From December 2022
Back in the day, you could ask kids what they wanted to be when they grew up, and you’d get the usual answers: astronaut. Ballerina. Firefighter. The profession to which most kids aspire these days: YouTuber. (A fact backed by a 2019 Harris Poll and my own experience as the parent of a 9-year-old MrBeast wannabe.) But children should be forewarned that the life of a social media celebrity is not just about filming hilarious internet challenges.
Spending a morning with twins and YouTube sensations Brooklyn McKnight (she’s the one on the left) and Bailey McKnight-Howard proves one must also conduct business meetings to discuss upcoming hilarious internet challenges, brand deals, and new merch. If you want to parlay your popularity into sales, sometimes you’ve got to put your lashes on early in the morning, work through the night, and remember to film it all.
That morning, inside a nondescript Allen office building, a gaggle of Gen Z women carrying laptops gathered around a conference table. At the head sat McKnight and McKnight-Howard. The duo have been vlogging since the age of 13, amassing an audience of nearly 7 million YouTube subscribers, more than 8 million Instagram followers, and 6.5 million TikTok followers. They sell their own mascara line, plus an array of clothing and accessories, on an online shop called Lash Next Door. Most notably, their new skincare line, itk (internet-speak for “in the know”), launched in 3,800 Walmart stores in August. They are both newlyweds, and they are building houses five minutes away from each other.
And they will turn 23 this New Year’s Eve.
As weekly updates are projected onto a large screen, the staffers compare notes about the weekend.
“I slept soooo long,” one says. “I literally slept till 11:30 or 12 on Saturday.”
“I was just brain dead,” says another.
Apparently the Shopify website carrying the hundreds of popularity-parlayed products randomly and without any warning disappeared. “It was like doomsday,” says Bailey, the younger twin by two minutes, now with a brunette bob haircut. The team white-knuckled their way through the previous week and managed to rebuild the entire site within a few days.
Brooklyn—the elder twin, with long, blond highlights—had missed the bedlam yet still appeared somewhat tousled and bleary-eyed, having returned from her Cancún honeymoon at 2 am that very morning. “We honestly binged a million seasons of Game of Thrones and sat by the pool,” Brooklyn says. “It was great.”
Anyone curious about Brooklyn’s nuptials is in luck. The twins’ YouTube channel posted a collection of wedding content, including an “official” wedding video, Brooklyn’s own wedding day vlog, and a video titled “The BEST Twin Maid-of-Honor Wedding Speech EVER & Family!”
Starting out on YouTube, the twins made a conscious decision to go with a no-concept concept: just record everyday life. They’ve posted everything from twin-switcheroo pranks to emotional vlogs about breakups to a play-by-play of Bailey’s wedding night. (Spoiler: she fell asleep.)
“We have the ability to film just getting our braces off or getting our hair dyed or how to study for a test or really any concept that’s involving a true life experience,” Bailey says. “We found that our audience grows older as we do, because it was and will always be sort of a relatability level with our videos.”
The twins’ father, Shaun McKnight, walks into the staff meeting and takes a seat on a channel-tufted leather sofa. YouTube is the family business. The twins first appeared online as 9-year-old models on their mother’s hit channel, CuteGirlsHairstyles. Their younger sister records videos from college while completing a degree in neuroscience. “We’re the Anti-Hype House,” Shaun jokes, underscoring the fact that their content is deliberately PG. (The McKnights are Mormon.)
Certainly, the not-so-secret to the twins’ success is their enthusiastic pursuit of what others might consider a crazy idea. That mascara line? It was their high school senior project. (“Needless to say it got an A-plus-plus,” Bailey says.) A jaunt as teen pop performers led to music videos that will either make you cringe or feel a heavy dose of nostalgia, depending on your age.
“We’re kind of serial entrepreneurs,” Brooklyn says. “We’re always like, OK, what’s next? What’s happening? There’s always something new that we’re working on.” Bailey adds, “We’re not really the type of people who just like to sit on something for a long time.”
Case in point: shortly before their skincare launch and Brooklyn’s wedding, they decided to drive an RV to all 48 continental states to raise awareness for period poverty. Within two weeks of proposing the idea to their team, they were on the road. They completed their journey in 22 days, raising more than $200,000 for The Alliance for Period Supplies. “We just have a good team too, so when we word vomit something, it’s, like, really quick to get things finished,” Bailey says.
The twins’ skincare line, though, was a dream long in the making. Their mother, Mindy McKnight, launched a haircare line with Walmart in 2019, giving the girls an in with the retailer. “Our main goal was to make it clean and affordable,” Bailey says. “That was something we both felt passionately about, because we both have struggled with our own skin, and, I mean, I used to buy a cleanser that was $80 because it was clean. It’s crazy. I was putting myself through college.”
After the staff meeting wraps, the D Magazine photographer arrives, and Brooklyn quickly changes from distressed cutoffs into a sweater dress pulled from the ultra organized warehouse. All signs of exhaustion vanish. The twins move fluidly through a series of poses, their signature saucer eyes bright with energy. Click. Click. Click. The picture of true professionals.