Kandee Johnson Talks Working With the Kardashians and YouTube Drama (Exclusive)
By Amy Lee
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Kandee Johnson is sharing her best advice on staying away from drama.
"I mean whether it's on YouTube or in life, I feel like you should always fly like, above it," the content creator told ET for our Unfiltered series. Johnson started her hugely successful beauty channel in 2009, making her one of the OG influencers -- before influencers were even really a thing.
Johnson was able to stay grounded throughout her years as a YouTuber, especially now during a time when YouTube drama seems to be brewing left and right.
"I have other things in my life I want to think about, and that's going to take away time from that...I think somebody always told me like, if there's crows fighting over something on the ground, always be the eagle that's soaring above all alone. So I was like, I'm gonna be that eagle. I don't want to be fighting over some bird crumbs on the ground. I don't even know what the birds are fighting about. I'm just sailing to new places."
Known for her positive, outgoing personality (and many colorful hairstyles), Johnson became known for her uplifting energy in her videos and talent for creating incredible transformations with makeup.
Though she had a short stint as a hairstylist before realizing she wanted to be a makeup artist full-time, Johnson always loved makeup from a young age.
"I've always loved makeup. I would be in my bedroom mixing together little Bonne Bell chapsticks," she reminisced. I'd be chopping them up and putting them in little vitamin containers. My mom gave me this Elizabeth Arden, like grandma brand, makeup. Like, one of those Christmas sets? I would just scrape different eye shadows and I'd mix different colors. I was like a little mad scientist in my bedroom. And then I would just play around with really wonky eye liner going to high school real, real bad."
Johnson grew up fast when she had her first child at age 18, and she's now a proud mom of four. After living in L.A., working as a makeup artist and raising her son as a single mom, she reluctantly moved back to Nevada to live with her family and save money.
"But in hindsight [it's] one of those kind of slingshot moments, where you're being pulled backwards and you think you're going the wrong direction, but it really is to launch you farther. You just can't see that at the time," Johnson reflected.
Soon after, Johnson uploaded her first video -- the start of her decade-long YouTube career. She has gone on to partner up with major beauty brands, amass 3.9m subscribers on YouTube and 1.9m followers on Instagram and work with the biggest celebrities, including Gwen Stefani and Kim Kardashian West, whom she recalls as having "abnormally perfect," pore-less skin.
"She's so chill and easy. She's like, do whatever. She was so easy to do makeup on," Johnson said when she transformed Kardashian into Princess Jasmine from Aladdin for a video last year.
Johnson also praised Kardashian for her work ethic and kindness.
"She was so kind and polite to everybody. I've seen people who have a fraction of her fame and treat people like garbage," Johnson continued. "And she was so considerate and polite and kind to people. I don't think the world sees enough of that side of her and I really admire that in her. She's gotta go home and do mom stuff and everything just like I do."
And it was Kardashian's mom, Kris Jenner, who gave Johnson a memorable piece of advice.
"I think the biggest piece of advice I actually got was from Kris Jenner," she recalled, "It was about bullying, 'cause they deal with so much hate, and she was like, 'I just tell my kids to post and then don't go back and look at it,' and I was like, that's good advice because the internet is such a terrible place."
Johnson is currently on a hiatus from posting on YouTube (her last video was uploaded in December 2018) -- a much needed break after losing both of her grandparents and her brother-in-law's father and ending a relationship in the span of a year. Her dad also passed away in 2012.
Despite the heavy heartbreaks, Johnson stays positive -- an attribute that constantly inspires her fans.
"My dad always told me, something he said, never say you have problems, because you can't overcome problems," Johnson shared. "Always say you have challenges, because challenges can be overcome. So every time things start come my way, I'm like, not a problem, I'm going to challenge. I can conquer things. I can get over things. My job is getting over things. I can do this."
"It makes you stronger and you embrace that and know that every difficult thing is going to make you more successful. Everything that goes wrong is making your success story that much better."
Watch the full interview with Johnson in the video above.