Irene Mahmud was destined to be an advocate for all things girly, glamorous and pink. Until the age of 12, her mother mandated a “boy cut” at every salon visit. So by her 13th birthday she was dying for a long life of flowing locks, endless glitter, and shades of pink.
During her teen years, social media changed the landscape, and her enthusiasm for pretty things found a larger audience. Xanga introduced her to the world of social content, which led to mastering many more social networking platforms to come. More recently, Mahmud saw one of her Youtube videos gain 100,000 views in one day.
Her content is all things beauty and glamour, and it doesn’t hurt that she has a steady drumbeat of beautiful women walk through her door to have their pictures taken in Irene’s unique photography style. Usually dressed in a sheer button up with leggings, Irene is less interested in fashion and absolutely obsessed with female beauty.
We sat down with Ms. Mahmud to talk about her love affair with social media, glamour and photography. She prefaced her interview by saying, “I am terrible at interviews, probably because I’ve never worked a 9-5.” Being a recent college grad in Detroit, MI, she only knows the life of a student entrepreneur.
Rise of a Social Media Celebrity
SAPNA: What inspired you to start blogging?
Irene: When I was a teenager I started blogging on Xanga. I loved taking pictures of everything, what I bought, what I ate, where I went. I started my YouTube in 2010, with a little video camera I bought from Craigslist. I had stopped blogging for a few years, so this was my come back. At that time, I was shooting Miss Michigan Rima Fakih, and my first video was a behind the scenes video of that photoshoot.
My channel wasn’t popular at all, but when she won Miss USA, literally that video went viral. That’s kind of how my channel started, I got over 100,000 views in one day. My Facebook and Twitter followers started watching. Even to this day, a lot of girls message me and say “I used to read your Xanga.” I organically gravitated to social media, it just fit and it just worked. I’m on every social media network practically! Once I’ve joined a network, it’s pretty easy for me to figure out what content is relevant and what people like. Instagram is my jam right now.
SAPNA: How much time do you spend on social channels?
Irene: I am addicted to my phone, it’s terrible, it’s terrible. I don’t really look at Twitter as much, because i’ve moved on to Instagram. I’m constantly refreshing, checking notifications, and looking at it, it’s very rude. Even when I get into bed, I will stay up another hour and troll. I can’t put a number on it, it’s really like all day.
SAPNA: Which blogs do you follow?
Irene: I like DulceCandy and Andreas Choice. Now I’m following a lot of the Lilly Ghalichi’s of the world. Super rich fashion girls. I love their pretty things, and how they put themselves together. It’s inspiring to me.
Lilly Ghalichi is my obsession right now. I came across her blog a couple months ago, before I saw Shahs of Sunset. Her hair, her makeup, her outfits, she is everything right now. I love ethnic women.
SAPNA: What are the perks of being a social media celebrity?
Irene: Of course its nice getting free stuff, gifts from companies. It’s really stressful though. it’s like oh my gosh, they gave all this stuff to me, I have to make them look good. It’s so nice of them to send me all these things so it’s stressful until I have that post up, or that video up.
The biggest perk is that social media has helped my business and my brand ridiculously. I book a lot of my work through Facebook. Many people will also find my website through my Twitter, Instagram, and even YouTube. The biggest perk right now is being able to reach so many people. I’ve had so many great opportunities, just because people are able to find me. I’m internationally published just because they were able to find me on YouTube.
SAPNA: In 5 years, where do you see your career?
Irene: Growing up, I was always hopping around different mediums of art, I would draw, I would paint, I was really into graphic design, then I was retouching, that was my job for a year and half, and after retouching, I thought, I could shoot these pictures better. So that’s when I started shooting. I think I will be shooting probably for the rest of my life. I would really like to get into shooting film one day and do music videos. I love color and my style is very glamour. It would be so fun.
My ultimate goal is to not shoot for Vogue, or shoot fashion… I don’t even like fashion, I like beauty and glamour. A lot people will think my work is bad, because the girls look fake or plastic, or whatever they want to call it, but that’s my style. I want them to look like a fantasy; I want my girls to look like a better version of themselves, like an unreal version of themselves. My ultimate goal is to shoot music artists and reality stars, like the Lilly Ghalichis and Kim Kardashians. That’s their style, they are very glam, they are not trying to look natural. When I get to that point, I would consider myself successful.
Making Glamorous Look Easy
SAPNA: It seems like you plan your outfits from the makeup down. What are the beauty products you can’t live without?
Irene: I am an all or nothing kind of girl. Usually I don’t wear any makeup, but if I do wear makeup I need to go the whole nine yards. And I will not wear makeup if I am not wearing foundation. A lot of girls will throw on some eyeliner and lipstick and they are out the door. I can’t do that, I need to have foundation on, and a base for makeup. If I ever have to look kind of presentable but I don’t have time, I will put on at least foundation and mascara.
SAPNA: What are the best foundation brands for desi skin tones?
Irene: It took me a long time to find a foundation that works for me. I think a lot of desi girls struggle with that. It’s so easy to look grey, or just white, not the cute kind. Right now I am using Make Up Forever HD. Bobbi brown concealer I swear by. From drugstore foundations, I love Maybelline Fit Me! 315. I’ll use Makeup Forever if I am really dressing up, and Maybelline Fit Me! more casually.
SAPNA: How do you pose for a great beauty shot?
Irene: Posing is a very personal thing. The key to taking a great photo is to be comfortable and confident. Tips I would give to someone, practice in the mirror, find an outfit you feel confident in. Keep you chin down, when you throw your head back, no one wants to look up your nose, it makes your neck blend into your head. Its sulty to look up through you eyes. Every girl I shoot, I always ask them which side is there favorite. Everyone has a more photogenic side, I don’t know why that is. It depends on the way your hair falls.
What’s in Irene’s future? After her Spring wedding, she plans to take the next step in her career and move to a new market. Candidly sharing, “I definitely will not be in Michigan. I am over it, I am ready for a new market and new environment,” Mahmud might find herself in Los Angeles, New York, or even abroad. Wherever the future take her, you can be sure that Irene will always be shooting, and of course, will always be sharing.
INTERVIEW BY NATASHA KHAN