This week, I sat down with South Dublin-based social media influencer Bianca Bourgeois. Cascading onto the lifestyle/beauty scene in early 2016, Bourgeois’ seemingly instantaneous rise to fame and swift garnering of a 400k following on YouTube (980k on Instagram) seems to be a commendable feat. Destined to prove that her success has been a product of incessant work ethic and not merely a side effect of her privileged existence, Bourgeois invited me out to her family home in Donnybrook, D4, where she says her passion for beauty and lifestyle all began:
“I remember growing up we had, loike, this maid, and I would loike literally force her to put Mummy’s makeup on me while Mummy was away at pilates or the country club or whatever,” she cackles, sitting cross legged on the luxury sofa as she sets down her cup of Fit Tea atop the glass coffee table. “Sometoimes she’d, loike, ask if I could put some makeup on her, and I thought that was loike literally so rude because it was literally ALL Chanel products and it would just be a waste because the shade was loike just way too light for her skin and that.” A brief pause as the Fit Tea is raised to her lips once more. “But yaw loike I remember just being literally obsessed with how pretty I looked with Mummy’s makeup on, and that’s definitely where my passion began”.
Determined to probe deeper into her character, I ventured to ask a more personal question. “Bourgeois is such an interesting name, I suppose your family is of French descent? Tell me about that.” She looks bewildered for a moment before answering me. “Oh, no” she smiles, “actually, all of moy ancestors were British, but my Granddaddy, loike, paid someone to have our surname legally changed to Bourgeois when he came to Oireland because apparently people didn’t like our original name or whatever. It’s literally so sad, loike, I wish I could just go back in toime or something and tell him to just, loike, ignore the haters and keep a positive outlook on loife.”
“Wow!” I gasp, hopeful that I’m establishing a connection, “what an interesting piece of family history, do you have any idea what your family’s original name was?”
“Yaw, I’m pretty sure it was like, Cromwell or something”, a nostalgic smile spreads across her face. “That name is loike so pretty and aesthetic, I don’t understand how anyone could have hated it.”
Eager to change the subject, I got straight to the point. “So, you’ve received some criticism online in recent months. Videos like ‘HOUSEMAID DOES MY MAKEUP (SHE GETS FIRED!)’ and ‘SUMMER CLOTHING HAUL FOR POOR PEOPLE (LESS THAN €800 SPENT!)’ have landed you in hot water with some people labelling you as privileged and insensitive. What’s your response to all this?”
As I’m speaking, the housemaid shuffles into the room and lays a tray of assorted cheeses and gluten-free crackers on the table. Bourgeois shoos her out angrily before regaining composure, and giving me a disturbing, charcoal whitened tooth-bearing smile.
She answers with confidence: “Yaw loike, to be perfectly honest loike I’m just such a positive-natured person I literally just block out anyone trying to bring bad voibes into my loife.” She breaks a gluten-free cracker in half and slides it onto her tongue, chewing with her mouth open. “And honestly, loike, I think anyone calling me privileged or whatever just literally has no idea wot they’re talking about. Loike I literally had to start out taking pictures and videos on Daddy’s old camera, which loike, didn’t even shoot in 4K quality. I think people really underestimate how much hard work it took for me to become the influencer I am today.” She swallows the cracker, finally.
“That actually flows pretty well into my next question, Bianca” I chime in, trying with every fibre of my being not to show any semblance of disgust on my face, “why don’t you tell us about the influencer you are today? How would you describe your job to someone meeting you for the first time?”
She ponders over this one for a while. “Well, Looiiiiiikeeee..” she drawls loudly as she prepares her answer (the “loike” actually lasted for about 7 seconds, quite impressive), “basically, my job as a social media influencer is to loike create content for my fans, and literally just loike influence their lives in a positive way.”
Underwhelmed by her brief answer, I attempt to flesh it out: “That’s cool” I lie, “and, do you get to interact with your fans a lot?”
Her eyes light up with excitement. “Oh moy god loike yes, that is literally moy favourite part of being an influencer. I always reply to comments on my YouTube and Instagram and I literally, loike, tell my fans I love them in every single video!”
“Have you ever met a fan in real life?” I ask. She thinks for a moment, before answering: “Not really recently because I koind of have an agreement with my fans to, loike, not bother me when I’m out in public.” She notices my perplexed look, and quickly goes to explain: “Loike, I really do love them and I have literally no problem with them coming up to me and taking a quick selfie. All I ask is that they don’t touch me or, loike, talk to me. I think that’s pretty fair, loike, it’s kind of the least that they could do considering everything I do for them.”
I smile at her awkwardly, but before I can move onto the next question, she continues: “Loike, it’s not that I don’t want to talk to my fans, it’s just I think personal space is loike really important. Loike one time I was vlogging out in Dundrum shopping centre and this girl came up to me and I loike literally ran away and started screaming . People loike literally slaughtered me online over that, calling me a drama queen. But loike, you can’t really blame me for thinking I was in danger, loike, she literally could have been from Ballymun”.
I stare blankly at her for what feels like a good hour. And with that, our time was up. “Don’t you dare let anything out of this interview, roight? I want to read every bloody loike on that page!”