Tween Beauty Influencer Evelyn Has A Lot to Say

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It is 10 a.m. on a drizzly day in Kansas City, Missouri. A tiered stand is being loaded up with lip-shaped macarons dusted with sugar while an oversize ring light—no, two—are being assembled with care. Kansas City’s preeminent party vendors are scurrying about a rooftop lounge that overlooks the city’s new ferris wheel, all in preparation for celebrating the birthday of their hometown hero. No, not Travis Kelce. Evelyn Unruh, age 13.

This is the first time her last name has appeared in the press. But to the hundreds of thousands of fans that followed her on TikTok—note the past tense—she, like Madonna or Beyoncé or Adele, will always just be Evelyn.

The summer before she entered seventh grade—specifically, over Fourth of July weekend, 2023—Evelyn filmed a video that changed the course of her young life. She had long admired the Get Ready With Me genre, in which beauty influencers film themselves getting ready for the day as they talk the audience through the products they’re using, but she wanted to put her “own spin” on it. So she filmed herself applying makeup, but instead of using the time to talk about, say, why she’s obsessed with a Summer Fridays lip balm, she shared pointed observations about school and friends and life, stream of consciousness-style. Then she (well, technically, her mom) posted the minute-long video on TikTok.

Evelyn “gets ready” to party using products from brands including Youthforia, Tower 28, Tula, and Ilia.

David Robert Elliott

The clip didn’t take off. “I didn’t really get a lot of views,” says Evelyn. “But I guess that was owed to me being very camera-shy and awkward.” Inspired by her influencer “idols” like Katie Fang, she kept at it. A couple months after Evelyn posted her first video, a conversation with a friend about “things that made them mad” inspired her to organize her thoughts more succinctly. So began the rise and rise of her now-famous, sarcasm-laden Get Ready With Me-style franchises: Things That I Don’t Understand (“Time. Who decided there were 24 hours in a day?”), Things That Are Literally Disgusting (“People who barely wash their water bottles…”), Things That Annoy Me (“When a teacher separates your group for being distracting…”), and Things That I Hate (“When TikTok bans me for no reason…”).

Oh, yeah, about that last thing… We’ll get to that in a minute.

Evelyn’s videos soon began to pick up speed in the way only TikTok videos can. The formula for her virality looked something like this: brutally honest observations divided by deadpan delivery plus beauty products minus the fluffy commentary that usually goes with them. “I felt like I wanted to do a short video that gets to the point and says a lot,” says Evelyn, who shows the products she uses on camera, logos up, but doesn’t discuss them in detail. (Brands like Drunk Elephant, Glow Recipe, Supergoop, and Saie make frequent appearances in her videos.)

Whether she knows it or not, Evelyn has created a master class in product placement. But she’s smart—it’s hard to imagine she doesn’t know it. “In the beginning of [making] my videos, I would wake up and immediately just go to primer and makeup,” she recalls. But to get more engagement, she says, she “evolved” to using skin care in the mornings.

“It also just built a healthy habit. Even now, when I’m not filming videos for TikTok in the morning, I still do my morning skin care,” says Evelyn, who started wearing mascara at age 10. Now, on any given day, she uses primer, foundation, concealer, undereye brightener, contour, highlighter, finishing powder, mascara, and blush. (“I use my Rare Beauty blush, which won the Allure award, right?” Like we said, smart.)

Partygoers get crafty designing their own charm necklaces and customizing brightly-colored trucker hats.

David Robert Elliott

One product Evelyn does not use is retinol, a form of vitamin A that helps smooth wrinkles and boost collagen production, which begins to slow down around age 25. “It’s funny what people in my comments like to say,” she says. “I don’t use any retinol. I gear more towards hydration.”

Evelyn knows that comments go with “content creator” territory. “I get a lot of feedback and, honestly, if you agree with me, that’s great. If you don’t, then just don’t follow me,” she says. “I’m entitled to my opinions and you’re entitled to yours. If you don’t get my dry sense of humor, that’s okay.”

Of course, most internet commenters don’t exactly practice the “If you don’t have anything nice to say…” rule. That’s where Evelyn’s mom, Alex Unruh, comes in: “I have words that are [automatically] filtered out in her comments. I get to her messages first so that if there’s anything inappropriate, I can report, block, and delete it very quickly,” she explains. “That’s probably where Evelyn and I have a little bit of [friction]; she looks at it as engagement, whereas I’m concerned about bullying and her mental well-being.”

As a parent, “it’s not about just saying, ‘No, you can’t do it,’ because sometimes what happens is they’ll find other ways to do it anyway,” says Phillippa Diedrichs, PhD, a professor of psychology at the Centre for Appearance Research at the University of the West of England Bristol who studies body image and mental health, particularly as it relates to young women. “You want to be the person that they can come to for conversations about social media and mental health and who they can think critically about these things with.”

While Alex says Evelyn is the “creative force” behind her content—she writes all of her own material, jotting down thoughts in her notebook or Notes app when inspiration strikes—nothing gets posted before passing through a checklist that mother and daughter created together, which includes safety-oriented questions like, “Is the location where you’re filming identifiable?”

Ultimately, though, there’s no rule book for when your kid becomes a social media sensation, says Alex. “When Evelyn’s views started growing, it was like, ‘What is going on? Do we stop this? Do we just let it go?’ All of these people are now seeing my daughter,” she remembers. “So there was a little bit of uncomfortability in terms of, ‘How do I parent this?’ It’s not like I can go ask my friends or my mom group.”

“My friends have always supported me. I’m so thankful for them,” says Evelyn, sipping a strawberry shortcake-flavored mocktail.

David Robert Elliott

With health experts warning that social media can pose risks to the mental health and well-being of children, especially girls, the natural followup question is: Do the members of that mom group ever question her decision to let Evelyn be on social media to this extent? “Not to my face, but yeah,” says Alex. “To each their own. Not everyone’s going to agree with everything we do, and that’s fine. I think the opinion you have when you’re not in this situation is a lot different than if you were faced with this situation, if it was your kid.”

Evelyn was very likely going to find herself in front of the camera one way or another, anyway. “For years, she has begged me to get her into some kind of modeling or acting or anything,” Alex says. “It was a conversation we were having, we just hadn’t really done anything with it—so she did it herself.”

“Looking at how much our society values social media and the power that influencers hold, it’s unsurprising that tween girls want to emulate that,” says Professor Diedrichs. The collective desire among young people to be in the public eye is “not new,” she says. What’s different now is that they have the tools to make it happen in the palms of their hands.

Evelyn films while a photographer, videographer, and assistant look on. Her dress is by City Vibe, available at Dillard’s.

David Robert Elliott

“It’s uncharted territory,” says Alex. “You deal with it as it comes.” For now, she and her daughter have regular check-ins during which they talk about how Evelyn is feeling, go over her filming commitments (she has created sponsored content for brands such as Good Molecules and Peter Thomas Roth), and make sure she’s still having fun along the way. “If I start to see her attitude shift or if she’s not enjoying it, it’s not worth it,” says Alex. “But as long as she’s having fun, and she’s doing a good job in the other areas of her life that are important, then we continue.”

But in early December, around the same time Evelyn hit 500K followers, the bullet train she’d been riding toward TikTok stardom came to a screeching halt: Her account was permanently banned.

Evelyn was at a sleepover party at a friend’s house when it happened. “I felt kind of disappointed, because having the account since July, I thought I was safe,” she says. Safe, that is, from a rule listed in bold within TikTok’s Community Guidelines: You must be 13 years and older to have an account. But in this case, Evelyn’s mom was the account holder. Alex provided verification of her identity when she registered, she says. It was she who pressed “post” on the videos, and she who interacted with commenters. (In the US, TikTok offers a “limited app experience” for those under 13 called TikTok for Younger Users, which has additional safety and privacy protections that include restrictions on sharing.)

Allure reached out to TikTok for a statement regarding its stance on parent-run accounts and was told that account holders who feature content of children under 13 must indicate adult involvement in posting or producing their content, including regularly publishing content that features the adult, noting in their bio or handle that it is a joint account, and featuring an adult or family in their profile picture. (We followed up to ask exactly when those policies were instituted and were told they were “longstanding.”)

In any case, TikTok looked at the account, saw a then 12-year-old, and just like that, it was gone. Fans created videos wondering where Evelyn had gone. “Guys, what happened to GRWM Evelyn? I tried to go to her page yesterday cause I realized I hadn’t seen her content in a while, and her page was gone,” said user @yazmin.adalynn. “Evelyn definitely scared me a little bit, but not gonna lie, I loved her content… I am mourning the loss of Evelyn’s account.” That video has 2 million views and more than 1,700 comments.

In the three months between her TikTok account getting banned and her 13th birthday—when Evelyn could rightfully return to the platform—the influencer took her talents to Instagram, where she has 92.7K followers and counting. That account, too, is run by her mother, which is just fine with Instagram: “Instagram requires everyone to be at least 13 years old before they can create an account,” state the bylaws posted in its Help Center. “Accounts that represent someone under the age of 13 must clearly state in the account’s bio that the account is managed by a parent or manager.” (Evelyn’s bio makes it clear that hers is a “Parent Run Account.”)

Evelyn blows out 13 candles atop an all-pink, red velvet cake.

David Robert Elliott

But early on, Alex—who works in human resources—realized she needed “a helping hand” in navigating requests for her daughter’s media kit and rate card. Digital Futures, a “growth agency” that helps foster talent, is one of several that reached out as Evelyn’s star began to rise.

“I want to set Evelyn up for success and help her build a brand and keep her safe while doing so,” says Veronica Zelle, the cofounder of Digital Futures. “And a lot of that is just being in lockstep with her parents every day.”

Zelle continues, “The truth of the matter is I’m not really in business with Evelyn. She’s too young to do business; she can’t sign a contract.” Zelle ensured that Evelyn was set up with a Coogan account, which protects funds earned by minors until they turn 18. “I’m really in business with her parents and helping them navigate, ‘Okay, what’s the next thing that could happen?’”

How about a massive 13th-birthday party to celebrate Evelyn’s entry into teenhood? “I actually created a Pinterest board for my party,” says Evelyn when we talk a few weeks before the festivities. “I want it to be like Gossip Girl, Mean Girls vibes, with lots and lots of pink.”

The Mean Girls reference is for aesthetics only. “I’m inviting every girl in my grade,” says Evelyn. “I didn’t want to make anyone feel left out.” There would be something for everyone at the party: a design-your-own trucker hat station, an ice cream sundae bar, and a booth where partygoers could film their own Get Ready With Me videos. There would also be gift bags stuffed to the gills with makeup provided by Essence Cosmetics.

Evelyn’s mom Alex (far left, in pink) greets guests.

David Robert Elliott

I’ll be honest: I went into these conversations with a healthy amount of skepticism and certainly some concern. I’d read the surgeon general’s advisory last year about the dangers that social media can pose to the mental health of adolescents. I’d read the recent investigation into the number of adult men who follow underage girl influencers. I’m not oblivious to the realities of social media and the dangers it can pose to kids. But after talking to Evelyn’s mom, her management, and heck, Evelyn herself, it’s clear that they aren’t oblivious either.

“When you get in your car, you put your seatbelt on, right?” says Zelle. “That’s the way you have to look at social media.” The proactive measures Alex takes to protect her daughter—blocking suspicious accounts, moderating comments, and having regular “mental health check-ins” offline—are the digital equivalent of buckling up. With those guardrails in place, Evelyn’s social media presence feels less like fodder for armchair child psychologists and more like a creative outlet for a young woman with a flair for performance and a strong point of view.

Evelyn says her friends will continue to make cameos in upcoming videos.

David Robert Elliott

Still, Evelyn is, in many ways, an average teenage girl. When she’s not at school or filming, she’s practicing for track (“I’m a huge runner girlie; I try to run two miles every day”) or hanging out at the mall with her friends. She attended night two of the Eras Tour in Kansas City last summer. “I was in the top 1% of Taylor Swift listeners this year,” says Evelyn. “[Going to the show] was one of the best days of my entire life.”

Of course, there are many more “best days” ahead for Evelyn: “I’m so excited to be 13,” she says. “I can’t wait to go to prom. I’ve seen so many movies, and I know they probably romanticize it, as movies do, but it just looks so fun.” Her content won’t change much, she adds, but she does plan to post more long-form videos that show all the facets of her personality, not just her sharp sense of humor.

Long-term, “I would like to maybe have a makeup and skin-care brand,” says Evelyn. “Being an author is my dream, though. I’d like to write fiction or maybe articles about the Earth and stuff.”

It’s fitting, then, that it’s Evelyn’s world. We’re all just living in it.

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