Cynthia Gwebu: A woman for ALL women
YouTube has been a teacher in my journey of beauty and self-love. Here's to one of the teachers that have added a little highlight in my life.
Within some societies, women are almost always expected to wear and know about makeup, and when one doesn’t, she must be prepared to explain herself. Alicia Keys is a prime example of this. She literally had to sit down and explain why she decided to go makeup free on the cover of her album, Here. As if that wasn’t bad enough, a lot of people were offended and outraged by her choice. Twitter was at it on the night of the 2016 VMAs, where a makeup free, Keys graced the event. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but not all women know or even care for makeup and that's okay. 2 years ago, I was a clueless girl that barely knew anything about this world. I didn’t even own lip gloss, okay? The aspect was foreign and unnecessary to me, but my interest grew. I was captivated and enthralled in learning about myself and journeying through my femininity, and through it all, YouTube was there – that little search engine that would lead to many teachings that molded parts of me.
Now, allow me to introduce you to Cynthia Gwebu. The woman that I would watch, grow to respect and learn from.
Cynthia was intriguing because despite the many beauty gurus that dominate the makeup scene on YouTube, none were like her. She stands out for her own reasons.
When you think of the beauty community on YouTube, you’re not thinking of Africa or even the African beauty gurus that exist. So here, I present to you a Zimbabwean YouTuber, based in the wonderful South Africa.
Her channel is decorated with vlogs where she shares her day with her viewers as she hustles and attends events hosted by beauty brands. With moments centered around fashion, all things beauty and a few fun videos that involve her family members and friends. She's very good at her craft and I've learned from her.
Cynthia quit her 9 to 5 job to invest in herself and share her knowledge on beauty in her own way. A bold and scary move but she did it. She built her blog and created a YouTube channel, paving her way into the beauty community of South Africa. She had goals to become a beauty editor, as writing is one of her many passions and it doesn't stop with videos – she still writes.
The 29 year old doesn’t consider herself as a makeup guru even though she is seen as one to many; I mean hey – her supporters asked her for a makeup masterclass, if that doesn't say it all I don't know what will. Even after it all, she likes to think of herself as a makeup enthusiast who simply loves all things beauty, which I appreciate because it's so relatable.
Through her alluring and witty videos, I discovered plenty about self-care and how to use makeup on my own face. Sure, I could have used the thousands of makeup tutorials that exist and continue to be added every single day but it’s Cynthia’s poise, presentation and persona that drew me in and kept me.
I chose to learn from her. I found her so glamourous and robust. I loved the makeup looks, the outfits, the giggles and charm. I loved the hair and in so many styles. I liked that in seeing her, I saw me. I liked that it was easy to learn from her and that her videos were not staged or forced, they were simplistic yet detailed and free flowing.
The snippet above is from one of my favorite videos found on Cynthia's channel. It involves her brother, who attempts to guess the prices of some of her cosmetic products, from eye creams to lipsticks. If you're wondering what rand refers to, it's the South African currency, which would equate to a good 40 dollars. All that just for lipstick? His reaction would have been my own but not anymore.
I took what I saw and applied it to myself (I don't mean the products) and my love for everything beauty-related evolved. It’s more than just makeup, it’s truly about self-care, self-appreciation and elevating yourself to your fullest and best capabilities and well…feeling good about yourself as you do it.
Discovering the world of beauty forced me to look at myself differently and it resulted in me learning to accept and embrace my flaws. It created room for me to have deeper discussions and form bonds with other women and it became a catalyst in my journey towards self love.
I know - how surreal but it's true
Influence Beyond YouTube
I engage with Cynthia's content not because she knows how to put wonderful looks together but because of what she represents and inspires.
Her influence isn’t solely tied to the world of beauty, but it ventures further into the sphere of digital marketing and self-improvement amongst women. In the almost 3 years that I've watched and learned from and about Cynthia, her voice on her support and appreciation for women has never been silent.
In 2019, she held an event she called The Next Chapter (inspired by a new beginning in her life as a wife to be). This event was for women to network and to have conversations about how to make it in todays digital market. Conversations that were meant to teach and inspire, and offer a gateway to support and uplift one another. From future YouTubers, entrepreneurs, bloggers and aspiring influencers; she welcomed them all and offered her teachings with a panel of her choosing. It was impressive and a success in its own right. Due to the array of questions she receives from women trying to create an imprint of their own, she felt it was ideal to come together in a way where she could answer all these questions and learn from others at the same time
She once said that if she could have dinner with anyone dead or alive, it would be with her sweet mother, Oprah Winfrey and the lovely Michelle Obama - a way to solidify all the examples she wants to have in her life. She values receiving the same energy and etiquette that she puts out and she cares about the people she surrounds herself with and it shows.
For her panel, Cynthia selected women that were similar to her following. Women that were artists and creatives - who wanted more for themselves. It was in this space where she included a makeup masterclass, because in the end, it's through beauty that the event came to be. It was like spending time with your girlfriends and playing with makeup whilst having the kind of conversations that leave you feeling empowered.
In the same year, Cynthia found herself using her influence to talk to young girls between the ages of 9 and 13; teaching and discussing body positivity and self love. I wish at that tender age I had that female influence around within the school environment because she shared something rather powerful in saying,
"One thing that was very clear to me was that the opinions we have about ourselves come about during our formative years. As adults, I think it’s incredibly important to be mindful about how we 1.) talk about ourselves in front of young ones 2.) how we talk about others in front of young ones 3.) encourage the power that comes with loving oneself. "
Outside YouTube, she practices what she preaches and these little examples offer insight into the kind of woman she is and what she represents. Even though her videos focus on beauty, it’s the perfect setting to have real discussions, which she does with her subscribers.
It's things like this that draw me in further, seeing another woman uplift and encourage the youth. Seeing her teach women how to manage the ropes in this world and teaching women from her own experience. It's commendable, it's inspiring and it's what we need.
When one comes across Cynthia, they might just see the glam and the outfits but look closely and you'll see the depth and drive that she carries. The thing about a girl in makeup is that many don't expect much from her. The long nails, the long lashes and the glitter might give off this idea that she's self absorbed and not into much else but it's individuals like Cynthia that continue to change the narrative by incorporating beauty and business. Her presence on YouTube has been a delight to me and truthfully, I can actually tell the difference between foundation types now. I can use the foundation too and not have it look like dry paint on my face. I mean, that's a pretty big deal for a girl that didn't know anything about makeup 2 years ago.
Cynthia hasn't shied away about how insecure she can get sometimes- she's human and being a plus sized woman can be overwhelming and disheartening at times, but despite that, despite the sad and hard days, she tells herself one thing in the end...
"Wear the dress."
Yes, wear the dress. What this means is to just do it - go for what you want and just live.
Her style is worth falling in love with and I appreciate her candor and sweetness each and every time. That's probably another way in which she keeps me whipped, but it's not fair to talk about this YouTuber without mentioning her eye for fashion. I mean, the fashion hauls are there for a reason - what's a makeup look without the right outfit to go with it?
She has an eye for the right design and she wears clothes well. Confidently, fiercely and proudly. Teaching her following to be just as bold, regardless of our body types or sizes. Wear the damn dress, she would say, and I want to tell her that I'm ready, I'm ready to wear the dress.
For a long time I struggled with the simple task of posting full body pictures because I felt that nobody had a desire to see that. Now I’m often asked, “How are you so confident?” My answer is, “How else should I feel?”. Confident girls a tall, fat, skinny, short, dark, fair, funny, kind and smart.
I encourage you to become more conscious about what and how you consume media images by having an expectation of responsibility from platforms that have conversations about beauty.
- Cynthia Gwebu
I told you that she stood out for her own reasons and now you might just start to like her too.
Her story continues to evolve and she continues to grow. Even though she's yet to get the silver play button from YouTube, it's not about the number of subscribers one has but what influence and message they emit. Cynthia has taught me more than just makeup, she's offered lessons on self love and it's importance. I don't think the beauty community does enough to address the importance of accepting yourself. I don't think there are enough conversations being had with young girls on how to truly love themselves which is why I celebrate those that pass down such lessons.
So, Thank you Cynthia, for your bravery and efforts. For being my inspiration to start my very own blog. Thank you for being a beacon and for representing the African girls in a world that often forgets us. Thank you for being yourself and for your many lessons and lastly, thank you for still being active on YouTube, after 6 whole years. I, like many, look forward to more content, more chapters and more creations.
As this is all about a beauty YouTuber, it would only be fitting to re-create one of her many makeup looks. I will include an update in this piece with a link to a new story showcasing that re-creation, or rather, my attempt. For now, I will leave you with some final sentiments from this gem. Words that sum up the takeaway message of all this and why she's my favorite.
For me, self-love and self-esteem is about the relationship we have with ourselves holistically. It encompasses the physical as well as the mental and can be navigated through the conversations we have with our peers as well as the internal conversations we have with ourselves.
- Cynthia Gwebu
Please visit any of the links below to learn more about Cynthia and join her on her YouTube channel, which can be found here.
By Joy Johane