Ever try doing your makeup on a roller coaster at the Boardwalk?
Louie Castro has.
In one video on his YouTube channel, which has 1.8 million followers, the 20-year-old Watsonville native scrambles to do his eyebrows mid-ride, juggling a small pot of Anastasia Beverly Hills eyebrow filler and dabbing at his already perfect brows between screams. Halfway into a turn on the Undertow, the online personality known for beauty and confessional videos explains, he had dropped his eyebrow pencil.
“I had to do it with my finger!” Castro tells the camera.
Since he uploaded the video last summer, it’s been viewed 1.2 million times. Other videos have racked up as many as 5 million views on Castro’s channel “Louie’s Life,” which he started five years ago when he was a student at Watsonville High.
His makeup and talon-like acrylic nails are always immaculate, but the titles of Castro’s most popular videos reveal his relatable and personality-driven approach: “Sneaking Out at 3 a.m. Con Mis Hermanas” [with my sisters], “Latinas Going Through a Breakup” and “Losing My Virginity in 6th Grade?! Storytime.”
Castro’s popularity has grown along with a diverse generation of fashion and beauty social media influencers and vloggers, who have turned get-ready-with-me makeup videos and dramatic retellings of deeply personal stories into full-time jobs. For Castro, the notoriety also comes with daily reminders of his internet celebrity, like getting swarmed by young fans at Starbucks or setting up meet-and-greets at local events like the summer Strawberry Festival.
More recently, Castro has crossed over to TV, making appearances on Univision and attending movie premieres and award shows like the Latin Grammys. His pictures on Instagram routinely get hundreds of thousands of likes, and videos with millions of views have earned him advertising income and provided inspiration for merch, like hoodies and lanyards printed with his signature slogan: “The Baddest Perra” [the baddest bitch].
True to the way he speaks offline, most of Castro’s videos are in Spanglish, covering topics like chisme (gossip), Mexican food “muckbangs” (eating and chatting on camera), or acting out Spanish skits. Castro was born and raised in Watsonville, but he weaves in elements of his Mexican heritage from his dad, a shoe repair man, and his mom, who works at a café. For advertisers, the whole setup translates to accessible content for fast-growing Latino communities.
Despite his success, Castro has chosen to stay close to home—as much as he can, anyway. He thought about moving to L.A. after he says he was bullied in high school, then briefly studied film at CSUMB, but Castro still lives in Watsonville with his parents and two sisters (the oldest, Yoatzi, is a fellow YouTuber with almost 400,000 subscribers of her own). More and more, he finds himself commuting to L.A. for industry events.
In a Q&A, Castro spoke to GT about growing up on the Central Coast, how he got over the fear of wearing makeup in public, and how he actually makes a living online.
How did your YouTube channel start?
LOUIE CASTRO: I’ve had my YouTube channel for about 5 years now. [Before that] I would make videos on Instagram. They were like 15 second videos—remember when they would only let you do 15 seconds? So it was around that time, and I started getting a lot of comments: “Oh my gosh, you should make a YouTube channel.” But I didn’t even really know what YouTube was, because I would use YouTube for music videos and to find lyrics and stuff like that. My little sister was the one who was super into YouTube, so she was like, “Yeah, there are people who make videos on YouTube. They are called YouTubers.”
When did you notice that you were gaining a lot of subscribers?
It wasn’t until I made my quinceañera video, “How to Dance at Quinceañeras.” I felt like I kinda blew up from there.
Who were some of the influencers that inspired you to start?
I loved watching Bretman Rock (a similarly flamboyant, makeup-savvy Filipino vlogger). The way he would make his videos, it felt more like he was connecting with people. Because my videos back then were just very random, like “Oh my god, I’m just gonna record me dancing,” or “I’m gonna record me doing something dumb.” But when I would see him make his videos, it kinda made me see it differently, like it was a good way for me to connect with people.
What year did you come out as gay?
I wanna say, like, my sophomore year of high school. I came out to my friends first, and then slowly started coming out to the rest of my family. I think that they were shocked at the fact that I said it, not necessarily being like, “What? We didn’t know.” Because my mom told me, “Ever since you were little, like, I just knew you were,” and so did my sisters.
What was your experience at Watsonville High?
I hated high school, like super bad. Like, “Mom, I really don’t wanna go to school.” Sometimes I would try to skip class, but then I’ve always been super into my education. There was a lot of bullying during school, especially from YouTube. It was more like, “Oh my god, what are you doing? Like, that’s so weird. Why are you making videos on YouTube? No one is going to watch it.” So it was like a lot of hate coming from, you know, other classmates or random people. Even my teachers! Like teachers would play my videos in class and like to make fun of me for doing it, or sometimes quote me on certain parts of my videos, and the rest of the class would just find it funny.
I think because of that, it was also so hard for me to be myself in high school. I was a different person. Not because I was like, “Oh, I’m trying to be different,” but it was scary to be myself when all you get is hate, hate, hate, hate. So I was just kinda hidden, keep it to myself. But I definitely do think after high school was when I was like, “I don’t give a fuck. I’m gonna do my own thing.” My senior year I definitely kinda slowly started wearing more makeup. I started dressing the way I wanted to dress. Still had a very tiny friend group.
When was your first experience trying on makeup?
I did a video on my YouTube channel (with) my older sister, who is super into makeup. She did my makeup, and it was so weird—like, so weird. She did full face, contour and lashes. And I had never tried on makeup before that, so to have no makeup, then like slap on every single product, I was like, “Oh my god.”
And even in that video, my sister had asked me, “Would you ever do makeup?’ I was like, “No.” But then slowly, as time went by, I started picking up more products, like I’d take my mom’s foundation to cover like a pimple. The first thing I ever really did was my eyebrows—started filling my eyebrows, and then little by little just started buying more and more.
What was your experience first going out in public in makeup?
Maybe two or three years ago was the first time. I was always used to wearing foundation and my eyebrows; that was it. But this time specifically, I put on concealer for the first time, and contour. That already made a huge difference to my face. I remember looking in the mirror and being like, “It’s so scary. Like, I don’t want to wear this out.” My sisters came and were like, “No, just do it! If you like it, just go out.”
We went to the mall, and I remember being so scared, because I felt like I was being so judged. For one, already, being gay caught a lot of people’s attention. People might not always support it, but wearing makeup on top of it I feel like is even scarier. You know, it puts you more out there. I remember walking around and being super duper nervous—every five seconds checking either the mirror or my phone to make sure I looked good. I even went into Sephora because I felt like my sisters were just telling me it looked good to be nice. I remember asking a worker, “Hi, can you be super honest with me?” I was like, “It’s like my first time really like wearing makeup. Do you think this looks good?” I remember her looking at me, and she was like, “Yeah, everything looks really good.”
Even wearing eyeshadow for the first time, it was so bad that I went back into my car and took it off. So many people were staring at me.
How did the rest of your family react to you in makeup?
At first it was weird to them. Not weird, but they didn’t understand it. I remember my mom, she’s always super supportive—both my parents are very supportive—but I think they wanted to understand what I was doing. When I started wearing makeup, my mom thought that I was thinking of going transgender. Not that she was against it or anything, but she was like, “Hey, I wanna talk to you. Are you wanting to transition?” I was like, “No, no, no. I’m happy with being a boy, but I just love wearing makeup.”
It definitely took them a while to understand it. Now it’s to the point where like my parents like it so much, like, my mom will ask me to do her makeup and my sisters will ask me to do their makeup. My dad will compliment my makeup, which to me means a lot, because I was super scared back then to even come out to my dad. I was like, “Damn, I’m the only boy in the family.” I don’t want it to feel like I’m letting him down or something like that.
With fashion, when did your style begin to change?
Senior year I started wearing crop tops and wearing brighter colors, but I definitely think even not too long ago, less than a year ago, I just really, really dove into it.
Thankfully I found a stylist who helps me dress up now. I do not know how to dress. If it wasn’t for my stylist, all I wear is just black.
How do you handle backlash?
Luckily, I’ve never had someone tell me something to my face. I feel like that is so different than seeing something online. But whenever it is online, I just ignore it or I delete it or block it. Thanks to Instagram, there’s this feature where you can block out certain words from being commented on your stuff. For my own comfort, and to not feel like I’m being attacked, I blocked so many words on that. It definitely has helped a lot. It’s taken away so much hate, so I don’t see it. I literally don’t see it. I don’t understand why so many people get so angry about it. I’m just playing with makeup, just having fun.
When did you decide to make YouTube your full-time job?
I used to work at Kmart. I worked there my senior year in high school. It was so hard. I was still trying to balance YouTube, my classes, work, and homework. I started seeing my income increasing on YouTube and was like, “Why am I still at Kmart?” It was pointless because I was making way less money at Kmart than what I was doing on YouTube.
Do people from your hometown treat you differently now?
Yeah, it’s a good feeling. When I do go out, I get recognized a lot. Being able to see the love and support in a person, instead of seeing comments, you actually get to see people’s facial expressions and how excited they get.
Has YouTube fame changed your personal relationships?
It’s so hard for me to let people into my life, because I don’t know people’s intentions. I definitely have had so many people come into my life with the wrong intentions. Like, they want to get something out of me, or even try to get a following from me. I have lost a lot of friends, and I have even lost some actual relationships because of it.
How much can you make from one video?
It really depends on the views. The more views a video gets, the more you can make from it. There are advertisements that get put into our videos, and that is a way you can make money from them. It’s not a job where I’m going to work this many hours, and I’m guaranteed to make this much money.
Sometimes you will get paid really poorly and sometimes really well, which sucks sometimes. I put a lot of effort into my videos. Some of them can be 30 minutes long. We get paid month to month.
Do you have a manager?
I have a manager. I found her about a year ago. Before having a manager, I was ripping my hair out every day because you don’t know where to go. You don’t know what to do for help.
How do you come up with content?
My video ideas will come to my head randomly. I could be eating and I will get a video idea, or taking a shower. Very few of them are planned. The way I like to film my videos is, I get an idea, and then I don’t think about it too much, because when I film it, I want it to be as natural as possible. I don’t want to have a script or follow this or that. I think the fun in me making videos and the whole comedy comes from me just doing it naturally. It can be stressful sometimes, because there will be a day when I don’t get any ideas and my upload is coming up. That’s when I get stressed out.
On average, how long does it take you to edit a video?
Average video, six hours maybe. Because I have to go through the full video, then I edit it once, then I watch the full video again and edit it twice. Then the last time I finalize everything, like add background music and add an intro and outro. It takes a big part of my day to sit there. I try not to do it all in one day, because then I won’t have time for anything else.
How long does it take you to film a video?
I try to film between two and three hours, which is so crazy to say out loud, because when you watch the video on YouTube, you really only see like 15 minutes or 20 minutes.
Do you ever feel nervous for your viewers’ reactions?
I do! What I really want to focus on with my channel is comedy. I want people to get a good laugh.
Is it difficult living far away from other influencers and trying to collaborate?
That is such a difficulty—like, huge! Obviously I live here in Watsonville, and being here for a while, I felt like I wasn’t growing because I wasn’t meeting people. I wasn’t making friends. I wasn’t meeting other YouTubers, and I wasn’t going to events.
Everything is in L.A., at least for what I do. All of my friends live over there. A lot of them move from different places, but for what we do, we have to be there. Recently I started traveling a lot more. I can tell you, I’m there all the time.
What are your plans for the future?
I am going to try to stay on YouTube and do it as long as I can and keep having fun with it. I hope this opens opportunities for me to do something on TV myself. I would like to stick with the film industry, movies or something like that.
How do you feel representing your town?
It makes me happy, because it’s very small. I get messages from people saying, “Damn Louie, it’s so crazy seeing you going out and doing these big things and going on TV and meeting people. Keep representing Watsonville.” Which is cool to me, because to my knowledge, I don’t think anyone from Watsonville has [done that]. For me being able to do these things I do, it’s cool to be like, “Oh, I’m from Watsonville.”
What was your experience growing up in Santa Cruz County?
I do love the area, especially being so close to the beach. It was always just a little drive away. There’s a lot to do around Watsonville—I don’t think there’s much to do in Watsonville, but you have everything super close. You know, you have like Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Salinas, Gilroy, and Monterey. You’re in the middle of everything, so it was fun growing up being able to travel to all these different areas, or even taking the bus to the Boardwalk. Walking around Watsonville, it’s super small, so it wasn’t like, “Oh my god, I’m going to get lost” or “What if someone does something?” I felt I knew my way around. It’s a good little place, and you know a lot of people.
Where does your comedy come from?
I feel like most of my comedy comes from my dad. He is shy and doesn’t like to come out on camera. Which sucks, because I know he would be super funny. My dad is literally just me, but older. He does all of the little funny dances that I do. He is super funny with the jokes. It’s not like those cringy dad jokes.
How important is your Mexican cultural identity to you?
Anywhere that I go to where there are more Mexicans or Latinos, I feel like I am at home. I feel comfortable. I just feel like they are super nice to me. I can relate to a lot of them. I love being Hispanic, like the food and everything about it.
Do you get responses to creating content in Spanglish?
I do get those comments, a lot of people saying things like, “Oh my god, you are so funny, but I don’t understand all of your videos.” Or I will say something and people will ask, “What does that mean?” And all of my Latinos will get it. It kind of does make me want to make pure English videos, but I feel like the only thing holding me back from not making those videos is it’s not 100% me. That’s the one thing—I just want to keep it me.