Shannon Harris, shaaanxo, reaches 1 million YouTube subscribers

Tech Watch: Shannon Harris, shaaanxo & xoBeauty

Computer: iMac 21.5”
Tablet: none – Macbook Pro 13”
Phone: iPhone 5S Gold


Shannon Harris, the 21 year old YouTube celebrity from Palmerston North better known by her screen name shaaanxo, yesterday reached the 1 million subscriber threshold on YouTube, making her channel the second largest in New Zealand.

The channel with the most subscribers is Jamie’s World, but in terms of yearly views, Shannon trumps her with more than double the number of impressions at 69.4 million.

Regardless of the metric used, Shannon Harris has become popular for her genuine and creative style of doing makeup, which has inspired her audience to experiment with new products and techniques.

The young Kiwi makes a generous living by creating video blogs, or vlogs as they’re known in the industry, on subjects related to beauty. Her videos cover makeup, fashion, and hair styles, as well as a collection of films based on her personal life. Shannon also owns a beauty line, xoBeauty, which features her own range of makeup brushes, tools, and accessories. And she’s just 21.

The idea for a beauty channel started back in 2011, when Shannon, then a teenager, wanted to create a resource that young women like her would find useful.

“I used to watch so many other people before I signed up with my own account,” Shannon wrote in an email. “I was really into makeup as a teenager and none of my friends shared the same passion with me, so it was awesome that I could relate with these other girls online instead.”

When Shannon couldn’t find any bloggers based in New Zealand, she decided she would need to make her own.

“A lot of the products and businesses didn’t apply to New Zealanders,” she explained, “and I thought making my own channel would be an awesome opportunity to make some new friends, and help out Kiwis – letting them know about anything and everything that was worth knowing about makeup in New Zealand!”

Like anything, the process of vlogging was a learning curve for Shannon. Her first video was created when she pulled out a $100 point and shoot camera, balanced it on her TV, and started talking to herself. The video was uploaded to YouTube, and resulted in only a few views and a handful of subscribers, but the video was soon deleted because Shannon wasn’t happy with its quality.

“Eventually, I became more confident talking to ‘myself,’” she added, “and I invested in a better camera, a tripod, and it was all go!”

Fast forward a few years, and Shannon is now an international public figure, making the top of the “recommended” list in YouTube’s beauty section, and receiving over 17,000 subscribers a week. But despite her online fame, Shannon says that she doesn’t see herself as a celebrity. In her eyes, she’s just an average girl from New Zealand with an unusual job, and that’s one of the factors that makes her so popular.

“I guess people see a big number and think of you differently,” she says.

“I think the reason I have gathered myself such a big following is because I stay true to myself. It sounds so cliche but I think that people can relate to me so much easier since I don’t put on an act.

“I’m not a professional, so I don’t act like one. I think people appreciate honesty – I always tell it like it is. I think people can trust what I say, and trust is everything when people are looking up to me to basically tell them how to spend their hard earned cash!”

As with all public figures, there have been obstacles and controversy along Shannon’s road to fame.

“I used to have people in my life that would make fun of me or get annoyed that I put my life on the internet, but they are no longer around,” Shannon said. “My current partner, my family, and all of my friends think its awesome what I do! I have even made some of my best friends through YouTube. So perhaps that was actually a positive thing to happen.

“I would say that sometimes the negative people can get a bit too much – I have built a pretty thick skin from doing YouTube, as there is a lot of anonymous hate that happens… but of course, I’m human, and I have my days where everything just gets to me. It can be hard sometimes, reading lots of nasty remarks. Especially when you have just put in 5 hours creating the content they are picking to pieces.”

For example, when Shannon documented her journey through a breast augmentation procedure in Thailand, she experienced a lot of backlash online from viewers. When she addressed the topic in a YouTube video, Shannon explained that it was never about what other people thought. She was doing it for her, because she wanted to, and for no other reason.

The same philosophy goes for Shannon’s beauty routines, which some online trolls have insensitively and wrongly accused Shannon of being superficial and “fake” because she enjoys wearing makeup.

“Remember that it doesn’t matter how much or how little makeup you wear,” Shannon writes on her YouTube channel, “its about wearing as much as YOU want, and as much as YOU are happy wearing!”

Dealing with negativity and online bullies is simple to Shannon. All she has to do is remind herself that there are so many more positive people out there who understand and appreciate what she’s doing.

“I am so lucky,” Shannon says. “I have thousands of lovely viewers who leave encouraging words on a daily basis. I just move on. Block, remove the comment, and get on with my day.

“No one has to deal with internet bullies – just focus on the positive people, remove the [negative], and move on.”

Putting yourself out there is the first step to becoming successful in any field, and it’s a requirement in the online show business. It’s also one of Shannon’s 3 biggest pieces of advice for anyone wanting to create their own YouTube channel.

  1. “Your friends and family WILL find out. So JUST DO IT! I used to think I could keep it a secret, because I was so embarrassed… But you just have to grin and bare it. Once your friends see more and more of your videos, they will get used to it! There is nothing to feel bad about, but I know how awkward it can be at first. Be confident and own it.”
  2. “When you can, make sure you invest in a decent quality camera, as well as lighting equipment if you need it. The one thing that breaks the deal for me when watching others is when they film with a bad quality camera or phone. We need to be able to see what you are doing, it makes the whole viewing experience so much better! You will notice you will get many more viewers when you put out better quality videos.”
  3. “Another cliche point, but be yourself. Vlog whatever you LOVE to talk about. People will be able to see your passion as you talk, and that is what makes someone truly interesting to watch. You will find so many other people from around the world with a similar passion to you. Also, don’t put on an act. Don’t script your videos. Just say whatever comes naturally! Don’t be afraid to be weird. At the end of the day, you can edit out the bits you don’t like :)”

You can follow Shannon on Twitter here, subscribe to her on her YouTube channel, or congratulate her on reaching 1 million YouTube subscribers on her Facebook page.

Bullet Points

  • 21 year old Shannon Harris, or shaaanxo, owns the second largest YouTube channel in New Zealand and beauty business xoBeauty.
  • shaaanxo exceeded the 1 million subscriber threshold on YouTube last night.
  • Her fans appreciate her because she remains genuine and doesn’t put on an act.
  • Shannon deals with negativity and online bullies by focusing on her positive fans.
  • Shannon’s first piece of advice is to those starting out is to not be embarrassed and “just do it.”
  • Secondly, she suggests that you invest in high quality equipment.
  • The final piece of advice is to be yourself, and to talk freely on your channel.
  • You can connect with Shannon on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.
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