recreate the design, and an outro. Then I edit my video and upload it to YouTube.

But it wasn’t always like this … when I first began I would be able to create a video in a quarter of the time because I was using a low-quality pocket camera, a homemade tripod, a very basic editing program, and wouldn’t have a creative intro or outro. With an increase in video quality came an increase of work!

BI: Is there one video that you’re especially proud of?

SB: Yes, my most recent video called #AskCutePolish! It’s a Q&A where I’m answering questions about myself that my viewers sent in. This is the first time I’ve ever done this style of video, so it was a little outside of my comfort zone. I’m so glad I uploaded it and shared more about myself with them because their responses were so positive and they told me that they feel more connected with me now!

BI: How do you make a video go viral?

SB: Well that’s the thing about viral videos, you never “plan” to have them go viral. Sometimes it just happens! However, you can increase your chances by creating content that you believe your audience will love so much that they will share it with their friends. It’s through all of the sharing that videos go viral!

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