DIY: The Fashion Citizen
Original photo shot by Jenson Carter
With their thrift hauls and DIY videos Stephanie and Melissa Valenzuela of The Fashion Citizen continue to push boundaries and create content that rivals some content produced by the largest YouTubers in the game.
Beginning their YouTube journey in 2012 twin sisters Stephanie and Melissa are unafraid and unapologetic while producing beautifully crafted video content for the world to enjoy. These girls are the physical embodiment of what it means to do what you can with what you have. From Scottsdale, Arizona these girls have mastered the art of making engaging content that is not only compelling but visually dynamic. From OG DIY videos to a summer thrift haul that revivals commercials produced by multi-million dollar retailers these girls never let their viewers down. With their weekly vlogs not only do we get great fashion inspiration we get to see the Valenzuela sisters open up about depression and dealing with death-all while sipping on Starbies and taking drives to the Goodwill Saturday Sale with Tame Impala's Currents blasting in the background.
Over Skype video call I had the pleasure of speaking to my favorite YouTubers for over 2 hours about their editing process, how they dealt with the loss of their mother and recalling the first time they hit record on a camera.
On their childhood style inspiration
Mel: I always remember growing up, this is weird, liking what old people were wearing. I wanted to wear loafers like my grandma. My mom and my grandmother were my biggest style influences.
Steph: See, I never really thought that mom had great style until she passed away and looking back at some of the things she wore. Growing up I was the biggest tomboy. I never wore dresses. I never wore shorts. I was just one of those girls who loved boys' clothes. I remember vividly being called out for it one day because I wore Dickies and cargo pants and boys' sneakers. One day this boy was like, "I have those same shoes! Those are boys' shoes!"
On their humble beginnings
Steph: I remember when Melissa told me about Youtube which was way back in the day. I knew Youtube was for like viral videos and music videos but she was like, "they're people on there who do beauty things and hauls." I didn't know what hauls were and I remember her telling me about them and I was like, "maybe we can just put a clothing haul from Goodwill on there."
Mel: I think I started on Youtube watching a lot of beauty gurus. I watched a lot of hair tutorials too even though I could never recreate those looks. The question that popped into my mind as I watched these videos was, "I wonder if we could do that?" At that point, we decided to start the channel.
Steph: At first we had named our channel "Look Rich Be Chic For Real, you know, so people knew that we were real (laughs). Melissa already had the blog, Look Rich Be Chic, but that name was taken on YouTube so we added underscore real and we were like, "we'll take that." We had realized that the name was too long and scrapped it and out of that we had the idea for The Fashion Citizen. We uploaded our first video and it's been great ever since. (laughs)
On the first time they stepped in front of the camera 5 years ago
Mel: We had a crappy Olympus EPL1. We bought it because Rumi Neely had it and we were like, "this is a great camera," but no, it was garbage. It could only do like different filters on it. It wasn't for filming video. I remember we went after school to film that.
Steph: And we went outside because I thought, "I don't think we're allowed to film inside." I was trying to kind of sneak the camera out of my purse and get a couple of shots in the Goodwill and quickly put it back like, "someone's coming!"
On the current state of Youtube
Steph: There are all these different rules for starting a channel today. You have to have all of your usernames be consistent on all platforms, they have to be short, they have to be interesting. For us when we started with very little.
Mel: Loads of Youtubers tell you today that you need a $2,000 camera, studio lights, editing software, and a Macbook Pro to start a Youtube channel. You don't need any of that stuff. If the content isn't good it doesn't matter what you use.
Steph: Right. You have this $2,000 dollar camera to shoot makeup videos but if you don't know how to use it and your content isn't any different from the next person, you're not going to stand out.
On the and tools of the trade
Steph: I think we got Final Cut Pro right after we realized there wasn't a lot we could do with iMovie. We didn't get Final Cut for a while, though. We actually just got our Canon 70d last year. Other than that we used our Nikon D3200. And then the lens was like a 35mm.
Mel: It was like a hundred dollar lens but I feel like we did so much with it. I could still do a lot with it. We can't get rid of it!
Steph: Final Cut Pro has a lot of presets and other things that iMovie doesn't have but if you don't really know what you're doing or the content you want to create then you're going to be creating the same generic type of content which you can do with iMovie for free. If you're doing a bunch of new, different things then, yeah, upgrade to Final Cut Pro but besides that iMovie is still great and it's free!
On their most recent work and their ever-changing editing style
Steph: I remember working on it ( Summer Thrift Haul ) for 12 hours on Thursday and we worked Friday morning. We knew it had to go up on Friday so I was like, "I have to finish it." I started at like 2 o'clock in the afternoon and went on until 1 in the morning. Even now looking at it, I'm not completely happy with it. Getting positive feedback is always great but now I'm like, "what can I do next that is different from this and better than this?" There are people who are like, "I like your older style of videos when you would just sit and talk in front of a camera." For me, I hate making those videos because it's just the camera and you're talking at it. There's only so much you can say in a haul video. "I bought this red shirt. It's red. It's a shirt." I'd rather do something that catches your attention for the entire video instead of you jumping from one item to the next , which is what I do sometimes when I watch hauls.
Mel: I think it's a matter of watching other people's videos that inspire you and thinking, "Okay, I have to take a step back and realize that this is something I can do." It really comes down to sitting and playing with the tools you have even if you haven't used them before. I like to look at other things and realize that I can do it so with certain text layouts I'm like, "I can make that, I just never thought about it" so a lot of it comes from viewing other creative content. I want our videos to not look like everyone else's.
On working with family
Mel: I don't we get tired of each other. I think it's easier to work with her than it would be to work with anybody else. I think we get away with a lot of stuff we do because we are sisters. I could never act the way I act with her with somebody else.
Steph: She wouldn't be able to yell at somebody.
Mel: But vice versa though. It goes both ways. I think that it makes it a lot easier to work with her. Although, sometimes we're on the same page 100% and then there are those other times where we are completely off.
Steph: Sometimes I don't use my words as well as I can and I just assume she knows what I want the shot to be and then I'll see her and I'm just like, "What are you doing? That's not what I said."
Mel: Anytime we make something we usually discuss it in length and then for me one of the things I do is present her with what I call a point of reference of what I want something to look like or what I would like it to look similar to so she has a visual right there and can see exactly what I want.
Steph: I feel like it's the opposite with me. I'll see something and I'll think about it in my head and then I'm like, "this is what I want to do but I haven't seen it on YouTube yet. I haven't seen it anywhere so I want to create it."
On Vlogging and living your life in front of the world.
Steph: It's hard because it's not like daily vlogging in the sense that we put out vlogs every day. At the end of the week I think, "what do I have to cut out" because our blogs are usually 20-25 minutes long and for me I don't have a long attention span so that's really long. I don’t think we really leave too much out of our vlogs. When we started them we said we wanted to be as transparent as possible. Some days are good days and some days are bad days and people can see that in the vlog. There are things we do like to keep private and to ourselves that we don’t put in the vlog. But for the most part, 90-95% of our lives go into the blogs and there’s that 5ish percent, 10 percent that doesn’t.
Mel: There are a lot of things we do that we don't film because we're so in the moment. Sometimes I get mad at myself because I would like to share it but at the same time, especially when we're with friends, I just want to enjoy the moment.
On Dealing with Grief
Mel: Everyone grieves in their own way but for me the biggest thing was being able to speak about it with other people. When we lost our mom I didn't want people to see my real emotions. Finally opening up about the loss of my mother really helped. Also, what helps is having a place to channel all of my creativity. YouTube has been a great outlet for me. It still hurts sometimes but finding something you're passionate about is always helpful. We live in this society where we are told not to tell people about our problems but a lot of people are dealing with serious stuff. Surround yourself with good people and know that it is okay for you to express how you are feeling.
Steph: We grew up with our mom and dad telling us that we shouldn't let people know how we are feeling. When we first started YouTube we wanted to seem like we didn't have any problems and our lives were perfect and all we had to do was go thrifting whenever we wanted to. With the passing of our mom and then the passing of Greg (mother's boyfriend whom they lived with and were quite close to), it's been these bumps in the road where at times our lives haven't been perfect. The vlogs was a way for us to show this is us and this some of the problems we're dealing with and we're just like you.
On their current faves
Mel: Artic Monkeys' AM, Slow Hollows' Atelophobia, All things Viceland, Artist Julian Klincewicz and @the_corner_store on Instagram
Steph: I just like, you know, regular stuff (laughs).