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Belfast beauty YouTuber Chloe Morton on her rise from social media influencer to BBC documentaries

As the documentary series Beauty Laid Bare begins this weekend on BBC Three, Chloe tells Claire O'Boyle how her hobby has become a career and why she would like to move to London

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YouTube star Chloe Morton with make-up for her new BBC documentary Beauty Laid Bare

YouTube star Chloe Morton with make-up for her new BBC documentary Beauty Laid Bare

BBC/The Connected Set/Lucca Mess

Chloe without make-up

Chloe without make-up

BBC/The Connected Set/Lucca Mess

Beauty Laid Bare

Beauty Laid Bare

Chloe Morton

Chloe Morton

Beauty Laid Bare

Beauty Laid Bare

YouTube star Chloe Morton with make-up for her new BBC documentary Beauty Laid Bare

She started out sharing make-up tips online from her bedroom in east Belfast - and now Chloe Morton is going mainstream. The 22-year-old, Northern Ireland's first ever YouTube superstar, will be front and centre of a new BBC Three documentary airing this weekend about the multi-billion-dollar beauty business.

The three-part series, Beauty Laid Bare, follows Chloe and three other twentysomethings from across the UK - all with an interest in make-up - as they spend two weeks Stateside exploring America's powerful cosmetics industry.

Filmed over two action-packed weeks, Chloe says the experience has given her a taste for investigations, and says her sights are set on becoming the Northern Irish Stacey Dooley.

"Definitely," she laughs. "I had such an amazing time and I'd love to do more work like this. I've obviously done loads of stuff in front of the camera, but that's been me by myself shooting and editing my own videos.

"This was on a completely different scale. I loved discovering new stuff and I loved the investigation end of things. I'd definitely love to do more things like it."

And while influencer Chloe was approached to take part in the series - her phenomenal social media fanbase of 280,000 subscribers on YouTube and more than 90,000 followers on Instagram will have played a part - the closer she came to filming, the more she doubted the incredible opportunity was even real.

"It sounds silly now," she laughs. "But all the other contributors were over in London, so they just had to fly from there. I had to go over a night early to get my transfer from Belfast and honestly the night before we were meant to be flying I was on Facetime to my boyfriend from the hotel saying: 'Oh my God, do you think this is a prank?'

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Chloe Morton

Chloe Morton

KEVIN SCOTT / BELFAST TELEGRAPH

"I'd only ever spoken to anyone about it over Skype, I'd literally never met anyone about it face to face and I started to think: 'Oh my God Chloe, this is so far-fetched'. As if you're going to America to film a documentary for the BBC."

But, of course, it was far from a prank, and within 24 hours Chloe was in the States alongside her co-stars: male make-up fan Casey from Cheltenham, Londoner Queenie, who rarely wears make-up, and Resh from Manchester.

Delving deep into the fascinating world of beauty, Chloe and her co-stars examine the environmental impact and potentially damaging health effects of some popular cosmetics.

They also have their opinions challenged as they meet industry insiders, celebrity influencers and critics of the beauty business, a business that made a staggering £25.1bn from UK consumers in 2017.

"It was really surreal, being in Belfast one minute and then in America the next with these new people, travelling around and doing all these cool things," says Chloe. "I was so nervous about it beforehand, but once I got there we were so busy and it was all so fascinating I really didn't have time to worry. I loved it."

One of the biggest highlights for Chloe, who posted her first YouTube video from her parents' house when she was just 15, was the travel.

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Chloe with co-presenter Queenie and Shilpi Chhotray from Break Free From Plastic, an organisation that looks at plastic waste and recycling in San Francisco.

Chloe with co-presenter Queenie and Shilpi Chhotray from Break Free From Plastic, an organisation that looks at plastic waste and recycling in San Francisco.

"We went to so many places," she says. "We were right across America from LA and San Francisco to Las Vegas and New York.

"I've travelled before to places like Benidorm and I went to Florida a while back, but nothing like this. It was absolutely brilliant.

"One of the best bits was the surprise of it all. They didn't give us a really detailed schedule of what we'd be doing every day so when we got where we were going, they were able to get our real, honest reactions."

And perhaps also because some of the activities the documentary involved wouldn't be to everyone's taste.

"Well yes, in San Francisco I ended up down in the sewers," laughs Chloe.

"They sent me down this tiny wee manhole into a sewer. It just looked like a black hole from the outside and it was crazy. It smelled so bad, obviously, like you'd expect that from a sewer, but it was really interesting too, so I didn't mind.

"We did this test of the water in there and when the results came back from the lab it showed how the levels of chemicals in the water was really quite high.

"What it showed was how when you wash your make-up off it doesn't just disappear. Your cosmetics end up down the drain, in the sewer and then back eventually into the water system. It's absolutely crazy that there's this vicious cycle and when we think we're drinking clean water there are actually chemicals from our cosmetics in it."

So has her experience changed Chloe's attitude towards her beauty products?

"Yes, for sure," she says. "After we got back I really started reading all the ingredients in things to make sure they were all ethical and that they wouldn't have any damaging health impact. To be honest there were a couple of brands I loved before I just don't go for now."

As her profile grows through her role in the documentary, make-up artist Chloe also made an appearance on the red sofa at BBC Breakfast last week to tell presenters Charlie Stayt and Naga Munchetty about the programme.

Beauty Laid Bare

"They were so nice," says Chloe.

"I was really nervous again because you think 'live TV' and you think: 'Oh my God what if I say something ridiculous'.

"But to be honest it's so fast-paced you don't have time to worry. I'm a really nervous person normally and I was thinking how bizarre it was that my family and my boyfriend would be watching at home thinking 'oh look there's her there talking away on TV' right at the same moment I was on.

"I'm used to being on screen with my YouTube stuff, but that's all edited and I get to make sure I'm happy with it before I post it. Live TV is completely different. But I was okay, I actually enjoyed it and you couldn't turn something like that down."

Chloe, who now lives in east Belfast with barber boyfriend Anthony Havlin (23), became an internet sensation while she was still a pupil at Ashfield Girls' High School, posting video tutorials that were viewed millions of times around the world.

Chloe Morton

With tips on achieving the latest make-up looks, as well as fashion and hairstyles, what started as a hobby turned quickly into a career.

Within two years the schoolgirl was getting interest from some of the world's biggest beauty brands, getting samples and before long payment to have their products featured in the videos she posted from her bedroom.

"I think I was the first person from Northern Ireland to break the seal with the YouTube stuff," says Chloe. "There are other people now who do it really successfully, but I was the first one to do it and at the time it was still a bit of an unconventional thing to do

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"I started it as a hobby and it's always remained pretty nice for me, it's not too 'jobby' and I get a lot of fun from it."

And while Chloe's success escalated quickly, with the support of her family - dad Stephen and mum Natalie, as well as her younger brothers Callum (14) and three-year-old Jorge - she's kept her feet on the ground.

"When I started out YouTube was a bit of an unusual thing to do and even though it seemed to be going well it was hard for my family to say: 'Right, this will do her for a career'. So I carried on with my A-levels alongside it," she explains.

"I did two, business studies and media studies, so I was able to get my head down and I think they were pretty good subjects for me to take in the end.

"I did my studying in school hours. Doing only two A-levels, I spent my extra time in the library so I could do it all there and when I was at home I focused on the make-up and YouTube. It was a good balance."

And while there wasn't always 100% support from her peers - there were some "nasty" girls she encountered along the way - Chloe says her school backed her and she's had nothing but positivity from the people of Belfast.

"From most people who do stuff on YouTube and social media, I think there's always some negativity," says the blogger. "But honestly people here are so nice to me and I always get a really warm hello from anyone who recognises me.

"When I started out my audience was obviously all really young like I was, but as well as new young people the ones who started out with me have grown up and stayed with me and I'm now talking to a lot of women in their 20s and older who just want to know what I have to tell them.

"I do have a lot of expertise in this stuff and the things I learned about ethical cosmetics and recycling during the documentary are really interesting too, so I'm really glad I've got a platform to share it all."

And with an enterprising head on her shoulders, the young entrepreneur has invested money she's made along the way to help grow her business, first transforming her bedroom into a recording studio with professional recording equipment and lighting before opening her own make-up studio in east Belfast.

As well as doing clients' make-up for them, she offers courses for people keen to learn the latest tricks of the trade.

"It's going really well and it's brilliant to be out working in the real world," she says. "My YouTube and Instagram stuff is great, and you're interacting there with your audience very directly, but it's good to get out there and be hands-on too.

"The courses are getting a really strong take-up. I had a girl over there from Stoke-on-Trent for one and another one up from Cavan, so I'm happy it's going so well."

But after her appearance in the BBC Three documentary, as well as an increasing number of work opportunities across the water, Chloe says London is beckoning.

"I love Belfast and I'd never completely leave it," she says. "But I would say as I'm progressing there seems to be more opportunities for me over there. If not London itself, then somewhere not too far from it.

"I'm always getting invites to things and there are brand opportunities over there coming up all the time which aren't happening so much here in Northern Ireland.

"I don't know, I'm not decided. I'd never completely leave because my family would be raging for one thing, but I think ultimately they'd be happy for me to take a big step like that.

"It's an exciting time but whatever happens, I'll always have a home here in Belfast because it's just the best city."

Beauty Laid Bare, BBC Three, will be available on the iPlayer from Sunday

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